Meet Celestin. He is the real deal. He is our friend and our contact in Rwanda. If you get a chance, check out his ministry ALARM http://alarm-inc.org/ Here is a little of his story that he shared with us...
His mother was barren for 9 years. During this time she was an outcast in the village (they thought she was cursed). When Celestin was born she named him "savior" (translation), because his birth saved her from further humiliation. He was raised in NW Rwanda. As he grew they taught him how to be the family priest. He was expected to sacrifice goats for appease his ancestors, so that they would fight off the evil spirits. When he was young he met a missionary from Ohio, and began to go to church. Within a couple of years he gave his life to Jesus. It didn't take long for him to find in the Scriptures that Jesus was the great ancestor who made the final sacrifice for us all. He then stopped making sacrifices. The fam was not too keen on the idea, and ostracized him from the family.
Through the missionaries, Celestin was connected with a widow from the states who supported him $6 a month. With this support he was able to finish school, and Bible school. Not long after he graduated, she passed away. He says that she was a miracle from God, Divine provision. After Bible school, Celestin went back to his village, and his family gave their lives to Jesus!
During the genocide Celestine was in Nairobi (I believe he was in school, but not 100% on that). His father and 70 members of his congregation were killed. He said he was very close to his dad, and that his dad often called him "pastor." Today one of the relatives of the murderers during the genocide now takes care of his mother. Celestin spends his life trying to mend the differences between the Hutu and Tutsi's. Rather than revenge, he seeks reconciliation. He also realizes that the problem is bigger than Rwanda, therefore ALARM also works in 7 other African countries surrounding it.
Celestin told us that back in 1997 (3 years after the genocide), he had returned to Rwanda. He was not really a favorite of either the Hutu or the Tutsi tribes because he was working for reconciliation of both. While in Rwanda, he was taken by the police, questioned and tortured. He said that he could hear the cries of suffering and death in the background. He said that he could have died, but rather when he told them that he would like to be released for the week to teach at a pastor's conference (after he promised them that he would return on Saturday), they let him go! I asked how the pastor's conference went... he said it was the best one he ever had! He then told us that he returned on Saturday to the police. They were a bit surprised that he returned, so they let him go! He said he returned on Saturday because he did not want the police to harass his family or connects that he had.
I get the since from talking to Celestin that he does not have a lot of fear. The Scriptures do say, "Why fear those who can only kill the body..." Celestin has a passion for his people, that is all people. We are all created in the image of God, and we are all called to a higher tribe.
We truly enjoyed our time with Celestin, and look forward to seeing him again. Also, believe me, this blog post does not do justice to him or anything going on in Rwanda.