Next Monday marks 20 years since the Rwanda genocide began. This month, we'll be sharing photos, videos, and perspectives that together tell the 20-year story of recovery and reconciliation in Rwanda, and the role World Vision has played in that story these past 20 years.
One of our wonderful storytellers, Kari Costanza, writes today about one of her trips to Rwanda and Jean Marie – the meek man standing in the corner – who was able to show her the story she was aiming to tell.
People often ask me how I go about finding stories for World Vision.
I could tell them how I’d been a television newscast producer for 10 years, and how I moved to World Vision where I worked for the magazine, learning to hone in on the perfect story for the World Vision audience—a story that is compelling, representative of the broader community, and has—or will have—some sort of World Vision involvement.
But that wouldn’t be true.
It turns out that the best stories I find have nothing to do with me and everything to do with waiting for God to point me in the right direction.
On my second trip to Rwanda, that direction was toward the corner of the room.
In August 2009, Jon Warren and I returned to Rwanda, this time after a trip to Burundi. Sponsorship was just beginning in Burundi and we wanted to compare the two countries. Burundi also experienced conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes in which hundreds of thousands of lives were lost. We wanted to show where sponsorship could help take communities in Burundi in the next ten years. We wanted to show the hope that lay ahead by demonstrating what sponsorship had accomplished in neighboring Rwanda.
In Rwanda, we went to a well-established sponsorship project called Nyaruguru, across the border from Burundi. Nyaruguru had been hit hard by the genocide. Schools were razed, water systems destroyed, houses demolished. But after a decade of sponsorship, World Vision staff had been able to work near-miracles in the community: Children were back in school, their parents had jobs, and a semblance of life was returning.
We asked World Vision staff to show us everything that had been done in the community through sponsorship. We knew there was a lot to see. But strangely, none of the managers could really explain what World Vision had done. We grew increasingly frustrated. There was a good story here, but we weren’t getting it.
Finally, we asked if anyone had been here since the beginning.
Yes, they said, Jean Marie Mugwaneza, a small man sitting quietly in the far corner of the office. Jean Marie was shorter than me and I’m only 5’4”. He was a person you’d never think to ask for information. He wasn’t showy. He was meek.
But it turned out that Jean Marie had been working on this project since the beginning. Jean Marie was the one who had walked the hilly dirt paths to find children for sponsorship. He knew Louise, the community’s first sponsored child. He knew what schools had been repaired. He could point out rebuilt water systems and successful agricultural projects.
We spent several days with Jean Marie as he pointed out accomplishment after accomplishment. The more time we spent with him, the more amazing the story became. The man in the corner turned out to be the man who knew it all.
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the kingdom of God. And blessed are the meek like Jean Marie Mugwaneza for they are sometimes the best storytellers of all.
Sponsorship has played a vital role in the recovery of many communities, families, and lives in Rwanda over the past 20 years, and will continue to in the future. Consider sponsoring a child in Rwanda today!
Download the photo above as a desktop image to commemorate 20 years toward reconciliation in Rwanda.
Follow our story of 20 years toward reconciliation in Rwanda on Twitter: #Rwanda20yrs