Monday morning at roughly 9am, while most of the people I know and love were still sleeping, our team of 6 pulled into the Bugesera district to visit the Nyamata Church, a genocide memorial that we had been mentally preparing ourselves to visit for days. On our way we had driven through the swamp grass where the Tutsi’s had hid, and by the river where so many bodies were dumped. A river that runs to the beautiful Lake Victoria.
Under the bullet-hole ridden ceiling of the Nyamata Church, lay the clothes of the murdered 10,000 Tutsi’s who hid in the place they felt the safest. A place that should have been sacred ground, off limits to killing. The altar was littered with machetes, clubs and even the crosses that were used to help commit this heinous crime. The air in the church felt heavy, as if still carrying the weight of the thousands of God-loving souls that were left to die.
The lovely, soft-spoken guide led us behind the church and down steps into a room that I could never have imagined in my wildest nightmares. An open mass grave with shelves and shelves and shelves of the bones and skulls of the 10,000 men, women and children. They were so close I could have touched them. I was frozen in shock. You could see from the damage to the skulls how the person had died; by machete, bullet or club.
Leaving the memorial I was thrown off by happy children’s voices from the nearby daycare and the birds chirping from the trees. It didn’t feel right. How could there be such joy in close proximity to such devastation? I’m learning that this joy encompasses all of Rwanda. The children are so filled with hope and love, and the adults so ready to forgive and offer a smile to the world that did nothing to save them.
Monday night I wanted to write in my journal about everything our team had experienced that day. There is nothing that can change history but I felt the need to recognize, acknowledge and apologize for the suffering. So I started…
I’m sorry the rest of the world turned their back on you.
3 days later and that’s as far as I’ve gotten. Since Monday morning we have had wonderful home visits bringing food and gifts to Suzy and Diane’s sponsored children, we relaxed at a beautiful lodge sleeping in luxury tents next to a lake full of hippos, had a very rare sighting of a mother leopard hunting for her cubs on our safari, drove on dirt paths that rival the most dangerous road in the world, played with babies at a day care that allows mothers (some former prostitutes) to learn the trade of sewing, and taught geography lessons to the Dream Boys. Every single moment of this trip has been an adventure. Every interaction has taught me something about the humanity and about myself. Every child’s smile has reminded me of what’s possible in the world.