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My Name is Innocent

I was sitting at Hotel Rwanda just yesterday. Yes – the One. Sitting with Jen, Adria, and Helge before my flight out of the country. Sitting in the sun. Sitting in anticipation of what was to come. Sitting in thought of what came to pass. It’s been a long month – a good month. And somehow, unexpectedly, the ending brought me here: Hotel Rwanda. More amazing than that was what happened in the hour to follow… I’m still kinda in shock

Sitting there, I started thinking about beginning this month with the crew from Visiting Orphans. Getting to see my kindred spirit, Katie Davis, in her home with her 14 beautiful girls! Hearing the story of saving her new daughter from dying in a trash pile where Katie found her. I cannot wait to see the plans God has for this little life!! Someone’s trash – Another’s treasure. She IS a treasure! So is her momma : ) My mind goes back to Pastor Isaac at Cannan’s Childrens Home. It was the day before using the art therapy program with the orphans there. He was telling me of a baby girl they had received from Gulu. She was found nursing on her mother’s dead body. She had been shot by the rebels. She is safe now – a treasure.

My mind jumps to the ride to Gulu with Amanda Clark Lawrence, Britt Nicole, and Jake Birdwell. Three of my favorite people. We had no idea what that week would hold. Times of singing, dancing, and even crying with the children as some of them shared their worst memories they had drawn on handkerchiefs. Brave they were. Amazing to see them dance and sing after knowing so many had been abducted, forced to kill, or watch family members be killed. It’s amazing what Love can do – Love and Time and God

“Sometimes they draw out their pain…sometimes they cry it out. Sometimes they dance it out.” Rose. Sweet Rose. Her work with these children is patient and loving and gentle and kind. They are all testimonies to the other side of trauma. Beauty from the Broken.

Sitting in the sun at the table by the pool at Hotel Rwanda. Soaking in the warmth as much as I was soaking in the memories. Memories of interviews from child soldier rehabilitation centers about how to best help these children, memories of wise men of old talking about peace and reconciliation following war, of children describing what life was like at its worst. Memories. So many. Some are a bit haunting. Most are not. This trip was different – especially Congo. This time it was about finding hope. It was about looking past the pain into the eyes of a God who is bigger than their nightmares. It was about bringing Light in the midst of Darkness – and lighting a spark that we hope to continue to fuel for years to come. My ride had come. Time to go. Hugs to the crew. Prayers of thankfulness and off I go in the taxi.

So I have this thing about starting random conversations with random people that I don’t know. I just start talking to them…kinda like I know them. But I don’t. Not yet. I have found the coolest conversations to come out of talks with taxi cab drivers. To be honest, I think Jesus ha

s shown himself in African taxi cab drivers more than almost anyone else I can think of. Not kidding. This time was no different. We talked about where he was from, how he moved to Rwanda from Congo after his parents “ran from the wars”, why he thinks there is so much fighting in Congo and then…

The Genocide.

“You know in Rwanda – we were once two: Hutu and Tutsis. We were two people, but now we are One. The people of Congo… they are many. They are not One” The Genocide. It seems to be a topic that many do not wish to talk about. My experience has been that when you talk about it, there is often a tense silence for a split second. Maybe because there is so much pain underneath. Maybe because they just want to forget.

“”How old were you?” I asked hesitantly. I mean, I had just met him… but somehow it seemed as if it was ok to ask.

“I was 13 years old…” His face become very serious. We were at the airport now. “It was bad. It was very bad. Never again. Never Never Never again.”

“I am so sorry. I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine what that must have been like. I hear so much about forgiveness in Rwanda. I don’t understand how the people have learned to forgive each other. How can you forgive after such killings?

“Yes. Yes – we forgive.” He said. His eyes actually started to light up a bit. “But how?” I asked.

“We must. If we don’t – it will just continue. There will be no peace. The killing and the fighting will go and go. The Peace will not come. We must Forgive.”

Still trying to understand. Asking more questions. Getting more answers. He said, “If you kill my mother and you come to me and say ‘I have killed your mother’ and you ask forgiveness. Then I must forgive you. We sit together. We must do this so we can be a new country. So it will never happen again.”

If he said that once, he said it 20 times. He talked of the need to confess your wrongs. He talked of the need to ask for forgiveness. To “judge ourselves.” He talked of “Gacaca.” A term I had heard before, but never really understood. The goal: Reconciliation.

Around a million killed in 100 days. A country slaughtering itself – and the goal is reconciliation? Seems absurd. It is. As is Grace. Makes no sense – but I guess that’s what makes it so amazing.

“I believe we can learn from you. I believe that the rest of the world can learn how to forgive from Rwanda. If the people of Rwanda can forgive and become ONE after such killing – I believe we all can learn to Forgive. To Forgive ourselves and others.”

He smiled brightly. As if he was being honored. He was… and so was his country. We were at the end of the conversation and the end of the time I had. Although I could have talked to him for hours. I asked for his email address so I might write to him and learn more. Then I had the realization that often comes at the end of conversations with strangers. I had failed to ask his name.

“I’m sorry… what was your name?”

He answered as if he did not make the connection at all. Like it was just a name.

“My name is Innocent.”

“I stood still. Looking at him… as if looking into the eyes of someone else. A moment of wondering. Are you? Are you God in the form of a taxi driver? But he was more than a taxi driver. He was a survivor. He was a living breathing testimony. What had he seen at 13? Had he run? Had he hid? Had he killed? At that moment – it didn’t matter.

At that moment, I saw the country of Rwanda as a million pieces being put back together. I saw them as one. I saw them as a tiny African country once overflowing with blood, now a nation covered in grace.



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