I’ve read a lot about the red dirt of Africa. I think my feet will be forever stained. I hope they are. It’s moments like these when I can’t imagine ever going back. And I can’t. I can’t un-know. I can’t un-see. I don’t want to either.
Many ex-pats call Rwanda, “Africa-lite” or “Africa for beginners,” and in many ways it is. It’s clean, safe and well-run. But there’s darkness here unlike any I’ve experienced. There’s an oppressive weight on the shoulders of everyone who walks these red dusty roads.
This past weekend we visited two genocide memorial sites – two churches where thousands of Rwandans sought sanctuary while their families and friends were brutally slaughtered. Tragically, there was no sanctuary to be found. In one church, 10,000 people were murdered, thousands more in the other. Over 50,000 people killed in this one small neighborhood outside of Kigali.
The churches remain virtually untouched. When you enter, you see piles of decaying clothes – the clothes of the victims. When you enter the crypts, there lie more skulls, pelvic bones, femurs than you can count. A pile of necklaces, watches and wallets sits on the altars.
What struck me is that to the naked eye, a skull is just a human skull. It’s not African, it’s not White, not Tutsi, not rich; it’s just simply, obviously human. If my skull was split by a machete, it would look the same even though my upbringing and skin color are so different.
The tour guides are all survivors, open to telling you about their experience hiding in the bushes while their parents and siblings were hunted. They speak the words with a haunting look in their eyes. But they light up when they speak of their children. The hope of new life bursting through the darkness.
This morning at our morning worship at IJM, we sang “God of this City.”
You’re the God of this city. You’re the God of these people. You’re the God of this nation.
Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city.
It has to be true. There’s no other option.