Rwandan man forgives killer of his family
HOW does one respond when coming face to face with someone who butchered members of your family? Where does someone find the strength and grace needed to forgive the perpetrator of such evil?
This was the challenging dilemma confronting Alex Nsengimana when he visited a Kigali prison in 2012. He was soon to meet the man who had murdered those closest to him during the Rwandan genocide 20 years ago.
Alex questioned whether God existed when, as a child, he witnessed the brutal murder of his grandmother and uncle. Later, while living in an orphanage, a simple gift showed him that he was loved and not forgotten. Someone he had never met, from a church thousands of miles away, cared enough to send him a Christmas present in 1995.
It was then that Alex's journey to forgive started, with that simple, gift-filled shoebox he had received through Operation Christmas Child, a campaign run by the Christian charity Samaritan's Purse.
It led Alex to believe that maybe there really was a God of love. "I was reminded of God's love for me and the hope that I had in him," Alex says.
"Receiving that shoebox was just the beginning of my faith." From that point, his trust in God began to grow, and his heart was healed from his painful past. He was adopted by a Christian family in America, and spent nine years growing up in Minnesota.
Alex's healing process came full circle when he returned to Rwanda to deliver shoebox gifts through Operation Christmas Child.
Alex recalls: "While back in Rwanda I didn't expect to be able to meet the man who killed my uncle, but when the Lord orchestrated that during my trip, I began to feel as though I could see the destination at the end of the road.
"Saying the words 'I forgive you' to this man brought to the surface many painful memories. But I am now left with the peace that only Christ can give, and I will spend my life sharing with others how they can receive his peace and forgiveness."
Alex not only forgave the man, but knelt alongside him, asking God to bless his future.
Over the past 24 years, through the global efforts of Operation Christmas Child, over 100 million gift-filled shoeboxes have been delivered to needy children, like Alex, across the globe.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide in 2014, Samaritan's Purse sent an extra container filled with gifts from donors in the UK to Rwanda.?
Footnote: To see a video of Alex's powerful story of forgiveness, go to: www.samaritans-purse.org.uk/alex