Last month I had the very special experience of hearing an amazing survivor, now one of my heroes, speak at a convention I was attending. For the last few weeks I have thought of her and her miraculous message over and over. On this random day in which I am not scheduled to post I feel like I have to share something hopeful and positive to help keep my mind in a positive place (ie. off of politics). Today I want to share with you the story of Immaculée Ilibagiza and her powerful story of forgiveness.
Nine years ago I was hanging out in an airport gift shop quickly trying to pick a book before boarding a plane to Egypt. I was anticipating my long flight to Cairo and my 2 week long Operation Smile mission and realized that while packing I had not stuck a book in my bag. I decided that since I was going to have some downtime it would be worthwhile to grab a good read. While perusing the options I saw the book Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculée Ilibagiza. Although I knew that it was going to be heavy emotionally I was curious about the title and since I was going to be in Africa I decided to give this book a shot. I am so glad I did!
It was pretty interesting to read this book while visiting Egypt. During this Operation Smile mission whenever we traveled back and forth from the hostel to the hospital we were escorted by two trucks full of soldiers armed with automatic weapons. This was in 2007 when Egypt was on the verge of great unrest. We as volunteers and foreigners could feel that something unsettling was going on and that change was coming. As I read this book in this setting it gave me a small internal glimpse of the fear and civil unrest that so many people around the world live with everyday.
Immaculée Ilibagiza is a Tutsi survivor of the Rowandan genocide of 1994. The genocide took place during a 100 day period of time where nearly 70% of her Tutsi tribe, including her family, was slaughtered (which was 20% of Rowanda’s population at that time). Immaculée shares her terrifying yet miraculous survival story and the amazing message of forgiveness that she has chosen to witness to the world.
Here is a video of her story:
Last month when I listened to Immaculée speak and share this message first hand, I was blown away by her testimony. God gave her the power to change. Her heart and soul were transformed from a state of fear, hatred and bitterness to love, forgiveness and humility. In her book Left to Tell, Immaculée said:
I knew that my heart and mind would always be tempted to feel anger–to find blame and hate. But I resolved that when the negative feelings came upon me, I wouldn’t wait for them to grow or fester. I would always turn immediately to the Source of all true power: I would turn to God and let His love and forgiveness protect and save me.”
This is one of the most miraculous transformations that I have ever heard first hand. As I listened to her share, I realized that if the Lord can help this woman forgive the very people that slaughtered her mother, father, brothers and friends, then He has greater power than I have given Him credit for. If He can change Immaculée’s heart then He can give me the ability to make it through my daily challenges. He can heal my troubled heart. He can change me. I want to trust Him more. I want to let Him change me, and then in my future I want, like Immaculée, to be a witness of His never-ending power in my life.