I met Emmanuel’s mother, Nyiramwiza, two years ago when she gave a heartfelt testimony to our women’s group (Fungua Maisha) at HEAL Africa. She once lived in a peaceful village in the lush hills surrounding Goma. She had a home, a field for planting, a husband she loved dearly, and two young boys. God had blessed them abundantly.
Then the rebels came, pillaging, raping, and murdering. Her husband and oldest son were killed in the mayhem, and Emmanuel, eleven years old at the time, was shot in the neck as they fled. Walking for days with Emmanuel in her arms, they eventually made it to Goma, a town on the Congo Rwanda border with 15,000 UN peacekeepers. Homeless and broken, they arrived at the hospital. Young Emmanuel, with a bullet wound to his neck, had lost all feelings in his legs, and was now paralyzed.
When I visited them, they were living in a makeshift wooden shelter. A single mattress on the floor, several blackened pots and a wooden bench were their only possessions. Emmanuel, now 21 years old, was carried about on his mother’s back and tried to support them by making small model vehicles to be sold on the street. Nyiramwiza spoke to us in our women’s group of ‘God’s faithfulness’.
I shared in a letter the story of their plight and in short order we were able to purchase a table and chairs, a real mattress, and bed. A local welder crafted a wheelchair for Emmanuel from an old bicycle frame. A couple in Virginia sent funds to buy a small lot of land, and then contributions came in to build them a house. They moved into their new home on Christmas Eve 2020. Emmanuel later told me he didn’t want to wake up on Christmas morning for fear it was all a dream!
Tragedy struck again last spring when one of the active volcanoes in the town of Goma erupted in the night; the path of rapidly flowing lava traveled directly towards their neighborhood. Along with 50,000 others they were urgently evacuated and eventually resettled in a camp outside of town, once more as refugees, foraging for cardboard and tarps for shelter. Friends who arrived at the camp later told them that all the houses in their neighborhood were burned to the ground and there was nothing left for them to go home to; everything they owned was gone.
Several weeks later, when the lava cooled, the smoke dissipated, and the volcano once again lay dormant, they returned to Goma. They wanted to go to their home and see if anything was left; many told them it was useless, but they insisted. Upon arriving, all were amazed to see that the molten lava had stopped at the very edge of their property, and now a hardened lava wall surrounded their home on three sides!
Not long after, Emmanuel met and fell in love with a young woman (also handicapped). He shared with her the story of a God who is able to give hope and restore lives time and time again. They were baptized together in our church at Easter of this year, and on September 17th shared their testimonies as they were married before a cheering congregation with trumpets and trombones proclaiming the faithfulness and goodness of God!
But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. Psalms 9:18