Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rwanda, Africa: A Love that Overflows in Persecution

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." -1Thes. 5:16-18

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
-Matt. 5:9

Civil war devastated the small central African country of Rwanda in 1959-62. For many years the Hutu people had been downtrodden by their Tutsi feudal overlordsa small minority. The Belgian colonial rulers educated, supported and used the Tutsi.

Christian missionaries arrived about 1920 and preached the love of God for sinners to both Hutu and Tutsi. In 1931 God gave a few missionaries and locals such a vision of the greatness of God's love in the cross of Christ, that they began to confess their sins to one another and embrace one another open-heartedly. The gospel of God's grace began to spread rapidly in the power of the Holy Spiritnot just with missionary perseverance as before, but with an overflowing love, joy and thankfulness. Western missionaries began to see Africans as equals. Barriers between brothers came down as vision of the cross grew. Even the hostility between Hutu and Tutsi was overcome as believers rejoiced in the cross.

As independence from Belgium (1960) drew near, the Hutu began to see their opportunity to gain power and get revenge. What were Christians to do as the massacres spread and terror reigned? How could they be peacemakers when faced with attackers carrying axes, machetes and torches? Christians were from both tribes. Who should they help? Most were intimidated by the terror, but a few saints shone the light of Christ brightly. A missionary doctor who was among that first small group in 1931 to be overwhelmed by a vision of sin and forgiveness, received the following letter from one such African Christian in 1961.

"We are all well because Jesus has turned death into victory through the wonderful Gospel you brought to us. You know all that has happened to us in Rwanda. Here, we have had our home destroyed, and after it happened I was beaten for four days and left for dead. But this time was a blessing to my soul. All the time they were beating me, I couldn't help singing and saying, over and over again, 'Jesus be praised.' I kept praying for them very much all the time, and in my heart I was thankful because they said they had nothing against me except the fact that I was a Tutsi.

"Now, in case we shall never meet again before I die, I want to tell you that you and the other missionaries who brought the Gospel to us have done a great work. When I think how you found me in those days, I love you more than you know. Only Jesus knows how much I love you. I know quite well that you did not come for any personal gain or for what you could make out of it, so I want to comfort you in all suffering that may come to you 'even unto death' not to be downhearted; it is not in vain. Jesus will give you your reward. It is I, A. Mandari (Gahini, 2.3.62)."

This is a love letter--love for the torturers, love for Christ and love for the missionary who had shown him the glory of the cross. What an encouragement this letter must have been to the old missionary. Did you notice who this suffering brother was concerned about? We have the same God of all comfort, the same throne of grace to run to, and the same Holy Spirit of power. Do you want to overflow with heavenly love as this brother did? Do I? The lack is only in our vision of God's love. Let us pray often for God to give us together with all the saints a fresh vision of His great love for usa love that passes knowledge. And let us expect Him to do it.

[Breath of Life: the story of the Ruanda Mission, by Patricia St. John, page 210]

1 comment:

  1. Hello Brad,
    Thank you for conveying these testimonies of loving our enemies. It is vital, vital, vital in the days to come.

    Michael and Anna and I send our love to you and Susan and all the children.

    Much love, in Yeshua