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New Life for a Dying Nation
2006-01-17 PRODUCTION #: 1026 SPEAKERS: Shawn Boonstra, Mark Finley,

The nation of Rwanda is a country that knows a lot about suffering. With a population of nearly 8 million people crammed into less than 27,000 square kilometers, resources are scarce. And the average person earns less than $250 (US) a year. The unemployment rate is a staggering 34 percent and more than 60 percent of the population live below the poverty line. On top of that, the AIDS virus is taking a devastating toll, with some estimates putting the infection rate as high as 10 percent. The life expectancy for a man born in Rwanda is somewhere between 39 and 49 years. Less than half the population has access to any kind of education. Food is scarce. Clean water is scarce. And overall, Rwanda is a country well acquainted with hardship. But perhaps the thing that really plunged this tiny African nation into the depths of suffering was the 1994 genocide that claimed nearly a million lives. Today on It Is Written, we are going to look at the amazing story of a nation bouncing back from the chasm of hopelessness and into a bright new future. The year 1994 was one of the darkest chapters in modern history as tribal tensions in the nation of Rwanda escalated to the point where one of the worst atrocities the world has ever witnessed took place. The centuries-old rivalry between the Tutsis and Hutus exploded. In less than 100 days, more than 800,000 people were slain in the streets for no crime other than their ethnic identity. Helpless mothers were killed with machetes in front of their children. And so-called undesirable children were herded into school buildings and set on fire. The carnage was unimaginable. If you want a comparison to help you understand how severe it was, the Nazi death camps in World War II took three times as long to kill that many people. Ten years later, the scars of the genocide still run deep in the minds of the Rwandan people. It’s etched in their memories, impossible to forget. When you walk the streets of Kigali—the capital city—it’s impossible to find anybody who wasn’t affected. Almost everybody lost parents, siblings or children when roving bands of vigilantes moved from house to house butchering people with wooden clubs and machetes. There are beggars whose arms and legs are missing because of the genocide. There are hundreds of orphans begging for food in the streets. And everywhere the infrastructure of the nation still lies in ruins. But the surprising thing is the spirit you encounter when you talk to the Rwandan people. These are not a people without hope, and recently the It Is Written team witnessed first-hand how God can bring new life to a nation that has had so much trouble. Today Pastor Mark Finley joins me in the studio for a very special program. Mark, I remember when we were in Rwanda together, it really changed the way I see the world. What made you decide to go and preach the gospel in that nation? MARK: Shawn, Rwanda was one of the most incredible experiences of my 37-year ministry traveling all over the world. The leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Africa invited me to satellite live from Kigali, Rwanda (the capital city) to all of the African continent. We chose Rwanda because it was the center of such atrocities, but now is in the process of healing. And we believe that the healing grace of God could flow out from Rwanda to the entire continent of Africa and to the world. SHAWN: It was really an incredible event. I’m glad that I went with you to Rwanda. The things that I saw were unbelievable. Those meetings really excited the Rwandan people. In particular, I remember the opening ceremony. Tell us a little bit about what happened there.

the opening ceremony. Tell us a little bit about what happened there. MARK: Well, the first weekend that we were there, there was a moving ceremony. The government of Rwanda welcomed us with open arms because they recognized that we were there to bring health and healing and forgiveness to the nation, to cooperate with them in the ministry of reconciliation that they were doing for the nation. And so, the opening ceremony was conducted in one of the largest stadiums, in fact the largest stadium in the nation, as 35,000 people came together. The Prime Minister of the country was with us and it was just a marvelous ceremony. Marching bands came in for 45 minutes. There were children’s ministry groups, and women’s ministry groups and all kinds of groups that came in and played various musical instruments to welcome us, and to pay tribute to what God was going to do. I preached a sermon on how God heals us from the past and how we can look to the future. The Prime Minister of the nation addressed that large audience and welcomed us to Rwanda for this satellite event. We were going to send the message of God, the message of Jesus and His love, via satellite and uplink it to the entire continent of Africa. We had translation into 16 different languages. So that first day was a great ceremony, indeed. SHAWN: As I remember, the Prime Minister stood up and not only invited people to come to the evangelistic meetings, he told them to respond, too, didn’t he? MARK: He said, “These meetings will be for the well-being of Rwanda. You will find new life in the meetings and I urge you to attend.” SHAWN: Amazing. What was it like for you to preach in that nation? We didn’t stay in that stadium. You uplinked from a special location to how many places? MARK: From the Remera Seventh-day Adventist Church, we uplinked in 16 languages to at least 200,000 people live in Rwanda alone. And probably there were a million, maybe a million and a half, across Africa. SHAWN: It’s amazing. And actually, in that one location at Remera, you had a big crowd. MARK: More than 15,000 people on some nights. SHAWN: Unbelievable. How did they respond as you presented Jesus? MARK: Positively. You know, the Rwandan people are so open to the gospel. They’ve been through such terror and their lives have been so traumatized. And, Shawn, to think of it, 10 years before, bands of roving rebels ran through the streets with machetes cutting off people’s arms. There were husbands or wives that saw their loved ones killed before them. During our visit, we saw that the Rwandan people were just reaching out for that healing of soul. I talked to the one who invited me there, the leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in that area, Pastor Amon Rugelinyange. And I said, “Pastor, did you lose anybody in the genocide?” He replied, “Mark, my wife was brutally murdered. My three children were brutally murdered. My seven grandchildren were brutally murdered.” Then he continued, “After the genocide was over, the only reason I wasn’t killed is that I was out preaching during the genocide and I was hidden by a church leader, called an elder, who happened to be a Hutu.” Pastor Amon is a Tutsi, and he said, “I was hidden by this elder for 40 days, shifted to seven different secret locations, and my life was saved. But after it was all over, the rebels were gone, and the new government was established,” he said. “Many of these murderers were captured. Prisons were established. I was brought to one jail, and out behind the jail there were five men, with their hands tied behind them. They were the ones who murdered my wife, my children and my grandchildren. They had their faces in the dirt, and the police handed me a gun and said, "You have every right to put a bullet in every one of their heads. They brutally murdered your wife and your children." And Pastor Rugelinyange then said, “I cannot shoot them; I have already forgiven them. But I have a question to ask? What were my wife’s last moments like? What were my children’s last moments like? What were my grandchildren’s last moments like?”

