Weekly Devotional

Running For My Life

Read the testimony of a survivor of genocide.

Written by Gilbert Tuhabonye on 04/08/2020

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

Video used with permission from Explore God.

I am Gilbert Tuhabonye, and I am a runner. Running is my therapy. It's my freedom. It grounds me.  Makes me happy.

My nickname is Tumago. And Tumago means dust, meaning energy. My grandma came up with that name. "Wow!  Look at the boy!  He runs like the wind.  Look, at the dust!  We only see dust." When I was young, my parents didn't have transportation. I would walk and run to school five miles every day. It was a chance for me to exercise. I didn't know, but I just loved it, I just enjoyed it.  

I am a Tutsi from Burundi, Africa.  Burundi is a small country south of Rwanda.  It is the heart of Africa.  Pretend that your body is Africa. It is the heart of Africa, tropical, like Hawaii — gorgeous.

October 21,1993, it is the date I will never forget in my entire life. That day, the Hutu president was assassinated by the Tutsis extremists. The Hutu all over the country retaliated. At my school, the Hutu teacher and the Hutu students carefully rounded up all the Tutsis to be killed. There were neighbors turning against their neighbors. The Hutu wanted to make sure that no one would escape. I tried to run.  They came in, and they started tying us together. We were led away, roped together, hacked with machetes, almost two miles to a place that they were going to burn everybody alive. At that moment, I heard a voice, and the voice was very strong. I didn't know what the voice was. The voice was telling me to be calm and quiet. As soon as I got inside the building, the building exploded. I witnessed my classmates, my teammates dying one by one, and I was waiting for my turn.  

After eight hours, I kept hearing a voice. The voice was telling me that I'll be OK. But I didn't know where the voice was coming from. That moment I just said, "God, please forgive me." At that moment, there were numerous ways to get out. There's a door here, there's a door here. I came up with an idea that I never had before. I took a dead body — someone that I knew — and broke the window.  At this moment, I call it a miracle. These people were outside, chanting, waiting for anybody trying to escape. I landed in the midst of them; they did not see me. To me, that is a miracle. I was able to get away. It took 10, 20 seconds for them to realize that I escaped. I can remember the noise ... I mean the crowds of people chasing me. It was dark. I was dead tired, but God saved me. The voice was guiding me where to go.  Eventually, I landed in the hospital, where I received treatment. I had a third-degree burn when I was in the fire. My arms, you could see to the bone.  My back - all the way to the neck was third-degree burns.  Everything was really, really painful.  

"But we also rejoice in our suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope." (Romans 5:3-4)  When I was in the hospital just trying to reflect on life, trying to understand how in the world that these people yesterday were my friends, and now they wanted to kill me. I could not understand. "And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us." (Romans 5:5)  Finally, the Bible was my answer. I took the Bible, I read the Bible cover to cover, tried to understand, and I was able to find a solution and I was able to forgive and forget that people tried to kill me. So I could move on in life.  

There's no question in mind, God is real. He is my strength. He is my everything. I keep hearing that voice. I know where the voice comes from because the voice will never tell me to do bad things — always says to do the good things, do the right thing, give back to people, help other people, that's the message that I hear every day.  

God wants me to be alive and to tell this story to the world, to do everything that I do — that is God.  When you listen to my story, you can summarize my life in three cycles: I started running as a carefree child in the mountains of Burundi, Africa; then I ran for my life; now I run for joy.

Pray this week:

Lord, reading this reminds me of the time I was hurt by ___________.  You have forgiven me of so much more.  By Your grace and power, I forgive __________.  Please heal us both.  Amen. 

Is there something keeping you from running for joy, at least on the inside?  

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