How My 21st Birthday Changed My Life

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.

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.

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.


  1. Kaity, your post is so beautiful and touches my heart so deeply. I also love Rwanda so much, and have been there twice with Compassion. It is my heart's home. People who love Rwanda share a precious bond. Bless you for loving the children of Rwanda.

  2. i have so much love for you. you have such a humongous heart! I love hearing you open up about this experience so much.

  3. Love your blog Kaity! I had to stick around and read a few of your posts. Your colors make me feel "glee-full" due to appelaing to my artsy fartsy side, but I digress...loved this post. Oh my heart...
    Loved this especially, "I serve others because I have hope." Amen!

  4. That is SO much better than a typical irst time legal drinker story! Thanks for sharing.

  5. This post was so inspirataional and touching. Thank you for sharing your story with us!

  6. Beautiful post!! I love that verse...and I love how it convicted you!! Thanks for sharing!!

  7. You are truly one of, if not the most, giving person I have ever met. I am constantly in awe of the way you give for yourself, your talents and your infectious spirit of service. I am so proud to know you.

  8. I'm here from the Compassion blog hop....this was such a great way for you to share the verse that compels you to serve. Thanks for sharing.

  9. I'm visiting from the Compassion hop. I love this! Hope is a terrible thing to lose. I love how it's your inspiration for serving others.