It was raining ferociously, causing the women and orphans to move away from the open windows to avoid getting wet. The meeting had opened with singing as survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda danced away their sorrows. A teenaged orphan beat time on a drum to the music. Women wore long flowery dresses and beautiful head scarfs. Babies sat on laps; toddlers wandered freely. After the singing, the Solace Ministries director of counseling, “Mama Lambert,” welcomed newcomers—many of whom walked miles to the ministry’s Kigali headquarters. They had come because someone told them it was a place of comfort.
From April through July 1994, an estimated 800,000 Tutsis were killed in the Rwandan Genocide, and many more were left with physical and emotional scars. Solace Ministries started in 1995, growing from intimate gatherings of widows into 56 communities of survivors around the country, serving over 6,000 families last year. Since it began, Solace Ministries has assisted approximately 20,000 people through counseling and spiritual care, education, employment, and health. Their medical clinic under the same name serves a client population of more than 50,000 patients a year.
Mama Lambert, whose Rwandan name is Mukarubuga Beata, lost four of her children in the genocide, along with her husband and their home, which was destroyed. The founder of Solace Ministries, Jean Gakwandi, lost his entire extended family, but his immediate family miraculously survived while sheltered in the home of his German teacher.
As my wife, Lorna, and I listened in on the meeting for the next four hours, various survivors rose spontaneously and testified—often tearfully—about their experience during the 100 days of the …
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