Would you forgive the man who murdered your children and husband? In this guest post, Lisa Easterbrooks shares the story she just heard in Rwanda about Adele, who did far more than forgive. The love and reconciliation Adele has demonstrated is tangible evidence of God’s power at work.
Rwanda is an amazing place. It’s a place that has seen much evil, yet also stunning examples of love and forgiveness. As you know, during a 100-day period in 1994, about 1 million Rwandans were brutally killed by their friends and neighbors while the world stood by and watched. It was genocide. It has been 20 years since the massacre, one that compares only with events like the Jewish Holocaust, the Darfur Genocide, and the deeds of the Khmer Rouge.
There has been justice for many of the killers in Rwanda. Surprisingly, there has also been healing and forgiveness. Rwanda has set up special village courts, called the gacaca, to judge those accused of killing in the genocide. One of the questions the court asks family members of victims is if they forgive the killer. If the killer has been forgiven, he does not go to jail. He is reintegrated into society.
Adele is a Tutsi woman who lost 3 of her children at the hand of a young man. He also killed her husband, a pastor, as they hid together in a church. After she recovered from her own injuries, she began to think, “I can be a bitter, angry, resentful old woman, but I’m not going to do that. I’m going to go into the prisons and minister to the murderers.” Adele became known as the mother of that prison. She brought in food. She brought in clothing.
One day a young man came weeping to Adele, kissing her feet. She recognized him. The same young man who had killed her loved ones. Luis asked her, “Adele, would you forgive me?” She stood him up and embraced him and said, “In the name of Jesus, I will forgive you.” Luis was baptized and became a model prisoner.
But there’s more. All of Luis’ family had been killed during the genocide. He had nowhere to go when he was released from prison. So, Adele adopted him as her son. Luis now lives in her home. How is this possible? It is not possible for mere human hearts, of course. That kind of forgiveness, well, isn’t what God has done for us? We have sinned so deeply against Him — we killed His Son, we worship other gods, we hurt His children, and yet we find ourselves adopted as His children.
The only possible explanation for this Adele’s amazing forgiveness is that she had first experienced God’s forgiveness. God has been working Rwanda to spread the gospel of forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation. We talk a lot about forgiveness in our churches in the US. But I doubt if anyone understands forgiveness more than Luis. We talk about the healing the gospel can bring, but do we really believe it? Rwanda is evidence. This woman is evidence.
The gospel has been healing this land. So many have forgiven, forgiveness is all they have left. If they continue to hate those that perpetrated this violence, they are on a dangerous road that leads back to the same place. But God has another vision. Isaiah 61:1-3 is a most apt passage for this country:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
God is binding up the broken-hearted in Rwanda. He is releasing the prisoners from darkness and comforting all who mourn. His splendor is being displayed. The more Rwandans see Jesus, the farther away from genocide they get. Please pray that many see Him, so the verses above may continue to come to life in Rwanda.
Lisa Easterbrooks works for the Education Development Center, a non-profit that creates learning opportunities for people around in 30 countries. Lisa gets to go to Africa a lot for her work…most recently to support the Literacy Language and Learning Initiative in Rwanda, to improve the quality of teaching and learning for children in grades 1-4.