In my seminary, we have mentoring groups, groups of about 5-10 students and one faculty member who meet weekly to dialogue and help build community. My mentoring group is taking turns, each week one member is telling their story. Yesterday, I heard the very condensed version of this seminarian’s life.
He’s 26, married with a child, went to ACU for undergrad, ran track…on paper, he sounds pretty sterotypical.
Instead of a stereotypical story about hearing a calling and feeling compelled to serve in ministry, we heard his story of growing up as a Tutsi in the late 80’s early 90’s. Heard how he lived with his grandmother and mom while his dad had to travel outside of the country so he could work, because Tutsi’s were not allowed to work in Rwanda. How his mother passed away when he was four-years-old, and he continued to live with his grandmother. When the genocide began when he was seven, people of the country thought the church to be the most sacred place, they figured that no one kill them inside of such a sacred place. Sitting on his grandmother’s lap, in a church meant to hold 500 filled with thousands of people, the army came in and threw a grenade. As he was trying to follow his grandmother a grenade hit her, so he ran. Police were shooting after him.
Seven years old. He ran for a month hiding in bushes, running from genocide.
He was given an escape from Rwanda, but was then forced to join the army fighting the genocide. At seven. Refugee camps where people would get sick in the morning and die later that night.
Once some sort of peace came, he was able to go back to Rwanda and live with his father and his new wife. Unfortunately, it is cultural in Rwanda for women to hate their step children. His step mother then poisoned him twice, almost to his death.
He went to live with his uncle. Decided he needed to think big, and decided to become a runner so that he could join the national team and then be able to afford school outside of Rwanda. Those two, he said, don’t mix; in Rwanda, you run or you go to school. He did both. Excelled at both. Started to get offers from universities around Africa, then Europe, then the US. “THIS does not happen, he said. We simply do not get visas to come to the US this easily.”
ACU was the first school of many to contact him and he picked it for a variety of reasons. He got his undergrad, his MBA, and now he is in seminary. He has founded a non-profit that works in Rwanda to help children without medical care. He’ll return to Rwanda after he graduates in May.
“We all have a story, mine is nothing special. I may have gone through genocide, but that is no more important or interesting than what you have gone through. Everyone has a story and they are all important.”
That’s how he concluded. I’ve never seen anyone say something that sincerely and it be that counter-intuitive. He meant it, though, and that’s the biggest thing I took away from mentoring group this week. The fact that he has gone through all of that, remained free from bitterness or anger AND values someone else’s story about pain as equally as he values his own. That sort of humility and respect for people just doesn’t come around that often.