“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45 NLT).
We just returned from a two week mission trip to Uganda. One of the highlights was being able to meet and work with five pastors from one of the United Nations refugee camps located there. A little known fact is that Uganda has the most compassionate refugee policy in the world, welcoming refugees from surrounding African countries like Sudan, Rwanda, Congo, and Burundi. The five pastors that attended our pastor’s training conference have all planted churches in one of these refugee camps. Being refugees themselves, they have now become the ideal pastors to help other refugees in Uganda.
One of the refugee pastors was Byamungu Emmanuel. He was a refugee from the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. Nearly his entire family was murdered when the Hutu majority systematically killed over 800,000 Rwandans from the Tutsi and Pygmy Batwa people groups. Over a 100-day period in 1994, it is estimated that 70% of the Tutsi population and 30% of the Batwa were killed. Many of the survivors fled to Uganda. Emmanuel was among them.
When I heard Emmanuel explaining his reason for being a refugee, I asked him to give me his testimony. I asked, “How did you go from having your family murdered to becoming a Christian pastor?”
After hearing his amazing testimony, I asked him to please write it down for me in his own words. The following is what he wrote:
“I am called Pastor Byamungu Emmanuel and this is my testimony before I got saved. I was born on March 8, 1988 and I grew up in the family of non believers but I grew up in that situation knowing nothing about salvation and how a person can get eternal life.
This is what happened to me in 1994 during genocide that took place in Rwanda. My family was completely destroyed from my grandfather and many of my relatives and I remained with only my mother and my sister who is now staying in Kigali. My mother was shocked and she remained with mental problem after the murders. I grew up with a spirit of revenging to those who had killed my family and relatives. I joined primary school and then after I joined secondary school but my plan was to join the army so that I can revenge to those who had killed my relatives. I couldn’t study well because my heart was broken. My mission of joining the army failed because after I received the call from someone whom I didn’t know before, telling me to go to Kampala to look for a good school (University). I had sponsorship when I was in senior six but I didn’t think that I have to study even University because what was in mind was only revenging.
I obeyed the call and to went to Kampala to look for the good school. When I reached in Kampala, my plan was to study the law but I didn’t realize that I had joined Bible school. I found my self studying God’s word which was not even in my thoughts.
Day by day transformation took place in my life. No one preached to me the Gospel. What I know and what I believe is that the Holy Spirit touched me in the way I didn’t expect but I allowed Him to take control in my life. After reading Romans 3:23, I was convicted that not only those who killed my relatives are sinners but even me too am a terrible sinner and again the Bible tells us even to love our enemies. To understand this was very had to me but slowly by slowly, God changed me in His own way.
I spent there 3 years in the Bible school and before my graduation I went back to Rwanda. I called my mother and sister and I began to teach and tell them how God had transformed my life. They were amazed because they saw me with a heart of forgiving others. I preached to them and told them how Jesus took away our sins and put them on the cross so that we can get eternal life. They received the message and believed what the Bible says but when I told them to forgive those who killed our relatives, to understand what I was telling them became hard for them. So I kept on praying so that God can change their hearts.
Later, they came to believe what I told them, so I called those who had killed our family to our home so that we could forgive them. Even though it was not their request of forgiveness but I called them and cooked for them and we shared food and drinks with them and I opened Romans 3:23, we all started crying and we forgave them and we also asked them forgiveness because we were in the process of revenging to them and on their children.
We embraced each other and I prayed for them and after 2 weeks, I went to attend my graduation. From 2010 to date, my Mum has been sharing with the so-called enemies what ever they have and I am going on preaching the Gospel to those who are suffering in sinful life.
I thank the almighty God who sent Jesus Christ to save me. By now I am a child of God, a new creation, no judgement is on me and I believe that Jesus Christ will not leave me. Glory be to Jesus who saved me and He has given me a beautiful wife and one daughter.
My hope is that Jesus Christ who saved me while I was a terrible sinner will not fail to save others through his powerful blood.”
– Pastor Byamungu Emmanuel, August 2, 2017 at Rutare, Uganda
On our return trip home from Uganda we started catching up on the news from home. After two weeks of working together with Ugandan believers and refugee pastors like Emmanuel, I was broken hearted to hear the tragic news about the events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Oh how I pray that the people of our country would learn of the racial healing and forgiveness that Pastor Emmanuel has experienced. The kind of healing and forgiveness that can only be found in Jesus Christ.