Saturday, September 24, 2005

The 1994 I Never Knew

Reflections on Hotel Rwanda

I remember the summer of 1994 very clearly. I spent 12 weeks traveling the western United States with 6 friends, singing, acting, and just having an all around great time. We spent a day at Disneyland. We surfed at Pismo Beach. We crisscrossed the Rockies. We spent a night buried in sand on top of Soldier Mountain in the Mojave Desert. We visited the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. We got all we could of San Francisco: Alcatraz, Chinatown, Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera, even clam chowder out of a sourdough bread bowl at Fisherman’s Wharf.

I made two of the best friendships of my life that summer: Josh, who loosened me up in more ways than I can count, who stood up in my wedding, who still calls every couple months just to see how I’m doing even though he’s a major player for an internationally known and massively influential youth ministry; and Aundrea, whom it was the greatest honor of my life (knowing God excepted) to marry.

Yeah, my summer of ’94 was absolutely incredible.

Not so on the other side of the world. In April-July of 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were massacred by their own countrymen in less than 100 days.

I just watched Hotel Rwanda. “Watched” is hardly the right verb, but my numbed mind can’t command a more fitting one right now. I was able to restrain most of my emotion during the film, but when the final image froze and the credits began to roll, the dam broke and the hard sobbing began.

Just last night I spoke to some teens of my experiences in Kenya the summer before The Great ’94. In 1993 I fulfilled one of my life’s dreams: to visit Africa. For 6 weeks we worked among the Kenyan people and a bond was forged in my soul.

I love Africa. My first gift to Aundrea was a cherished “Kenya” sweatshirt that I purchased on the streets of Nairobi. The clock in my office is a brass map of the continent, complete with country outlines and a few animal figurines. My shelves and walls are covered with African carvings and musical instruments and keepsakes. Basically, I’d love to end up there for good someday cuz I… love… Africa.

Thankfully, Director Terry George spares viewers most of the gore and unimaginable horror of those months in Rwanda. But my imagination fills in the gaps with horrible effectiveness. And when I turn my thoughts back home, back to me and my own life, this movie helps me to see some things I really, really hate.

I hate my ignorance. I was living large and partying on while Rwandans were fleeing and falling from machetes. And I had no idea.

I hate my apathy. The little snippets I heard about Rwanda failed to produce any marked effect in my soul. That was over 10 years ago, but similar things are happening today on a much smaller scale in Myanmar, Sudan, Uganda, etc., etc., etc. Yet I tend to stress more over the price of gas than these atrocities.

And I hate my sin. When the rolling credits were reflecting off my tear-drenched cheeks, I heard myself crying out, “Oh, God… Oh, God, why?” And the only answer I know is "sin." Sin does this to us. Satan brought us this Pandora’s Box. The nearest rival in the universe to the height of God’s love for humanity is the depth of Satan’s hate. And every time I bite into the fruit he offers me, I’m feeding from the hand that soaked Africa in Rwandan blood.

I’m sure there’s more to say about Hotel Rwanda and even more to say about the horror of genocide. I suppose I should add “I hate my lack of skill to evoke compassion in readers” to the list above. But I don’t imagine that God brought me this movie tonight for your benefit, my good readers. He brought it to me for mine. And I thank Him for it. I’ll never look at the summer of 1994 the same way again.


Anonymous said...

Your feelings on this encapsulate exactly my own feelings on abortion. Every day, along with the hundreds of "regular" abortions performed, babies 5 months along & more are torn limb from limb or killed with a shot to the heart & then delivered. It's rare though, right? Not really. Not in my book. Five or more a day isn't rare. And it's ongoing. There is no end. America is having its own genocide. And the apathetic Christian is yet again the pathetic scourge of this country. Millions of babies. Millions. And no one's looking directly at them.

Josh said...

I've had this growing sense that my ignorance of and relative apathy toward abortion is a major hole in my integrity as a Christian pastor. Sometimes I feel like I have so far to go in so many areas of my life... But that thought always drives me to the cross, where I'm not overwhelmed by my inadequacy; there, I'm amazed by Christ's omni-adequacy.

Thanks for pointing out the analogy between Rwanda and abortion. Growing sometimes hurts so good, you know?

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes. Yes again.

I totally didn't mean by comment to be personally incriminating to you. I feel my blood boil at the Rwanda horrors too, but I am faced with the realities of abortion almost daily, & it frustrates me when it is the accepted norm. We Christians are quick to say we're horrified by it, yet we would really & truly rather look the other way. That was my point mainly.

Love you!

Josh said...

I know you weren't trying to point fingers, though I suspected that you would clarify that as soon as I left my comment. :-) I love you, too!