People from our church are in Rwanda right now. We received this from them yesterday:
The first time Francine became aware of being a Tutsi was when one of her classmates told her “One day, I shall kill you, because you are a Tutsi.” Bewildered and afraid, she went home and asked her parents what it meant to be a Tutsi, and why she was one. Her parents told her about what their family had suffered in previous anti-Tutis progroms. In fact, her father had lost his parents in progroms in 1959, and his brothers had all fled as refugees to Uganda. He remained behind alone. In 1994, he was working as a pentecostal pastor, overseeing a number of mixed congregations.
When the plane carrying Rwanda’s Hutu president was shot down in April 1994, Francine’s dad told his family at first, that now there will be peace. Her mother disagreed, ‘They will come and kill us.’ In fact, within a few hours, a Hutu neighbor and one of her dad’s parishioner’s came and told them, ‘My husband is preparing to come and kill you, run away!’ Soon, they heard voices coming from neighboring huts, shouting “Let’s start with the born-again one.” Their deaths seemed certain.
Francine’s father told his family of six in a calm voice, “Our live on this earth is over. We shall now go to live with Jesus in heaven. Do not be afraid. We shall be there soon. Let us pray.” Recalling that moment, Francine, who was nine at the time, remembers “I was wondering how we would get from there to Heaven. I could not figure it out.” Then, all the family prayed, Francine, her older brother, her younger brother, her two younger sisters, her mom and her dad. Once they finished praying, her dad announced confidently, ‘I believe we shall not die.’ Together, the family read the promises in Psalm 91, which her dad felt were given them for this time.
Francine’s mom took her two younger sisters and began to run to the church, where she thought she would be safe. On the way there, a Hutu parishioner told her, “There has been a massacre at the church already. If you go there, you shall certainly be killed. Come to my house instead.” She did. Francine, her dad and her older siblings joined her there. After a few days, the man told them they had to leave now.
The family was stopped at one of the feared roadblocks where many were slaughtered. The militia, a group of men armed with machetes, knives and clubs told them they were going to kill them. Her mom pleaded for mercy, saying “We are not Tutsis, we are Hutu. Don’t kill us.” Francince laughs nervously as she recalls the instant and adds, “My little sister repeated it, ‘We are not Tutsi, we are Hutu. Please don’t kill us.”
The killers laughed at them and said they knew very well they were Tutsi. They asked Francine’s dad, “Are all those your children”. When he said yes, they asked him why he had brought them into the world, as they were going to be killed. At that point, her father boldy declared, “In the name of Jesus Christ, you will not kill them!” They answered that they (the Tutsis) had killed their president. He retorded that he had not but rather that he was a preacher and preaching the gospel of peace. He got out his bible. One of the militia took the bible from him and began leafing through it, saying he was looking for RPF propaganda (the RPF was the Tutsi lead rebel army that eventually overthrew the genocidal regime and brought an end to the killing). He did not find any. At that point, the horde of armed man turned on their heels and began running away, shouting “We will not kill you. But someone else will!” Her dad began chasing after them, shouting “Give me back my bible.” The man who had taken the bible threw it away and Francine’s dad picked it up.
Then, some local officials found them and told them, they would be safe at a church nearby. Many people were already sheltering at the church. In the night, the father woke up his family and told them they had been betrayed and would be killed if they stayed in the church. So the family escaped in the shadow of the night. The next day, Hutu militia came, threw grenades in the church and light in on fire. There are no known survivors.
The people in the area presumed that the family had been in the church and was dead, so they stopped looking for them. They were then hiding at a nearby river, staying outside day and night. Her dad became very sick. At night, her mom would go and dig out potatoes, which is the only thing they had to eat. They drank water from the river. Many corpses were floating down that river every day. I asked her if that frightened her. She said it did at first, but then it had become normal.
After many weeks of hiding, the area was liberated by RPF forces, and the family were able to come out.
I wish I could tell you that their suffering was over at that time. It was not. Subsequently her father was ousted from his parish, being accused of anti-Hutu prejudice. In fact, when Francine had told her dad as a little girl that she did not want Hutu friends, he had rebuked her, saying “We are not Tutsi, or Hutu. We are children of God. And we are to love all people.” Losing their church meant losing their house, too.
Most of Francine’s relatives who were in Rwanda during the genocide have died. None of her Tutsi classmates survives. When she goes back, she runs into the boy who had told her, “One day I will kill you.” He is a young man now. She says she just looks the other way when she sees him. Her older brother was killed by genocidaires who had come back from exile in 1998. The hardship continues to this day. Her father is pastoring a much smaller church again, serving both Hutus and Tutsis in his congregation.
One day, when the family had no money to buy sugar for their tea, Francine’s younger brother told his dad, “You are a righteous man like Job in the bible. It is because of you that we all keep suffering so much!” Her dad did not retort anything but Francine says his heart was broken and she felt so sorry for him. Two days later, the brother told his dad, “Dad I had a dream tonight. You gave me money to buy sandals and sugar.”Again her dad remained quiet. Soon after that, there was a knock on the door. It was a neighbor. He had 60.000 Francs (ca. $300) in his hands and said to the dad “You are such a good man. Thank you so much for having loaned me this money! Here is your money back.” Francine’s dad quietly called her brother, gave him money and asked him to go get sugar. The boy fell to his knees and asked forgiveness.
Many times during the conversation, Francine said, “Ce sont des miracles. Ca nous depasse. (Those are miracles. That is beyond us.)
I cannot disagree. How will you and I react to testimonies like that?