Sixteen year old Eric Irivuzumugabe ran with his grandfather from the horror that overtook their village. Separated from his grandfather and with nowhere else to hide, he scrambled up a cypress tree to escape the slaughter. There he listened, terrified, as he heard the sounds of violence and murder all around him. He heard the screams and could do nothing to help his family and friends. In one hundred days, one million Rwandan people died at the hands of their brothers and sisters in the 1994 genocide.
Eric and his three uncles survived by hiding in the trees, without any food or water, for fifteen days. During that time seventy of their family members were killed. Even though Eric’s father had read to him from the Bible throughout his childhood, he did not yet have a personal relationship with God. With unthinkable hatred and cruelty all around him, Eric could not believe in this “loving” God his father had tried to share with him.
Yet, he could not mistake the obvious voice that called to him as he clung to the cypress tree (known in Rwanda as “the tree of life”). Day after day, alternately praying for mercy and escape, and revenge on his enemies, Eric concentrated on staying alive. When he had no strength left to hold on, a voice coaxed Eric to focus on the branches in front of him, the leaves, the ants that busily traveled to and fro in the midst of unspeakable terror.
Even though it was two years before Eric was able to let go of his fear and doubt, he never forgot the feeling of being held while hiding in those trees. The love of the Father encompassed him like nothing he’d ever felt before, and Eric knew God loved him; He had provided those trees to save him and his uncles. Eventually he came to know him as his true Father and Creator, Savior, and Provider.
In My Father, Maker of the Trees: How I Survived the Rwandan Genocide, Eric Irivuzumugabe tells his story of being reunited with his two brothers, and his long journey to faith and forgiveness (Baker Publishing Group). Now, he works to reach others orphaned by genocide and helps them through the process of forgiveness and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ. He is a living testimony of Jesus’ power to help us forgive our enemies.
I listened to the audio book of Eric’s story on a road trip and alternately sobbed with grief over the tragedy and violence, then praised and rejoiced in God’s amazing work of redemption in and through Eric. Before he could accept the cross of the One who loved him, Eric met God first in a cypress tree in the midst of unspeakable tragedy.
Easter will be here in less than three weeks. How many of us are “up a tree;” unable to celebrate the joy of Jesus’ resurrection because of hatred? Is there anyone standing between you and the cross—someone you can’t forgive because of the hurt they’ve caused you? Is your Father—your Maker—whispering to you now? With persistent words of love, does He compel you to—hold on, let go, forgive—to let Him be the strength you do not have?
Here is the link if you would like to hear Eric’s testimony in his own voice and get information about his book. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yuA9yTsFP8
#Rwandan genocide #forgiving murder #surviving war #hearing God’s voice #up a tree