Saturday, I started reading Rwandan holocaust survivor, Immaculée Ilibagiza’s book, Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust. I finished the book less than 24 hours later: something I’ve never done before.
This book had me sobbing frequently: also something I’ve never done over a book. After reading nearly half of the book in one sitting Saturday evening, I sat and cried and reflected on what I had read for about 20 minutes before I could return to bed to sleep. And I assure you, I am not one who sheds tears easily.
An Impossible Journey to Faith and Forgiveness
Immaculée takes her readers through an incredible journey of horror, rage, truly awesome faith, fear, deep sorrow and inconceivable forgiveness. I cried, I broke a sweat. I prayed. And, I shed tears of gratitude for the life that I have, and gratitude to God for sparing Immaculée to share her story. I truly believe that anyone who reads her story will be forever changed.
What was remarkable was not only her account of unimaginable horror, but her account of her journey to God through faith and forgiveness while hiding in a tiny bathroom with seven other women in complete silence, so cramped they had to sit upright on top of one another and communicate in hand signals in order for anyone to move. These conditions persisted for three months while they listened to the disgusting sound of killers who were once her friends and neighbors brutally killing and torturing people she knew and loved and calling out her name to do the same to her.
Moving Mountains is Not Easy
It was her faith that lead her safely through impossible danger. She describes her struggle between fear and faith and how, when it seemed certain that she would be brutally raped, maimed and killed, she was spared by circumstances that seemed to be set up by the hand of God.
I was struck by her description of a dream she had when she passed out from fear as it seemed the killers would certainly find her and the other women in hiding. She dreamed of meeting with Jesus who told her this:
“Mountains are moved with faith, Immaculée, but if faith were easy, all the mountains would be gone.”
At one point, she describes the horrifying, helpless experience of hearing the cries of an infant left to die in the street with her slain mother’s corpse. I couldn’t repeat her account here without shedding tears. She asked God to take the innocent soul and asked, “How can I forgive people who would do such a thing to an infant?” The answer she received was that “You are all my children . . . and the baby is with Me now.”
From here, she found and described her path to forgiveness. A path that I, as a reader, resisted, but eventually followed with the help of her words. My admiration and deep respect for her grew as I moved through this journey. It’s difficult to imagine that, as a reader, I had such difficulty forgiving those who brutally murdered her family, while she, a victim of the most evil actions of man imaginable, was the one who helped me and countless others learn to forgive.
After reading this book, I feel compelled to urge anyone I can to be grateful for everything you have, especially everyone you love. And let nothing get in the way of forgiveness. If Immaculée could forgive those who were responsible for her traumatic experiences and grief, the rest of us have no excuse. That doesn’t mean it is easy, but when we ask for God’s help, we will receive it.
And please, get your hands on a copy of her book and read it. It will change your life.