Today was an emotional encounter with women who, 19 years later, still carry the physical, emotional and spiritual scars of the genocide…
Beatrice Mukasinga, a Presbyterian pastor’s wife, was in Kenya when the genocide broke out. When she returned to find her parents and brothers all murdered, she was also overwhelmed by the sight of so many children wandering in the streets, naked, hungry and alone. She began an orphanage to gather them into a safe place. About a year later, a 16 year old girl came to her with her baby, born from rape, and wanted to leave the child with her because she was destitute. Beatrice realized at that moment that God was calling her to care for women who had survived but were now traumatized from witnessing the murder of their families, being mutilated in machete attacks, or suffering from HIV/AIDs contracted during the brutal rapes. “Speak, I’m Listening” became a haven for women to come together to support one another and to share tears and stories of their tragedies. For Beatrice and her staff, this would also be a place where they could remind the women that God was with them in the dark abyss.
Many of those women, who formed a community of hope, still meet several times a month. We were with them to hear a bit of their story. The first woman who spoke had had the lower half of her leg cut off with a machete, but that was not her only wound. A new bandage on her arm marked the spot where she had JUST had a bullet removed….one which had been lodged there for almost two decades. She said that this place had given her a reason to live at a time when she had wanted to die from the sheer weight of her sorrow…
While she was speaking, another woman joined our circle, walking slowly and with a pronounced limp. She had recently had some major procedures done on one of her eyes…vestiges of severe machete blows to her head 19 years ago. She said that she probably should have stayed home today, but this group was so important to her that she did not want to miss it. We learned of her unimaginable ordeal during the genocide – butchered and left for dead, she regained consciousness only to discover her husband lying dead nearby, as well as her baby. When she heard of Beatrice’s center she had to crawl to get there, paralyzed by her severe wounds. But it was this place that had lifted her from a place of darkness, spiritually and emotionally, that few of us can fathom.
We offered these women the small gift of our tears to mingle with theirs – and shared the assurance that, even though we cannot begin to imagine the depth of the tragedy which they endured, we serve a Savior who can, as he bore all our pain on the cross.
One of the current foci of the “Speak, I’m Listening” center is to provide vocational training for young girls who, because of poverty or broken homes, cannot get into secondary school. In-depth courses of hands-on training in commercial baking, hair dressing, and clothes-making will almost guarantee that these young people will find employment with which to support themselves.
Those who are studying sewing practice by making fabric crafts which are sold by the center to help support it. We eagerly snatched up the well-made purses, aprons, cosmetic bags, backpacks, and dolls which will make wonderful gifts for friends and family back home while also opening a door for us to share the story of where it came from.
Before we left, many of the young girls gathered on the patio to sing Christian songs and dance for us. We were all compelled to join them and took great delight in seeing the older women from the support group drawn in, as well. Their tears and sorrows were made lighter, for the moment, by the transforming power of God’s gift of music.
Marilyn for the Rwanda Mission Team