HEALING RWANDA: 25 Years Since The Genocide

In 1994, over 1 million men, women, and children from the Tutsi tribe were murdered in Rwanda. The genocide changed Rwandan society permanently. Many families were destroyed completely, or left with only a few survivors. When the killing stopped, every Rwandan left alive had been traumatized, no matter what tribe they were from. Communities, government, infrastructure, churches, and individual people were all affected. The process of healing an entire nation has been slow and steady now for 25 years.

Emmanuel Sitaki has been part of that healing process since 1996. Two years after narrowly escaping the genocide himself, when Rwanda was still in a state of shock and grief, Emmanuel Sitaki returned to his homeland. He believed that his entire extended family had been killed, but discovered that his mother was actually still alive. He arranged for proper burial for family members who had been buried in mass graves. He found scattered friends and acquaintances who had all suffered horrific losses and were trying to rebuild their shattered lives. He also found a small group of orphans, and heard God call him to care for them. In heeding that call, Emmanuel started the ministry that would one day become Rebuilding Rwanda, where 72 Lahash sponsored children are cared for today.

The Portland Lahash team was honored to host Emmanuel for a visit in May. He shared his story at Trinity Church in Portland and also at Silverton First Baptist Church. Many hearts were touched by his personal story and his message about forgiveness that is made possible only through the power of God. Emmanuel and countless other Rwandans feel compelled to learn from the tragedy they survived, and to devote their lives to healing their nation. This often means expanding their idea of family and community so that no one is left alone.

Today, children in Rwanda are being raised by genocide survivors for whom trauma, grief, and economic vulnerability is still all too real. Rwanda faces many of the same challenges as other countries in the region, but the added burden of the genocide touches every facet of life. Emmanuel explained that the people who killed his family were people he knew. They had gone to primary school together, played soccer together, and celebrated community events together. They were not strangers. The genocide not only ended lives, it also destroyed the relationships, trust, and connections that allow communities to function well. When the fabric of society is shredded by tragedy, it cannot be mended in one generation. Vulnerable families across Rwanda are still struggling to survive day by day, unable to even consider what it would take to build a strong foundation for the future.

Pastor Emmanuel starting Rebuilding Rwanda as a haven of safety and hope for these families, and Lahash is honored to partner with them in providing holistic care to the 72 kids in their Sponsorship Program. Kids who were not in school and not even eating every day now receive support for nutrition, education, Bible teaching, and medical care. They also receive regular home visits to support their families, and parents and caregivers are welcome at the ministry center for fellowship and worship. The relationships that are built through this program are helping to weave the torn fabric of Rwandan society back together.

This year’s Lahash Servant Team has been supporting the efforts of the Sponsorship Program in Rwanda since January 2019, and getting to know all 72 kids! Their hearts are particularly tender toward the children who have not yet been matched with a sponsor, as they see what a difference sponsorship makes for these children. They are hoping and praying to see all the kids connected with sponsors before their team returns to the U.S. in mid-June!

Although it is taxing on a personal level, Emmanuel continues to passionately share the story of how the genocide affected his life and ministry, and continues to advocate for the children at Rebuilding Rwanda. After hearing his story in Portland, nine people decided to sponsor a child! Sponsorship is a practical, tangible way to participate in the healing of this beautiful nation, one young life at a time. It is a way to let the story of Rwanda impact your own heart, while changing the life of a child who needs hope and a vision for a bright future.

As a global community, Lahash wants to commemorate this 25 year milestone by connecting all the waiting children at Rebuilding Rwanda with sponsors. Will you help us reach that goal? At lahash.org/sponsorship, you can see photos of the kids who are still waiting, and begin the sponsorship process!

Rwanda may have been drastically changed by the genocide, but that is not the end of the story. God is at work bringing healing and hope to Rwanda! May we join in that work and live to see a new generation grow and thrive in this beautiful land!