Hope and faith after genocide, Norfolk church told
Immaculee Hedden was a young African woman when she miraculously survived a 100-day rampage of death and violence that killed between 800,000 and 1 million Rwandans a Norfolk church audience has heard. Sandie Shirley reports.
Today her resounding message of faith, hope and comfort is helping to bring restoration to her native homeland and the nations, in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
She told an audience at Newton Flotman Church recently: “God made a way where there seemed to be no way and he will do the same for you.”
Starving, threatened, insulted and close to death, her hope in the saving power of God continued to hold out with trust and prayer. Immaculee hid behind locked doors for nearly two months at her cousin’s house, before escaping two road blocks and finding refuge in an overcrowded orphanage during the country’s mass massacre. Her survival amid seemingly impossible odds, is detailed in ‘Under His Mighty Hand’, a book of overcoming faith co-authored with husband Richard.
Twenty-two years after that horrific event, the couple reach out to orphans and widows and those who have survived and lived through the brutal atrocities. They are directors of Uhumuliza Ministry: an expression of God’s comfort to bring restoration to the people of Rwanda through counselling, seminars and training. And as UK co-ordinators of the Rwandan Orphan’s Project, Let the Little Children Come to Me, they are helping to facilitate a new future for over 80 orphans with food, shelter, education (spiritual and academic) and recreation.
The couple continue to look ahead for Rwanda, believing for the much-needed future provision for a new Healing Centre complete with guest house, swimming pool and training for young people to know God and make him known.
Immaculee grew up in a beautiful sun-drenched land - lush and green with mountains, rivers, waterfalls and wildlife. She went to church - danced, sang and delighted in God, friends and family.
“During those days, I never thought things would change. I never thought life would change - from the light of the moon, the sunshine, people’s kindness, and loving one another, to killing.”
During the gunfire and bombs and the militia that plundered and killed, Immaculee saw the terror and death of her beloved people including family and friends. But she forgave, loved and continued to strive for hope and peace, while praying for those who were responsible.
“Having been close to death has made me see how precious life is. Each person is intimately known by God and each has a beautiful destiny. It is my desire that my life and testimony gives hope to the hopeless. No matter how hopeless a situation, I want people to know that there is always hope. They should never give up.”
During some of the bleakest moments of her life, Immaculee tells of the miraculous saving power of Jesus Christ. When a loaded gun was pointed towards her, the assailant suddenly let it slip to his side, refusing to fire. During the atrocities, she and 400 companions found shelter at an orphanage that was meant to house just 75. Without food or water for three days, many thought they would die but Immaculee believed otherwise and soon unexpected food from an America who risked his life, saved their lives.
There were many times when terror and fear threatened but Immaculee explains that one day she dreamt she was singing a song in English about hope that she had never heard before. She later learnt it was written by an American singer song writer; the lyrics continue to give hope the world over:
God will Make a Way
God will make a way
Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way for me
He will be my guide
Hold me closely to His side
With love and strength for each new day
He will make a way, He will make a way
By a roadway in the wilderness, He'll lead me
And rivers in the desert will I see
Heaven and Earth will fade but His word will still remain
And He will do something new today
For more information or to donate to the work, contact them at: www.uhumuliza.com, llccm-rwanda.org, facebook.com/richardimmaculee.hedden, email@example.com
Pictured above are Immaculee and Richard Hedden and some LLCCM orphans enjoying a meal.