I’m now back from the breathtaking continent of Africa and already almost fully recovered from the jet lag. I think this is mostly thanks to the fact that I came back with so much love in my heart from the trip and that I had a lot of work to do as soon as I hit the ground so I had to get moving. I will admit that these days when I wake up in the morning I have to catch my bearings and find a way to remind myself exactly where I am: “Justin, God is good and you are in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.” I find this to be a necessary discipline with all of the traveling I’ve been doing and the malaria medication I’ve been taking. What privileges to sleep in a bed that can accommodate a 6’2″ man without having to sleep diagonally and to have hot water readily available in the shower… the little things in life.
I would like to take this opportunity to conclude, at least temporarily, my mini-series of reflections on the concept of hope. This past weekend I was in Kigali, Rwanda visiting great friends and revisiting a couple of the Rwandan genocide memorials. I won’t get into too much detail for the sake of time and the reader’s potential vivid imagination, but the emotions that the memorial incite are not an easy thing to grapple with. Standing there at the church in which over 15,000 beautiful Rwandan people — men, women, and children — were murdered in horrific ways, with the clothes they were wearing at the time of their deaths draped over the pews and the cross of Christ hanging on the wall all within my eyesight at the same time… Images like this create paradoxes in my mind that are hard to wrestle with. Yet, after leaving the memorials, I was overcome with the power of hope.
Rwanda has found life in the ruins of a terrible evil that overtook the country and climaxed in 1994. To this day, people are still rallying together in deep and incomprehensible forgiveness to rebuild the nation despite their differences and despite the fact that they would be fully justified in holding their grudges by most people’s standards. Were you to visit Rwanda now, you would be captivated by the vibrant city full of life and hope. I saw an article recently that listed Rwanda as one of the top countries to visit for a person’s first trip to Africa.
There is still evidence of the atrocities if you know what you’re looking for and the country still has a long way to go, but tremendous beauty has risen from the ashes already. I got to sit down for a latte at Bourbon Coffee, the Starbucks of Rwanda, with a powerful man of God and great friend named John Gasangwa. He runs an organization called Arise Rwanda that does amazing work empowering people. From him, my suspicions were confirmed. The stories he shared were stories of hope and progress, and of God’s goodness in fulfilling His promises as we walk in obedience.
I’ll end with this story: A group of scientists were conducting experiments on mice to see how long they could survive swimming. They separated the mice into two groups. For the first group, they put the mice one by one in a bucket of water and simply let the mice swim until exhaustion. They were amazed at the resilience of the mice because these rodents were able to swim for several hours straight before they expired. For the second group, they let the mouse swim almost to the point of exhaustion. At that point, they would lift the mouse high enough out of the bucket to see its home and its food… they would let the mouse see its future. They gave the mouse hope. The second group of mice was able to swim for several days before they died, not just several hours. Hope is an incredibly powerful entity. I pray that God continually finds ways to give us a glimpse of where He’s taking us, especially in our moments of deepest despair. May He fan even the dimmest of flames as we hope in Him.
As a quick update, if you’re in or near the GTA, Souls of the Feet has an event coming up this Sunday, July 28, at the Argonaut Rowing Club in Toronto to help give some students a great opportunity to grow as leaders in Honduras and I would love to see a bunch of my family there. Click here for the event details and ticket info.
Thanks again to everyone who has been a part of my journey in different ways. One other request is that I would like to see many more comments on the blog posts. You never know just when I might be in need of a bit of encouragement or when someone else might benefit from the perspective you have to offer. That’s all for now.