And the murderers responded, “We were so stunned. They were praying for us. They were singing hymns.” Today, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is going into the prisons. There were 180,000 prisoners, some have been released now, but 180,000 people that perpetrated the genocide. They were put in 19 prisons. Christians, in general, and Adventists in particular, have gone into the prisons with the ministry of healing and forgiveness. And Seventh-day Adventists have 19 churches in these 19 prisons, a church in every prison. Some are churches of 600 members. People who killed the relatives of those coming into the prisons to minister to them are now saved by God’s grace and living lives of forgiveness and reaching out to other prisoners to bring the grace of Jesus to them. SHAWN: As I remember, your evangelistic meetings were actually beamed down into those prisons. We had how many prisoners watching? MARK: Well, the government of Rwanda was so impressed with what God was doing, and so impressed with the ministry of love and healing and forgiveness, they allowed us to put satellite dishes in three separate prisons. We had the potential of sending the message via satellite in the prisons to 10,000 people in each prison, or 30,000 people. SHAWN: Amazing. MARK: We entered one of those prisons, and I had a chance to preach in the prison. Before I preached, a prostitute stood up and said, “I’m in prison for prostitution, but the grace of God has changed my life. I’m a new woman in Christ. And I’ve been studying the Bible for the last nine months.” And she was baptized that day. I interviewed another young woman, 28 years old. I asked, “How long have you been in prison?” She said, “Ten years.” I knew it would be because of the genocide, but I asked her, “Why are you here?” She said, “The genocide.” In other words, she took a machete in her own hand and killed people. She then said, “I’ve been here 10 years. At first I was aloof, I was an angry woman. But I watched Adventist Christians and I saw their love and their kindness, and I’ve studied the Bible with them for the last few years, and today, pastor, I’m liberated, I’m a free woman, because I’m being baptized today in Jesus!” SHAWN: That’s amazing. Mark, let’s talk a little bit about the nation of Rwanda and what they went through. There was a man in Rwanda working at the American Consulate who we became friends with and he told you one day, “I’m going to show you two things, the saddest thing you’ve ever seen and the happiest thing you’ve ever seen.” What was the saddest thing he showed us? What was that thing he said was going to be so heart-rending? MARK: You know, Shawn, that morning was probably one of the saddest of my life. I have been to the Nazi death camps. I’ve been to Auschwitz and some of the other Nazi death camps, and they are moving experiences. You cannot go through those experiences without crying. But what took place in Rwanda is this: The remains of ten thousand people are still at a church in a place called Nyamata. Ten thousand people fled to the churchyard, and when you walk into that church, there is blood on the walls, there are bullet holes in the roof, and there’s a room where the clothing of those that died was left for the last 10 years, and it is bloodstained, it smells. Up until a few months ago, the remains of the people were left there. Now they have them in a crypt. And you and I went down together into that crypt, and we saw skulls of people that were on trays. The remains of ten thousand people are there. And Shawn, you see babies and children, three years old, whose heads were cracked open with machetes. You see babies with bullet holes in their skulls. And it is so heart wrenching to think that they died there. I can’t help but think that on resurrection morning when Jesus comes, that place that has been such a place of horror and sadness and difficulty is going to be an incredible place of joy when the dead are resurrected and reunited with their loved ones and with their Lord. SHAWN: You know, Pastor Mark, I’ve got a pretty steely constitution, but I remember when I went down into that crypt with you, that was pretty tough. I remember looking at all of those heads and I was doing fine until I saw one little skull, it must have been a 2-year-old child. And you know, I’ve got a 2-

