Many may not know this about me, but my 21st birthday was a little atypical. I didn't spend the night creating a memory I would likely forget. Not a drop of alcohol touched my lips, in fact. I spent my 21st birthday in Kigali, Rwanda.
After days of becoming paralyzed by the pain and reality of the horrors of the 1994 genocide, I was numb. I didn't know how to process the senseless deaths of thousands of Rwandans, most of whom were women and children. I was physically sick listening to survivors share their stories of witnessing their parents and siblings brutally murdered in front of their eyes. I was devastated.
So when I was asked to share my testimony with a local church on April 26, 2009, my 21st birthday, the words did not immediately come to me. I thought about the ugliness of the human heart that brought many Rwandans to kill their neighbors. I thought about the trauma so many children are living with. I thought about how as my beautiful Brothers and Sisters in Christ were dying, my country stood by and did nothing.
I almost lost hope. Almost.
Let it be known that I am not a Bible reader. I couldn't tell you the last time I read any kind of Scripture. So when I say that God revealed Himself to me in this verse, know that it means something.
If I had to sum up my 21st birthday, I look back on it not with feelings of sadness or discouragement. But with feelings of hope and faith in the resiliency of the human spirit. Rwanda is not defined by the 1994 genocide. They are defined by their perseverance and how they have overcome their harrowing past.
This is why I serve others. Not simply because the world is full of tragic injustice. Not because, as an American, I am inherently in a position of power to address global ills. Nor because it is my "duty" as a follower of Jesus.
I serve others because I have hope for a better world.
I serve others because I have hope.