A few months after we took Max Lucado to Ethiopia, photographer Jon Warren and I flew to Burundi to do a story on the beginning of World Vision sponsorship there. Burundi has been hammered by hatred. Two people groups, the Hutus and the Tutsis, have battered one another for decades. Poor governance has left an unsteady infrastructure. But recent peace has brought an opportunity for development through child sponsorship.
We then traveled north to Rwanda to tell the story of a country with a similar ethnic context that’s made great strides toward peace and development.
Rwanda confounds me. It is beautiful in every way, from its people to its landscape—but in April 1994, gorgeous turned grisly as nearly a million people were killed. Being in Rwanda leaves me in a swirl of emotions—with confusion at the core.
I checked e-mail while I was there and saw an UpWords column from Max titled “Death: Because of Christ You Can Face It.” In the column he writes about the eve of his heart surgery and how he felt about the possibility of not making it through. That night he prayed, wrote letters to his family, and decided he was ready to go. He felt brave and sure.
Max’s words bolstered my spirits. And they got me thinking about my dad. He went through heart surgery in April 1990 and then surgery for cancer that August. I flew home across the country to sit with him in ICU. There wasn’t much I could do—the nurses did everything—but it was good for us both to have me there. My dad wasn’t afraid of death in any way. In fact, witnessing the confidence he had that a new life was waiting, I stopped fearing death myself (for the most part!). He died right before Christmas.
Max’s column inspired me to write a blog that night on my dinner at the Hotel Rwanda. It’s the hotel where more than a thousand refugees were sheltered in April 1994. I wrote about people of strength like the hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina, who risked his life to save the refugees, and about my dad who did so much to keep our family strong. And I considered the strength it takes to get through every day in Rwanda—a place that was turned upside-down by hatred.
Max commented on the blog entry. (I’d told him he inspired it.) He said, “Thanks for the reminder. This can be a harsh world.”
And it’s true. Rwanda provides too much proof. But that’s why we have brave people around to soften the blow.