doing fine until I saw one little skull, it must have been a 2-year-old child. And you know, I’ve got a 2year-old myself and I thought, what in the world brings people to do things like this? And we discussed something in that crypt. I remember you saying, “What would it be like if the Spirit of God were completely withdrawn from this world? Look at what people face. Look at what happens.” And we went from that place. That was a very downcast place, that was a tough morning. I left with tears in my eyes, and I know that you did, too. But we went from there to see what kind of hope comes out of darkness when God is at work. MARK: Shawn, one more comment on the Nyamata church. I would not want to leave our audience in despair on it. If I were not a Christian and I went there, I’d be filled with this kind of wrenching despair. But as a Christian, I know two things. First, that everyone who died there did not die in vain. God was with them. And that out of the blood that was shed, the world learns lessons about harmony, about the fact that ethnic tensions and divisions only lead to death. There is another lesson. And that is that the Rwandan people today are reaching out in forgiveness, and that nation can be a model for the world, for forgiveness. And I think also, their blood cries out from the ground for the hope of Jesus’ coming. We did leave there, and we traveled three hours over a rough road. SHAWN: I remember the roads. MARK: And we traveled out to a place where it was really a jungle setting, and a field. I remember coming across the field where we saw 300 women sitting under the trees. And they had these fine strands that they were knitting together and weaving together from a plant called the sisal plant. They showed us how they did it. These women were making little baskets that could be Christmas ornaments to hang on a tree. And they’re being marketed here in America. A husband writes a note to his wife—how much he loves her— and puts it in the basket. The wife then writes a note to her husband of her love for him, and puts it in another little basket ornament on the tree. And these are kind of messages of commitment. But the thing about these 300 women that really impressed me was that about half of them were Tutsis and had husbands that were killed in the genocide. They were all widows. Some of them had nursing babies, as they were weaving, and they had children they were trying to support. The other half were not Tutsi widows. They were Hutu widows and their husbands were in prison, and some of them had been put to death because of the genocide. So you have Tutsi and Hutu widows sitting under the trees. They are weaving together, and half of these women have bank accounts now. It was amazing to me. But the thing that was so amazing was to see the love, the bondedness between them. The resentment, the anger, the bitterness of the past were just put aside. And Rwandan men and women are finding reconciliation, forgiveness and peace in Jesus. SHAWN: That was an amazing scene. I remember how those ladies were so excited when you arrived there with your team. They leapt up and began to sing. And these were people that 10 years ago were at odds in a very real way. I mean, in a way that cost 800,000 people their lives, yet today they work together on a new future. It’s amazing how the Spirit of God can work in a nation that has been through such tough times, and how forgiveness has become a part of society. And I’m thinking in particular now of a real story of forgiveness that you ran across there in Rwanda with Adele. MARK: Adele is one of the most remarkable women that I’ve ever met. Let me tell you her story. Pastor Rugelinyange, my host, said to me, “Pastor Mark, I want to take you to a woman who is so remarkable that you will be deeply impressed for the rest of your life with her story. Her husband was a pastor. He was brutally murdered, massacred, macheted to death before her eyes. And the story that she will tell you will change your life.” So we traveled on rough roads over ravines out to a little African village. As I entered Adele’s home, I noted the picture of her pastor husband on the wall. I stood there for a few moments looking at the picture. And then I sat down and Adele and I made small talk. And then I said, “Adele, I know your husband was brutally killed, would you like to share his story with me?” And with a tear in her eye and her lips quivering, she began to share the story. She shared how the rebels came closer and closer to her village. She and her husband fled into a Catholic church. The rebels entered that church. Adele thought they would find sanctuary there, they

