For the past few days I have been in the heart of Africa, in the small country of Rwanda with a team from Savannah Christian Church. Most of us know that there was a genocide here in 1994, but that is about all we know. If are coming to Rwanda to love and show compassion to the people here, it is not enough to know that there was a genocide here, you must realize that it affects every single person that you encounter. It was horrific and it touched every single family in the country. There is joy here but it is a joy that has to overcome the deepest of pains and memories.
One of the most important things that we did, and that every person visiting here should do, is walk through the Genocide Memorial in downtown Kigali. It will challenge your heart, it will challenge your mind, it will challenge how you view your family, it will challenge your views on God, it will challenge your views on evil, it will challenge your views on humanity and it will challenge how you view the word “forgiveness”.
Our first two days in Rwanda were spent around people in the community and in churches who were victims of the genocide. We have heard their unforgettable stories. We have seen how they have helped to rebuild their country, their communities, and their churches.
But it has been such a struggle for me to fully grasp how victims of such a horrible massacre can forgive and choose compassion again. Without getting into graphic details, there was such a dehumanization and dispicable treatment of women and children (and men) in the way they were murdered it makes you sick to your stomach and weak to stand.
As a married man, a father of three young children and someone who works with children it makes me so angry to think about it. I wish God did not allow those things to happen. I want justice for those victims.
I want pain, suffering and a lack of freedom for those men who chose to do these horrendous acts of violence… OR DO I?
Today I was actually able to go with our team to a prison where there were hundreds of these men who committed these crimes that I so despise. However, we were not the only people who got to go there, we were also there with two of the men that Savannah Christian Church partners with. Not only were these men’s lives and their families’ lives greatly affected by the genocide, these two men decided to start churches. Churches to minister to families who have suffered like they have. But they did not stop there, they also decided that they would have a prison ministry for the very men that committed these crimes against them, their families and their country.
How can these two men choose compassion like this? Because of Jesus! And these two men are not the only ones, it is astonishing how many people in this country are choosing to forgive and try to move on even though there is unimaginable pain to still deal with.
I was actually allowed to speak at this prison and be face-to-face with all of these men that stirred up a hatred inside of me. It was amazing what happened in my heart as I allowed God to take control of it. I began to understand just like our two pastors that we partner with, when we choose compassion God forgives and heals in ways we cannot fathom.
Even as I sit here writing this, I adore and care for the women, children and all the victims in Rwanda very much. Part of me is always going to dislike and not want to care for the men in that prison. But somehow (because of Jesus) I love them, have hope for them and pray for them just the same. “We all need forgiveness” is taking on a whole new meaning for me this week.
Like Jesus chooses compassion for me, Rwanda victims are choosing compassion for those who chose genocide. “Choosing Compassion” changes individual lives, families, neighborhoods, communities, countries and the world.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:17