We’ve been talking about finding God’s purpose for us the last few weeks. I thought I’d illustrate this topic by profiling a woman who really seems to be living out God’s vision for the life that she was given.
Let me introduce you to Immaculee Ilibagiza. She is a survivor of the Rwandan holocaust that happened in the 1990’s. There were two tribes in Rwanda; the Hutu, and the Tutsi. Anger, fear, and resentment between the two tribes finally reached a violent peak, and the Hutu organized, and armed their members with drugs, machetes, and hate fueled propaganda on the radio and TV. They would attempt to wipe out the entire Tutsi tribe. During a period of three months, over 1,000,000 Tutsi people were murdered. When the violence broke out, Immaculee, along with some other women, fled to the home of a Hutu minister who had been a family friend. He took them in, and let them hide in a tiny hidden bathroom in his house, all 8 women, for 3 months, in a very small bathroom. There were dozens of raids by Hutu soldiers who had heard reports of Tutsi women going into the house, but not seen coming out again.
It is in this place that Immaculee invites God work with her. She talks about praying to God up to 12 hours a day, going into a deep meditation, and letting God invade her heart. Her words about battling fear, lies, and hatred are inspiring:
“I knew that my heart and mind would always be tempted to feel anger–to find blame and hate. But I resolved that when the negative feelings came upon me, I wouldn’t wait for them to grow or fester. I would always turn immediately to the Source of all true power: I would turn to God and let His love and forgiveness protect and save me.”
“The more I prayed, the more aware I became that, in order to receive God’s true blessing, my heart had to be ready to receive His love. But how could He enter my heart when it was holding so much anger and hatred?”
“I realized that my battle to survive this war would have to be fought inside of me.”
When at last, the war is over and she emerges from the bathroom, Immaculee has learned who she is, who God is, and how poisonous hatred is, and how it will keep her from God. She becomes filled with love. After many months, she learns that her entire family is dead except for one brother who was studying in another country. She is eventually able to forgive the Hutu, to pray for their souls because they are so sick with violence. She finds a kind woman who offers her a place to live, and tries to find work. She asks God to help her find her purpose, and He tells her that she needs to work for the United Nations!
“But I came to learn that God never shows us something we aren’t ready to understand. Instead, He lets us see what we need to see, when we need to see it. He’ll wait until our eyes and hearts are open to Him, and then when we’re ready, He will plant our feet on the path that’s best for us…but it’s up to us to do the walking.”
She struggles and works to make that happen, and now, today, Immaculee Ilibagiza’s message of God’s love and care in our lives, even in the darkest times has inspired millions through the work she has done through the United Nations, and through a book she has written, called Left to Tell; Discovering God in the Rwandan Holocaust. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t recommend a book to read every chance I get! It’s definitely worth your time. Here is one last quote from Immaculee:
“Never refuse any who ask you for help; if your pockets are empty, give them hope. Your every action must be born of kindness, your every word spoken with love. Live as God would have you live, and others will be inspired to do the same.”
This wonderful woman of God is truly one of His great spokespersons! She spreads with joy the message of God’s love and reality everywhere she goes; on news programs, at speaking events, in books, and to any person she speaks with. She has invited God to use her greatest suffering for the strengthening of His other sons and daughters. I love her and her faith!