By Martha and Park Dougherty
Burundi is the kind of place where the people have put their faith in Jesus Christ with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is the kind of faith rarely seen and rarely experienced. These people see not only with their human eyes but also with the eyes of the Holy Spirit working in them, giving them unimaginable strength and commitment to do His work in the lives of those in their sight. They see the dragons plaguing their people because they have been there, experiencing every moment of the horror, the pain, the despair of their world. Yet they are working every day to show their people that Christ can and will slay those dragons.
We met many such people on our trip to Burundi this June. Here is one of their stories.
Bosco was seven years old on October 23, 1993, when the President of Burundi was assassinated, catalyzing a genocidal conflict between Hutus and Tutsis. After hearing that men from the other tribe were heading their way, Bosco’s father and siblings fled; but he stayed with his disabled mother and barely escaped when the men arrived with machetes, spears, and arrows. As he was fleeing, an arrow flew by his ear. He looked back and saw the face of the man who had shot it. Two hours later he returned to find his mother on the ground. “They had cut off her arms and legs…. She asked me for water, but there was no water. My sister said ‘we have to leave because the killers are coming back to kill us.’ So I left my momma, bleeding. There was nothing I could do for her.”
Bosco’s father and oldest brother were also killed. Eventually, he was taken in by one of his sisters in the capital city, Bujumbura. There he saw people from the other tribe burned alive and thought about the one that had shot the arrow at him. He heard that this was the one who had killed his mother and thought “when I grow up I’m going to join the army and find the person that killed my momma…. I had this bitterness in my heart. I would go and sit in a lonely place and always reflect on these things I’d seen in the war: this person trying to shoot me, this person burning his friend. I was so hopeless. My mind was not straight…. I had revenge in my heart….”
“A lady at my school noticed how quiet I was…she made me her friend…and invited me to her church…. The preacher said ‘we cannot do anything without Jesus’ … and I listened. I said ‘this boy is not connected to Jesus. He does not have joy in him. He has bitterness and unforgiveness.’ That’s me talking to myself. Afterward, the preacher made an altar call…. I found myself in front and he prayed for us. At that very moment I started to feel joy in my heart. I will never deny or forget the peace that I felt on that day. It keeps me going during hardships with the Christian life, whenever I face challenges…. That day when I had joy… that day that I received Jesus, I felt instant transformation in my heart. I was able to completely and truthfully forgive those who had wronged me and killed members of my family.”