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A Dinnertime Education

Every now and then I come face to face with the sobering realization that I know very little about life and the world.

On Friday night I had the privilege of spending some time with a woman named Solange. Solange is a Ph.D student at K-State. This is not entirely remarkable in and of itself, except for the fact that just less than three years ago she couldn't speak a word of English and lived in poverty in Rwanda, Africa.

What is more striking is the fact that she is alive. And that through the most horrific experiences of death, evil, murder, blood, deception, betrayal, and loss, she has found a joyous faith in God.

I have spent the last several days recovering from the world that she drew me into for over three hours. This woman sat across the table from me, the bowl of jambalaya sitting untouched in front of her, and wove a tale of her life that I think is ultimately unimaginable for any white, middle-class American.

It would be impossible for me to recount the entire story of Solange's experiences. She, like almost everyone in Rwanda over 15 years years old, experienced the horrific murder of almost one million people in an ethnic purge in 1994. Solange was 19 years old at the time her father and several siblings were killed. She escaped with her brother through an elaborate network of connections, but would ultimately see him murdered as well after being betrayed by the man enlisted to help them. She was captured but escaped death herself by deception. She came close to killing a man in his sleep. She was trapped in a house with her father's killers - men who described the details of his death in front of her, not knowing she was his daughter. She saw close family friends turn into ravenous killers. She saw husbands murder their own wives and children. But she lived. She was beaten brutally day after day at one point, but she lived.

She would survive the genocide a bitter, scared young woman. She was encouraged to return to school but her only interests were learning practical skills like driving a car and riding a bike - things that would help her escape should the killers come again. She eventually began schooling again and encountered a man who introduced her to faith in God - something that gave her entirely new lenses through which to see her story. From there she took in twelve street children to her home and gave them lives. The Fullbright scholarship people would eventually find her and provide her the opportunity to study in the United States. But she knew only enough English to memorize answers overnight to questions a friend thought she would be asked in her interview. She was then plucked from Rwanda and sent to California, and now to K-State where she studies animal science. She longs to return to her country upon her degree completion and continue the mission of redemption to her people.

In about two and a half months I will be journeying to the place where Solange experienced the horror that would shape the fabric of her life. But I will also being going to a place where God has been redeeming people like Solange from bitterness, revenge, fear, and poverty. I am going to a place where hundreds of people like Solange are going to change me forever and introduce me to stories of life that I never could have even begun to imagine on my own. Yes, what we will be doing there will be good for the people and will help them in many ways, but I fully expect that this will be a place where I will do a majority of the learning. I imagine that three hours at the dinner table will only be a taste of what is to come.


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Blogger Kristin Kay - 2:25 PM

I was trying to think of a way to put the dinner time experience in to words. I couldn't do it, so glad someone else could.    



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