edited Jessie

I arrived in Rwanda and met the most amazing American couple, Amanda and Bill Bennett. Amanda has selflessly poured her heart out for young girls–as young as eight years of age!–who have been brutally raped and often beaten or worse. Sometimes even girls who have mental and physical disabilities.

We are proud to call Amanda one of us, one who shares the Pure & Faultless vision of being the hands and feet of Jesus to a broken world. And she has seen a lot of brokenness in Rwanda.

That’s why, I now know, she wanted me to start my three-day visit with a tour of the Kigali Genocide Memorial. At first, I wondered why she would want to take me there. But afterward, I understood! She said that it will give me a lot of insight on what makes the Rwandan people who they are today. If we know the culture better, we can minister to them more effectively. So good on Amanda for having the insight to suggest it. But boy, it wasn’t easy.



An “open” grave showing remains of three of 250,000 buried at the memorial.

The museum tore me apart inside.  I own the video, “Hotel Rwanda.”  I had kept up with the news somewhat when it was happening in real time in April of 1994. I was in seminary at the time, and everyone was talking about it. The world just sat back and let it unfold. I can see after taking this tour that what unfolded was, to my belief, as horrific and often more so than the atrocities by Nazi Germany.

I will try to use decorum here in my expression of what I learned. The Hutus took pleasure in torturing the Tutsis. Even neighbors and family members were not only encouraged to betray their loved ones, as in Germany. A massive propaganda campaign urged them to slaughter them. Consequently, thousands were killing thousands. Survivors lost their entire families, little children included. It was a rapid attempt at ethnic cleansing.  When the dust settled, nearly one million lost their lives.

As a result, the Rwandan government has made it illegal for any citizen to tell anyone which tribe he or she belongs to, for fear of more violence being incited. So far, it has worked. But I can see in the eyes of the people on the street that the horrors of the war remain in them to this day and define who they are.

Unlike in other African countries, few people talk to or look at each other on the street. I saw that today.  They move forward with blinders on. Hardly anyone smiles. Such a huge contrast from typical African countries where the people are openly social.

I did some math and figured that anyone around 26 and older were witness to the atrocities. That’s a lot of people! That means that if I stopped anyone over 25 on the street, they would have a story to tell. And chances are they still suffer from PTSD.

Amanda also told me it’s hard for Rwandans to trust one another. That’s because neighbors and loved ones of a different tribe turned on them violently.  How can they ever trust again without Jesus?

These are all relevant factors while attempting to minister to these beautiful, hurting girls in need. They all have one thing in common–they’ve been raped. Many have been beaten. Or set on fire. Or kicked out of their homes at a very young age.

There’s no better time than now to lift the name of Jesus higher than the name “oppression” in Rwanda.  And He’s at work as we speak!

Take Jeanne (name changed), whom I met today. She’s eighteen now, but two years ago, she was raped by three different men on different occasions. The second man impregnated her. Though many women in her situation would have attempted to end their pregnancy, it never crossed Jeanne’s mind.

“I thought, Why should I do this? It’s not my baby’s fault,” she recalled saying. She was crushed, though. Her mother had sent her away. When the baby started coming, she was all alone. She even felt like God had abandoned her.

But it all changed soon. The Bennett’s contact, Souvenir (a social worker), started encouraging her and praying for her. Jeanne also met with other girls her age who had endured similar incidences. God really cares for her, she thought, because look at the people He has put into her life.

Souvenir and Amanda have been an amazing support for Jeanne, coaxing her to dream about her future. One that has hope. One that God has purposed for her. Jeanne has been toying with the idea of hairdressing. But as she tells it, that is very common and difficult to get traction. I asked her what a huge dream would look like, and she said without hesitating, “Photography.”

If money were no object, Jeanne would love to get training and a decent camera to earn a living taking photos of people, whether it’s for weddings, school events, parties, or even passport photos. Bless her heart. Passport photos!

Here is a young mother, a KID, really, who wants to make something of her life so she can support her precious daughter, Noella, the child of the man who raped her. And she wants to be a witness and a light to other young mothers who are going through the same trauma she experienced.

Love wins.

Grace wins.

Jesus wins! I ended my time with them by gathering Jeanne, her family, Amanda, and Souvenir in a circle. Then I prayed for them.

For restoration. For purpose. For DESTINY IN GOD!

For peace and comfort and Jesus to reign in the house, her MOTHER’S house, the mother who had kicked her out of the home when Jeanne needed her the most, but who now has embraced her and little Noella.

God CAN, dear friends. And He does it powerfully. And He often does it through you and through me.

If you sense that the Lord would have you give toward Jeanne’s dream, you can go HERE to give, and please note in the comments section that it is for “Jeanne.”

God bless you!