Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Gary Haugen, Rwanda and a Social Media Fast


I had been contemplating a social media fast for a couple weeks when I read a tweet posted by Gary Haugen (President of IJM). He encouraged his followers to take a week-long Sabbath to honor those lost in the Rwandan genocide 20 years ago.


A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about how I spent my 21st birthday and how it changed my life. I didn't get wasted and make bad decisions. In fact, my 21st birthday was a day I hope I never forget. I was speaking to a congregation in Rwanda during the 15th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.

For those who may not have seen the post, I'm including it here again...

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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.

Pictures of children lost in the genocide.
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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.

And then God revealed Himself to me. 

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.

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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.

Outside the Rwandan church where I shared my testimony of hope in the Lord.

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So I'm saying goodbye, adios and au revoir to social media this week. No Facebook, no Twitter, and tragically, no Instagram. I think it is necessary to clear my mind of the clutter of the world and allow myself time to meditate on lessons learned from my time in Rwanda in 2009. I pray that God will use this time to convict me, teach me and allow me the opportunity to honor those that were lost 20 years ago.

I'll see you next week, friends.

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