Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Just like Us

A note from Jen: This morning, we went to two church memorials (from the genocide) located outside of Kigali. In 1994, when the Rwandan genocide began, Tutsis sought safety in churches. Instead, of finding refuge there, thousands of people were killed there. Though we visited the Genocide Memorial in Kigali last week, in many ways, it’s sanitized. The church memorials are not. They are graphic and, in the words of our teens during tonight’s debriefing, “They made it real.” Despite their graphic nature, they are important - for the questions they raise and the understanding they give us. The posts from today are raw - written before our debriefing with our team. They reflect emotions and questions - good questions - that our teens are actively wrestling with as they seek to grow closer to Christ and better understand forgiveness, something we believe the people of Rwanda can help teach us. 

By Kyle Shiring
This morning we went to the memorials for the church from the Genocide. They were heart-wrenching to go to. They brought me to tears. The hardest thing about going to the first one was when we walked in the Sunday School rooms for kids and saw the blood stains on the walls from where they were killed. I just don’t understand why anyone would want to murder a child - an innocent child - because of his family's “people” or race. 

Also in the first church there were grenade and bullet holes, which was terrifying because the Hutus did not even know who or what they were killing. 

The second memorial was much worse. It was a larger room with more people, bullet holes in the ceiling, and skulls with holes and slices from clubs and machetes. The worst thing I've ever seen was when we went into the mass grave and saw all the bones around us. This made me think about how these people were normal people who were living their lives - JUST LIKE US - and then they were gone. They were robbed of life by people willing to kill everyone - including their family, friends, and even their loved ones.

Grenade holes in the church wall at the first memorial we visited 


  1. In Sunday School rooms. My heart breaks.

  2. I want you all to know that your presence there has been a gift of hope to me this past week. I have had a hard time watching the news. I find myself crying a lot over the violence in Chicago and around the world.
    And then I think of you all....

    You remind me to hope. You remind me that we do not have to settle for this out-of-control feeling when it comes to other people's cruel actions. Seeing pictures of you and hearing your stories as you share in one-to-one humanitarian work has helped me. You have shown me that one person can and does make a difference. That your kindness and love will be remembered. (Like Doug and Jen were 3 years later!)

    Thank you for your presence in Rwanda for the people there and for your own community here.
    Much love!

  3. That is so heart breaking to read but I'm sure way worse to actually see. It is a reminder that these things happen and not to live in our safe "bubble" of Illinois.

  4. Kyle, as I read your words today, I kept remembering the photo of you walking with Johnson. The contrast is stark and hard to manage.

    On the one hand, it's reassuring that you are finding common ground with the people you meet; in some ways, Johnson is just like you. On the other hand, it's devastating to see so vividly the evidence that so many of God's children -- people just like us -- lost their lives in a brutal genocide. That kind of common ground doesn't feel good.

    My heart is heavy tonight. We all have so much to pray about.

  5. You are the eyes for so many of us who will never make it to Rawanda. Through all of you I am learning the story of the genocide, so many I speak to do not know the details. This tragic story combined with the loving welcoming spirit of the people you have posted on the other blogs opens our hearts. Through all of you this country becomes part of our world. All of us are the caretakers of this world. Thank you everyone for your blogs.

  6. I think you expressed a theme that all of you have probably already realized by taking this trip ... "just like us". All around the world, we have lives, loved ones, hopes and dreams. We all cry and laugh and seek the company of others. That person who lives part of the way around the world and farther south is as much a neighbor as our literal next door neighbor. You are experiencing that first hand.
    And as always, I appreciate the sincerity of the blog posts!
    For those of you back home who are reading the comments, click the link Jen provided in red, above: "two church memorials". (If you haven't clicked it already) You will get more of an idea of what the team saw, and you can read more about these sites as well. It does give warning to the graphic nature of some of the photos, but there are many photos that are not graphic. I found the site, and spent over an hour pouring over all of it without even realizing how much time had passed.

  7. I was wondering if you guys would make it to the churches. They are probably and hopefully the most intense and emotionally draining monuments you will ever see. They truly show the brutality of the genocide. But they also stand as a means of comparison. Look at how much the people of Rwanda have learned from the atrocities. There has not been a single genocide since 1994 and it seems unlikely that there will be one again. So let those memorials not only be a place of remembrance but also a beacon of hope, that people can change and learn from the past, and that life is getting better. It can also show you that what you are doing, helping people, is worth something and can make a difference. Also a little side bit that I know many people struggled with last time around this time. "Are we really making a difference, would it have been better to just send the money?" I think the answer is that yes there is a difference being made, and money can not show compassion or any sort of emotion, and it cannot learn nor teach. What you are doing there is showing people with hardship that there are those who care, and even if you positively impact one person in the entire ten days then you have made an incredible impact because that one person matters. Also you have the wonderful opportunity to come back to the U.S. with a new passion! To share your stories and inspire others to work to make a better world. I hope all is going well and that you are learning a lot.

  8. The above was written by Bryce Dibadj.