Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Life Changed-Rwanda 2007

So this will be a long post, but these last 10 days have been amazing. The week started out on the Saturday, September 1st, when we left the campus of UCU on a 10 hour car ride to Rwanda. Can I start off by saying that Uganda itself has very poor roads, but as soon as you cross the border into Rwanda, there are well paved roads, sidewalks, and cleanliness. We had on oppurtunity along the way to stop at a place called the Equator, which was a coffee shop right on the equator. It was around 8 pm when we finally arrived in Rwanda for the night. We stayed at a guest house near the capital city of Rwanda. On Sunday we broke off into many groups, with 5 of us in each group. My church group went to a very rural church calles Kibungu. The church itself it pretty nuce except for the fact that they have no roof and it began pouring right in the middle of church. See, in Rwanda a law has been passed that stops people from making a certain kind of brick, which is thew brick that the church is using for its structure. The pastor is hoping that soon the law will allow them to start making these bricks again. On this Sunday, 8 different churches had gathered in this one church cause they heard "mzungus"-(white people)- were coming. The church was filled with arounf 300-400 people, and more standing around peeking in the windows. the service was filled with many choirs singing, dancing, and testimonies. Amy and I were the two people to give our testimonies, while Bryce gave the sermon to the church. The pastor ended the service, by thanking out group for coming and sharing with them. When Monday came we drove into the capital city of Kigali, to the Kigali Memorial Center. The center was a memorial for all the lives lost during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. You begin the tour outside looking at massive graves, filled with around 25000 bodies in each. In all 15 graves their are 256,000 bodies from the genocide. After the outside tour, you walk the inside of the center. You read different facts about the genocide and how it was caused. You see movies of survivors recalling the horrific events that happened, including watching their own family members die right in front of them. Then as you move to the pictures of the many victims your emotions start to really change. You end the tour looking at a room of childrens pictures, who were all victims of the genocide. Next to the pictures were facts about each child, including their last words, such as "Mommy where can I run to?" After the tour I just began to think about what all these people must have been thinking in April 1994. Monday afternoon we drove to another town about 2 hours away. On tuesday, my entire outlook on life changed. We woke up early and drove to Murambi Memorial center, which was a school where 50,000 Tutsi's were severely murdered at the hands of the Hutus. We were informed of what to expect at the center, but nothing could prepare me for what i was about to see.
It's so amazing to me how seeing one thing can change your entire outlook on life, and the human race. As i walked into the first classroom at the center, I immediately was overwhelmed by a smell that seems like death. In this first room their were around 50 bodies that has been preserved from the genocide. Room after room, body after body, I just began to really think about the lives that were lost here. The Tutsis were often told to go to places like churches and schools, by people they trusted, but were then just brutally killed in masses. They were killed by guns, clubbed to death, and sometimes even clubbed to death. Young children were sometimes just thrown against walls. There were bodies of men and women, some still with hair, others still wearing the clothes they were wearing the day their life ended. Children were still laying in the arms of their mothers, some with their mouths wide open screaming. As I left this place, i was feeling just about every possible emotion from anger, to sadness. Anger that no other countries tried to help in Rwanda, while others like France even gave the Hutus weapons, very aware of what was going on. the United States itself acted as though they didn't know what was going on, but as we learned most countries did, but sat back and waited for other countries to become involved. After researching a little on Bill Clinton and why he didn't act in Rwanda, i learned that at the end of his presidency, when asked his single biggest regret without pausing he said "Rwanda." After this very overwhelming experience we ended the evening hearing from two survivors of the genocide, both who were 4th year university students. Damas was the male. He described to us a horrific account of constant hiding and fear. Damas was hit with clubs that had nails embedded in them, which then left permanent scars in his head, of which are still visible. His entire family was killed in the genocide, including both of his parents and 4 siblings. he talked about leaving a friend behing that had had his legs cut off. He had no water to drink except for the rain that was coming down from the mountains. When he came out of the forest from hiding the first person he ran into was a priest. He said he felt safe for the first time in 3 months, but then the priest-a man of God- asked him why he hadn't drowned himself in a toilet. Damas told the priest that he would rather be shot or cut up instead. Soon after the genocide ended Damas joined the military at 13 cause it was the only safe place for him to go. Angelique was a female who at the time of the genocide was 11. Angelique was unable to recount her story, because it still is too painfil for her to tell. She did tell us that her entire family was killed as well including her parents and 3 siblings. She did talk a lot about how she has always been alone since. She has no family left no relatives or anything. She moved into some peoples house at 11 as a house girl.
The week was full of things. I even saw the actualy Hotel Rwanda, was unable to get a good picture of it. We also visited the Belgian memorial, which was the memorial of the ten Belgian soldiers that were killed after trying to protect the prime minister who was also killed. The 10 days ended with a relaxing weekend at lake Bunyonyi, which was amazingly beautiful. We got to canoe, swim, and even take a tour of nearby islands.
We got back to cmapus late last night, and immediately saw a huge difference. All the students are back and the campus is flooded with many activities. It poured all night last night so campus is very wet and muddy, but volleyball practice today at 4, and first game tommorrow, wish us luck!

2 comments:

mom said...

William, I can hardly wait to see some of your pictures. It was great to talk to you yesterday and hear how your trip to Rwanda was so moving. I miss you so much, but know that you are truly having a once in a lifetime experience. love, mom

Matt said...

i miss Rwanda and the Congo...