Beauty From Ashes

If you pick up a dictionary and thumb your way through the pages to find the word “genocide,” this is what you’ll read: “The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular race or ethnic group.”

We have that word in our vocabulary. And somewhere, at some point in history someone said, “What name will we have for the deliberate mass killing of people?” We needed a word for it because such a thing was taking place.

It completely unravels my nerves, but not as much as my ignorance does. In a lot of ways evil, for me, is something I have heard of. Something I have learned about. But for so many it is a memory, an experience. Some of those people live in Rwanda and have come intimately close to witnessing pure hatred.

My lack of knowledge took a back seat in college when I truly began to discover so many horrific events that I had heard of at one time, maybe on the news or seen as a headline, but was never thoroughly introduced to what had taken place.

I watched documentary after documentary, movies based on true events, read history books … I was like a sponge soaking it all in, attempting to wash away my ignorance, trying to grasp how such things had even taken place.

How can we be so capable of such evil?

The lump in my throat, the knot in my stomach, they are still there. The most pure and clear memory of my own disgust with evil was when I learned, fully, about the genocide in Rwanda. Hollywood horror films have nothing on the reality of what took place in this country in Africa.

Questions of doubt fiercely raged war within me. Learning more about the details made me feel like my own purity was being washed away.

Spiraling down in the midst of trying to find answers to my own questions, I was losing grip. How do I categorize this? What bin of understanding does this belong in? In 1994 somewhere around 1 million people in three months had their lives ended, mercilessly.

The Lord’s answer to my heart in agony, as I raised question after question about evil, has been transformed. The more I learn about our capacity to carry out evil I am continuously being introduced to our capability to do good.

We can do good. We are doing good and good will always trump evil. Always!

My introduction to The Lord’s awareness is deepened every day I come to work. Shout out to Compassion! OK, so I know I work here, but honestly I need to say it. Working here has been like a crash course in “How Much God Cares 101.”

Would you like to know two instances of God’s goodness going forth in the lives of two people who live in Rwanda? Welcome to your crash course:

A young lady named Kirabo lives in Rwanda and graduated from the Compassion Child Sponsorship Program in 2004. She is now studying computer engineering at university, and working in the Program Communication Department at Compassion in Rwanda.

young Rwandan woman smiling

She was enrolled in Compassion at an early age. When she was asked how the child development center helped her she stated,

“To begin with, at Compassion I met so many children. There was fellowship. I could see children that loved God. That was a big turning point in my life.

“When I would work at the pulpit, and see these children look so innocent like they hadn’t seen any bad things, and I wanted to be like that. I wanted to be able to look at the world without seeing the bad side of it, and just enjoy it.

“That’s what I got in Compassion. They were loving, and caring, and not too weird. They used to come and pray, they used to give us meals inside the child development center, we used to do arts and crafts and sing. I think that helped me a lot.”

Then there is Antoinette, who went into prison because of her involvement in the genocide. Her daughter, 10 months old, stayed with her in jail until almost four years of age. Then Antoinette asked a friend to register her daughter, Alexie, into our program.

woman and child walking and holding hands

Alexie was registered and under the care of her aunt. Ten years later Antoinette was released from jail because she was found innocent of the chargers that had been brought against her.

Her daughter, Alexie now leads the choir at her church, studies hard in school, and hopes to become a teacher.

Antoinette is now a believer and is immensely grateful to Alexie’s sponsor.

Beauty from ashes. We serve a Lord who restores in the midst of so much evil.

Are we really capable of such good?

To offer hope in the midst of a pitch-black reality known by too many? I know this truth well!

How great His trust in us, that we are ministers of His light and hope to those surrounded by ruthless lies and incomprehensible evil.

Where do you find your mind’s contemplations? What steeps within your heart: our ability to do good? Or evil?

4 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Jill Foley April 9, 2009

    Beauty from ashes…only God is capable of doing this. Praise Him! Thank you for the stories of Kirabo and Antoinette.

