“The Land of a Thousand Hills,” Rwanda is a beautiful country of lush green hillsides dotted with mud homes and small farms.  Small enough to fit into the state of Tennessee four times, Rwanda is the second smallest African nation. While a very small country, she is densely populated with nearly 12 million citizens. Fifty percent of Rwandans are under the age of 18.

While often recognized as a country marked by a horrendous genocide in 1994, Rwanda is so much more than this. While she may be scarred by this atrocious historical violence, Rwanda will not be defined by this. Rwanda is a testament to the beauty of forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration.

The Rwandan genocide seized the lives of nearly 1 million souls in only 100 days as the world watched silently.  In the past two decades, under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, the counsel of various bishops such as John Rucyahana, The Bishop of Rwanda, and truly the hand of God guiding these precious people, Rwanda is growing and advancing. No longer are Rwandans segregated into tribal groups, but joined in unison as one people. Reconciliation has shown its transforming powers to the extent that former perpetrators and victims are now able to reside peaceably as neighbors, coworkers, and fellow churchgoers. Truly this type of forgiveness is the work of Almighty God. Rwanda has much to teach the world about the beauty of forgiveness and restoration.

While one of the cleanest African nations, prizing education, and working to advance economically, 30% of Rwandans are unable to read or write. As of 2011, the government had set a goal of increasing accessibility of electricity from 7% to 16% of its inhabitants being able to have electricity. More than 80% of Rwandans still have no electricity. Nearly 50% of Rwandans still lack access to clean water or proper sanitation. Disease easily spreads through contaminated water sources. While public education is available, many families are unable to provide the required uniform or shoes for their children in order for them to be afforded the opportunity of an education. Without an education, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Rwandans to become employed or be able to support themselves. While most Rwandans are hard workers, walking miles to obtain water, cooking all foods from scratch, and living from the food in their own gardens, as one can imagine, this becomes difficult. Due to the densely populated area, and large family sizes, a small plot of land often does not produce enough food to feed the family or to sell in order to be able to meet other needs of a family. Nearly 80% of Rwandans live on less than $1.25 per day.

Despite the struggles faced by the people of this beautiful country, I am amazed, overwhelmed and inspired by their inextinguishable joy. While I love Africa in general, I have truly fallen in love with Rwanda. The people are open, optimistic, hard working, loving, hopeful and welcoming. I fully believe that they exemplify beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). While the turmoil of genocide could have destroyed this tiny country beginning the end of her complete destruction, contrarily, the opposite has occurred. She is unified, she is being restored, and her people proclaim a beautiful testimony.