Catholic church. The rebels entered that church. Adele thought they would find sanctuary there, they did not. As the rebels came in, they began screaming for the pastor to stand up. Nobody stood. They continued to scream because they were going to kill all the community leaders first. The pastor stood. And the rebels ran and began to flay at his body with the machete. They struck him again and again and again. Finally, his throat was cut and blood was spurting from his body and he was breathing his last, praying for those who killed him. Adele began to scream and in that melee, in that confusion, 45 people were slain, and 15 fled. And as Adele told me the story, she pulled back her black hair and I saw a scar across her forehead, a scar that went deeply into her skull. They had run at her with machetes, and she was left on the floor for dead. She had a large scar on her head. She had scars on her back, and her wrist was partially chopped off. For three days, Adele lay among the dead bodies. Her heart was faintly beating. When the townspeople came to bury the dead, they found Adele lying there. They picked her up in their arms, and they bathed her wounds. They brought her to the hospital. By now the rebel leaders had moved on. It took three years, but Adele recovered. And 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.” There was one prison not far from her house and Adele became known as the mother of that prison. She brought in food. She brought in clothing. She ministered lovingly to the prisoners. She told me, “Pastor Mark, one day a young man named Luis fell at my feet and he was weeping and kissing my feet. And as I looked down at his face, I saw that he was the young man who rushed in with the machete and killed my husband. He was the young man who put this scar on my head. And he looked up and me and said, "Adele, would you forgive me?’ I pulled him up and I embraced him and said, 'In the name of Jesus, I will forgive you.’” She continued, “Pastor Mark, my heart was racing, but I knew that Christ had forgiven me and that I could forgive this murderer. I began studying the Bible with prisoners, and Luis came to the Bible studies. He made a decision that he would follow Jesus and be baptized. But he said, ?Before I’m baptized, I want to stand before the prison publicly and ask you, Adele, for your forgiveness.’” On the day of his baptism, he stood with Adele and said, “Adele, I brutally murdered your husband. I put a knife mark, a machete scar, on your head, will you forgive me?” She said, “Before those prisoners, before he was baptized, I forgave him. My son took his father’s death so hard. And Luis said, "I want to talk to your son.’ And my son went to his cell. And Luis said, "I want you to forgive me.’” “Luis became a model prisoner. The grace of Christ was flowing through his life. He was a new young man. After three years, the government let him out of prison for good behavior. But he had no place to live because Luis had his father and mother murdered in the genocide.” “And I said, 'Luis, you come and I’ll adopt you as my son.’ And for the last couple of years, he has been living in my home. Pastor Mark, would you like to meet Luis?” I tell you, friend, there was a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as Luis walked into the room and Adele embraced him and said, “He is my adopted son today.” I’ve thought so many times in my life that maybe I’ve been mistreated. So many times in my life people have said something and I’ve gotten upset. So many times in my life people have done a little thing and I’ve been angry. And I thought of Adele, how she could reach out in such a loving forgiveness? If there is somebody that has hurt you today and wounded you, in the spirit of Jesus, you, too, can forgive them. The lesson of Rwanda is the lesson of a nation learning to forgive, because Jesus has forgiven them. SHAWN: That’s absolutely remarkable, Mark. Thank you. You know, the ancients had a story about a bird that would die in flames and then come back to life. Now, that was nothing but ancient mythology. Yet, there is just a little kernel of truth to it. God can take the darkest moments of anybody’s existence and breathe new life into them. If God can give new life to an entire country, a nation that killed off one-eighth of its population in an act of

give new life to an entire country, a nation that killed off one-eighth of its population in an act of unbridled, destructive passion, He can certainly breathe new life into you. Maybe today, like thousands of prisoners in Rwanda, you have done something to ruin someone’s life. Maybe at this moment you are even sitting in prison yourself, and as you search the recesses of your heart, you can see that you need something better than you’ve got. Maybe you have been hurt and you’re struggling to find forgiveness for the people who did it. As you listen to the stories of forgiveness and healing coming out of a nation like Rwanda, today you sense that you would like to experience that kind of love and forgiveness, too. Today, this is the moment God has chosen for you. As you quietly reach out for His hand, He is reaching back for yours. And His promise is that He can make you a new creature. The Bible says, in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV): ————————————————————————————————————“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away. Behold all things have become new.” ————————————————————————————————————Now just imagine, if God can make a whole country new, He can do it for you. Pastor Mark, somebody reading this today is struggling for a new beginning. They would really like to have a new start. They’d like to know what forgiveness is all about. Either they need to learn to give forgiveness or receive it, and they’re really struggling at this point. We should pray for that person. MARK: Let’s do that right now. PRAYER: Father, teach us that not to forgive is to live in resentment, and that resentment simply destroys who we are. Teach us, Lord, that forgiveness is healing. It’s life-giving. Give us the courage to forgive others, just as Jesus faced the cross courageously and forgave His tormentors and crucifiers. O Father, place within our hearts the gift of forgiveness, so we can be gracious and merciful to those who have wronged us, and may that be life-giving to our hearts and souls and minds. In Jesus’ name, amen. To view photos and stories from It Is Written’s visit to Rwanda, please click here.

Scriptures Used in “New Life for a Dying Nation”
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." —2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV Keywords: Mark Finley Shawn Boonstra
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