  2. Mike Stephens April 9, 2009

    “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good!!!” I think the good shines that much brighter when the evil is that much more wicked, ruthless, malicious, and designed to destroy. A quick example I was watching the 2004 Athens marathon in the Olympics and a man from Brazil was leading the race and a spectator came out and stood in front of him and looked like he made the lead runner from Brazil come to a stand still and even wait a few seconds. Someone helped him but after a little while. He ended up placing 3rd I believe by :28 seconds. My heart dropped when it happened and I thought well maybe the bad experience in the race made him run even faster!!! But I am not sure. That was no where close to a life and death situation but I couldn’t believe that took place!!! But even for the 1 person who slowed him down there were thousands who cheered for him!!! I heard on the radio unbelief is infidelity to God. And I believe that is true. Even in my darkest moments, struggles, and tragedies not only is God shining brighter but he knows pain, tragedy, suffering, and evil more than I ever will!!! Jesus went to hell. I can’t imagine how terrible it would be to go to hell!!! I wonder how Jesus dealt with being in hell!!! If anyone knows evil it is Jesus. But on the other hand often times it feels or can be true and the reality that there are thousands of people telling us to give up, quit the race, die etc. But there is one person who offers us LIFE and that is Jesus!!! So on the opposite of the marathon imagine running the race and all the spectators are in your way trying to pull you down and only one is cheering!!! There are a few stories I love that are powerful to me. There were two frogs hopping along and one of them fell into a well. He hopped as hard and as high and as much as he could but he couldn’t get out. Eventually the other frog grabbed some of their friends to try and help the stuck frog out but to no avail. Finally they just told the frog to give up and die. But he just kept hopping. The frog seemed to be hopping even more!!! The friends screaming grew louder saying give up!!! Die!!! There is no way out!!! but the frog’s hopping grew all the more intense. Finally he hopped right out of the well and his friend said, “why did you keep hopping? We told you to just give up and die?” He explained to him that he was deaf and thought they were cheering all the more intense and fervently as he was watching them!!!” However many times in life we do give up and the result often isn’t physical death. I think I like the above story better, but I love the story about the donkey that falls into the well.

    One day a donkey fell into a well and the farmer realized he couldn’t save the donkey so he got some of his friends and they started to fill in the well b/c it was old and not useful anymore anyways. As they started to shovel dirt in the well the donkey realized he was going to be buried alive!!! He started kicking and eee-awwing like crazy. But after a while the farmer and his friends didn’t hear anything!!! And as they peered over the well they were AMAZED at what they say!!! With every shovel load of dirt the donkey would shake it off…and take a step off. The farmer and his friends kept shoveling and shoveling, but the donkey would shake the dirt off and take a step up!!! Eventually the donkey shook the dirt off and took a step up and hopped over the well and trotted off to freedom!!! But the moral of the story is the world is gonna shovel dirt on you a lot of dirt, but the key is to relax, shake it off, and take a step up!!! I believe GOOD has already won and we are on the WINNING SIDE but there are so many things I do not understand and cannot explain. But if I think of life as a race, even if someone steps in front of me my reaction shouldn’t be oh man my whole life is ruined, it should be oh man I better pick up the pace b/c I wasn’t expecting that and use the seemingly evil situation to run faster WIN thus obeying God and overcoming evil with GOOD!!! Just like darkness is nothing and only is known b/c it is the absence of light we strive to be light and overcome darkness wherever we are!!! As light wherever we go we OVERCOME b/c darkness flees at the light!!! Darkness has always lost to light!!! The question I like is not “Where was God?” But where was I?” God was always there!!! God definitely showed up in an AMAZING way at Sodom and Gomorrah and with Pharoah and at the Red Sea!!! God is not absent from tragedy he often is right in the middle of it!!! Jesus is the ULTIMATE OVERCOMER!!! Death is gain as a Christian!!! Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said we’ll jump into the fire King 😉 and I wouldn’t be surprised if they said also “oh yeah tell all your friends to come along and spectate and cheer us on as we jump into the furnace. The BOLDNESS and COMMITMENT to God that they had that I get from the book of Daniel AMAZES me!!! Jesus persevered through and to death so we must do the same if necessary. Jesus overcame good with evil by dying. He had to die otherwise it would be me in hell and I wouldn’t get out!!! That doesn’t explain away evil things that are happening and what always we should do but I love Shammah’s example in the bible, and David’s, and even how Daniel didn’t even try to fight getting thrown into the Lion’s Den!!! They all overcame!!!

    I Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for YOU!!!”

  3. Juli Jarvis April 9, 2009

    Like you said, God brings beauty out of ashes — it’s amazing. I never know how He does it, but He always does. These Compassion children from both sides of the conflict will grow to be beneficial and effective members of society — and will bring many into the Kingdom of God with them. God is awesome!

  4. Amy Wallace April 9, 2009

    When I turn on the news most days, I often think of our world as only capable of evil; when I read about the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, I fear there is no hope for this world.

    But then I read the letters from my sponsored children, and the hope they have for the future is inspiring; I listen to stories from people like Michelle and Rafonzel, who have defeated poverty and are now making a difference in the world, I know we are capable of good.

    As Christians, we should have the most hope of anyone – we have the assurance that things will get better. However, I often find myself having very little hope for this planet. It may seem like we have a hopeless and uncertain future, but there is one thing I know for certain, and that is that God wants to use me, and all of us here, to bring hope – to make it a reality not just a distant dream.

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