10:35 a.m. Central Africa Time
I’m writing this post from a garden in Kigali, Rwanda.
Overhead, palm fronds shade me from the equatorial sun. The air, perfumed and trembling with birdsong, is cool and clear. A slight breeze carries traces of eucalyptus and flora.
I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to write. But, like many things in Rwanda, the beauty holds hands with brokenness.
To my right, 250,000 corpses sleep forever beneath a blanket of concrete.
Inside the building to my left, dozens of fractured skulls, torn clothes, and photographs tell a heartbreaking tale of hatred and chaos.
This garden in which I write, it’s part of the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre.
Flowers of remembrance left atop one of the mass graves.
Our Visiting Orphans team of 20 arrived in Rwanda yesterday. I teared up on the plane as terraced hills rolled like gentle waves beneath us. My love for this land is complete and inexplicable.
For three years, since our first visit, the desire to return has only intensified. Now that I’m here, breathing the honeyed air and feeling the red earth under my feet, it’s surreal. I find myself uncharacteristically without words to describe it.
Perhaps you’ve heard famous Olympic runner Eric Liddell, when asked why he ran, said, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” That’s the closest I know how to explain this bizarre sense of belonging I feel in this place that should be foreign. When I am in Rwanda, I feel God’s pleasure.
“Pleasure” might sound odd in light of my presence at the genocide memorial. I did spend the past hour walking my nine-year-old daughter through the horrors of 1994, and then I held her while she wept. Her compassionate heart just lost a piece of its innocence, and she will never be the same.
But that is part of the beauty here. Despite tragedy, despite scars and lingering pain, there is hope. I see it in the warm smiles of those who welcome us. I feel it in my own heart, which has learned more about life from these people than I could ever teach.
God births beauty from brokenness. Every. Single. Time.
He has done it – is doing it – in Rwanda. He is doing it in me. He will do it in my little girl. He will accept her tender, broken heart and through it share His redemptive hope with those who have none.
This afternoon we will hike up one of these beautiful hills to spend time with the children of Kimisagara Orphanage. Over the next week, those kids will become our family, and everything we know of their nation’s tragic past will find new meaning.
We will see that they are affected by all that came before, but they are not defined by it. They might have suffered in ways we can barely conceive, but they are sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, just as we are. We can relate. We can be family.
Even though we are worlds apart, we are cut from the same cloth. Each of our stories is woven into God’s great tapestry. This coming week will frame a special place where our threads intersect. And when they do, I know I will once again feels God’s pleasure.