Sitting With the Suffering

A few years ago I was working regularly in Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills. Oh, how I miss it and all my friends there. On this particular trip I was working in a village alongside native Rwandans to help start a church. I was doing some training with a small group of women, none of which spoke English. I had a ministry partner with me that translated anything we needed. 

One day we were walking down a dirt path and one small woman who had closely followed me all week asked a question. She wanted to know about God, she wanted to know Jesus. Later we found a private spot to talk. I asked her if she would tell me her story. She agreed, sharing that her name was Anna and that she had never fully shared all of what happened to her. 

You see, in Rwanda, almost everyone has been impacted by the Genocide that occurred in 1994. Anna, a tiny woman, shared that she had lost her entire family in the Genocide. Her parents, siblings, her husband, and all but one of her children who later died from an illness. She said she begged the soldiers to kill her but they said she was small, a cockroach, and not worth the effort. For her, the ultimate nightmare was being the only one alive while her entire family died. She explained in great detail how they died, and how she, somehow, survived. She shared that after the Genocide was over she visited a church but was told to sit down and be quiet because the entire country was mourning and grieving and no one wanted to hear another person talk about it. 

And so she didn't talk about it. For 17 years she kept quiet. Until one September day when someone sat down with her and asked her to tell her story. And then she talked, she wailed, she cried out to God on her knees, she prayed - her story and her voice finally heard. 

I believe our stories are so important. Each one of us has our own story to tell and the world needs each one of these lessons and perspectives. And as I sat there with Anna and other friends that day, I felt a peace wash over me. A feeling that this, right here, was where I belonged. Sitting with those who are broken in their suffering. No politics, no drama, no judgment - just simply being present with another human being who needed to be heard. I felt my soul come alive and I felt a deep resonance - it was a sacred moment in time.

So whatever happened to Anna? Well, the woman I met on Sunday of that week rarely smiled or looked you in the eyes. The woman I left on Friday was beaming with joy and singing at the front of the church gathering. I have no idea beyond that but that little woman who followed my footsteps so doggedly that week taught me quite a bit. In that moment I learned the absolute importance of sharing our stories, of being heard. And I learned I'd rather sit with the suffering than be the guest of a rich man. Or have a position of high earthly honor. 

I was quite at home sitting on a little bench in that house made out of dirt, hearing sweet Anna's life change all because someone cared to listen.

What's your story? Try writing it down in bullet points in a journal today.