Left to Tell

Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust



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The title sounds catchy and intriguing but with a sub-title of "Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust" it suddenly sounds heavy.  It is hard to wrap your mind around why this all occurred.  It's not racial because the Hutus and Tutsis are all the same color.  It's not sexist, it's not age discrimination, it's none of the basic tenents of Diversity and protection against discrimination that we usually think of.  The best I could understand is it would be like Democrats and Republicans declaring an all out war against each other and fighting to the bloody death.

On a scale of 1-5:

Sex:  0
Religion:  5
Gruesome:  4
Suspense:  3
Morality:  5

Sex - I can't recall a single reference to anything sexual so I gave it less than 1

Religion - It is a story of faith so religion has to score high

Gruesome - Genocide is gruesome by definition.  Most of the gruesome stuff in this book was reported second hand - after the fact, so I didn't rate it the maximum, but you've got to know there are bound to be many difficult-to-stomach parts in a book about these type of events

Suspense - Obviously she lived through this nightmare so in that regards it wasn't suspenseful; I knew the outcome going in.  But there were some suspenseful moments on her road to survival.  Nothing that will drive you to stay up late to read to a conclusion, but enough to keep you interested.

Morality - The morality of the main subject (Immaculee) is high.  Certainly the morality of some of the other key players is very low.  But even against their lack of morals, Immaculee takes the high road and maintains her morals.

Immaculee's two parents were educators.  She had three brothers:  Aimable and Damascene were older.  Vianney was younger.  They encouraged their children to go to school, study extra, and go to college - even selling family cows to fund tuition.  Yet they never taught their children the difference between Tutsi and Hutu tribes.

In the middle of the book are several pictures.  We heard much throughout the story about the wardrobe that was placed in front of the bathroom door to conceal the door.  But when I actually saw a picture of the wardrobe next to the door, I could see that the wardrobe wasn't even as tall as the door - which makes it even more amazing.

Immaculee tells us what you don't often hear - that faith is hard.  How many times have you heard that faith can move mountains?  But Immaculee had a dream in which Jesus spoke to her and said, "...if faith were easy, all the mountains would be gone."  (p. 131)

Neither is it easy when she learns the details of the death of her family members - gruesome details.  She writes them into the book but also writes of her determination to not focus on the details but instead on their valiance until the end.

Yet at other times it seems like faith would be easy - like when she goes back to her dorm room.  After months of war, destruction is everywhere.  yet she finds a letter from her one remaining brother and an envelope with her high school diploma, her college grades and $30.  And what she accomplishes with that money sounds incredible - $1 for a cab ride, clothes, and groceries for a family for one month.  Like the loaves and the fishes multiplied!  Even though it is a fantastic blessing it is clear that as much as these small incidents are appreciated and praised, they do not undo the horrific suffering that she incurred.  Instead it is an incredible determination, strong will and deep faith that get her through.

I was repeatedly amazed that she knew what to pray for.  In the midst of grief - I don't know many people who would have the presence of mind to ask God to release them from it.  Or in the middle of a war to have the wisdom to ask God to show you how to forgive the enemy.

Immaculee though is continually and incredibly insightful.  I absolutely loved the first paragraph of the Epilogue:  "It's impossible to predict how long it will take a broken heart to heal.  I was blessed, though:  with God's help, my heart was strong enough to love another after two years."  I love this because it is encouraging and non-judgemental - and so true!  Everyone heals at their own pace.  This book can provide a lot of encouragement, direction and inspiration for all types of healing - but everyone's journey is their own.

Questions

Question:  Can you imagine all family members with different last names?  What last name would you have given your children?


Discuss:  The book includes a quote from Victor Frankl, a WWII holocaust survivor, before the Foreword, "When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves."  How ca you apply this to your life?  How does prayer factor in?


Question:  Immaculee's dad would sometimes come home late and get all four kids out of bed to sit with him while he ate dinner.  What breaking-all-the-rules memories do you have from your childhood or with your own children?

Question:  Do you agree with the parents' decision to shelter their children from the history of racial (tribal) tension?

Question:  Now that you know the outcome, what do you think about the psychic's prediction on p. 29, "...The storm will last for three months and many will die.  Those who escape will find no one to turn to - every friendly face will have perished."

Question:  If you were Pastor Murinzi, how would you chose who to hide and who to turn away?

Discuss:  The key to fighting the war was within herself - to survive she had to keep hold of her faith.  Yet she had every reason to give up and feel God had abandoned her.  What determines the crossing of that fine line or not?

Question:  When you think about experiencing such a war zone with killings all around, do you also consider daily life like headaches and menstrual cycles.  Would that add to your suffering or be a distraction and a hope for a return to a normal life?

Discuss:  Immaculee struggled with asking God for protection while she felt such hatred in her heart for the killers.  How can this situation be reconciled?

Tell of a time when your prayers were answered.

Discuss:  p. 114 "...God never shows us something we aren't ready to understand.  Instead, He lets us see what we need to see, when we need to see it.  He'll wait until our eyes and hearts are open to Him, and then when we're ready, He will plant our feet on the path that's best for us...but it's up to us to do the walking."  Agree?  Past experience?

Question:  Immaculee received direct messages from God, such as moving the wardrobe or learning English.  Have you ever received such a message?  Did you act on it?  What was the outcome?

Discuss:  What did you think when the French said they were closing camp and moving the Rwandans out?

Theme Ideas

Hold your meeting, or part of your meeting in a small bathroom or other small space.

Make a memento for your guests to remind them that they are 'the daughter of the kindest, most powerful king the world [has] ever known. (p. 106)

Record a CD of motivational music for your guests to take with them.  Consider including songs such as:
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