Tragedy That Leads to Glory – Emma’s Story
Sep 28, 2015 1795
At our recent GNU gospel meetings in Uganda, we met Emma Uwingabire. I was struck by her appearance when I saw her – a tall and elegant woman, full of life, love and joy. She was exceptionally well-spoken, and her excitement bubbled over:
“I have travelled here from Rwanda on the bus! (no mean feat), and I just have to meet you! God has called me to take the gospel to all of the people of Rwanda!”
You won’t be surprised to hear that I am used to people being excited about the gospel, but this was different. As Emma told us her story, we sat enthralled by its horror and its wonder. These are her words…
How could they terminate a man who had ten small children to feed, and still claim to be religious people?
My name is Emma Uwingabire. I grew up in Rwanda, the youngest of ten children. My father was a pastor in a very conservative denomination. He was an honest man, who often said he had been called by God and not by man. He loved to preach the gospel and the love of God. That was the only income that our family had to survive.
The religious people of that denomination disagreed with his emphasis on the gospel. He was fired, and thrown out of the church. Preaching was the only thing he had been trained to do. He had no other skills, and a wife and ten children to support. So he started to work as a barber. He got a chair and an ancient shaving machine, and he would sit in the marketplace, and shave people. He also found an old typewriter, and he would type for people.
We were very, very poor, but we were able to continue living. Schooling was not possible for us. I finished school as an adult, after I was married.
My mother told me that another leader of the church, a white man, said that those people who had done such a thing were not kind at all. How could they terminate a man who had ten small children to feed, and still claim to be religious people?
When the trouble started in Rwanda, I was thirteen years old. At that time, Hutus could do whatever they wanted to a Tutsi, and there were no consequences whatsoever. I was raped by a boy who was my neighbour, and then he left me. If there has been anything that has hit me hard, that was it. And he left me pregnant, with the one who is my first-born son, whom I love. But to be pregnant in such a way in our culture in Rwanda was very shameful.
If I go to Rwanda they will kill me…
We had a family friend who had a little money, and who had fled the country to Kenya in 1986 because he saw there would be trouble. His name was Shadrach and he was fifteen years older than me.
From Kenya, Shadrach saw that our family would die miserably because we were so poor. He loved our family very much, and so he had no peace. He heard the news in Kenya about my pregnancy, and he knew that because of my situation, I would be one of the first to be killed. He loved me even then.
Shadrach sent a friend, a truck driver, to Rwanda to ask for a man called Tensia, my father, so that he could try to save me. He said to the truck driver, “Find the youngest in the family, whose name is “Baby” (that was my nickname), and tell her that I need her.”
So the truck driver came to Rwanda in a long-distance truck. But he was unable to find me. Shadrach did not give up. He then asked a friend called Eric who lived in Kigali, but travelled now and then to Kenya, to go to Rwanda to look for me. He said, “You have to help me, because if I go to Rwanda they will kill me.” So Shadrach told Eric where the church was where we worshipped every week. He said to Eric, “If Tensia is not there, everyone at that church will know where he are.” This was true. Everyone knew where we lived.
So Eric went to the church but was told, “No, we do not know a man called Tensia.” Some time later, he met a boy and asked him, “Do you know a man called Tensia?” “Yes,” said the boy, “He is my father.” The young man was my brother. They walked for ten kilometres to our home. By then I was eight months pregnant.
When Eric came to our home he gave me a letter from Shadrach with words that made me cry. He promised me good things in Kenya, but I was afraid that I would be killed before I could leave, since I was worried that I could not travel in my expecting state. All of this was happening, and all I wanted to do was to go to school!
To cut a long story short, there followed a series of miracles from God that allowed me to escape from Rwanda. Among the miracles was the fact that even though I was a Tutsi, I was able to get a passport. Shadrach arranged everything, providing me with tickets and money for the journey. He said to me in his letter, “I accept the child together with you.”
My father was betrayed by his fellow pastors in the genocide…
God allowed that I be raped so that I might find a way of leaving. I thank God because he has everything in his hands. The only thing we need to do is to send our thanks to him, and have faith in him, and wait upon him.
Shadrach received me and cared for me and loved me. He married me, and together we had three more children. And he called the son from my rape by his own name and loved him as his own child.
In March 1993 I arrived in Kenya. A year after I left Rwanda, my family were wiped out in the genocide. My father was betrayed by his fellow pastors and church members. Although they were all worshipping in the same church, those religious people had no kindness in their hearts, and my father was betrayed and killed with most of my family.
Only three members of my family survived – I, and two of my brothers – and Shadrach helped every single one of us. I see my husband as a true angel. I have often asked him, “Why do you love me?” And he only laughs a laugh of love. He told me once that he did not know why he did what he did, or why he loved me, only that he was doing what God wanted him to do. We have been together now for 20 years.
Our family were a people who were despised, but when Shadrach married me, he lifted us up from shame to honour. He has done the work of God for me and for my family.
Here I am, send me…
In April 2009, I was working as a nanny in Dubai for a Moslem family. I was watching a message on a Christian television programme, and it hit me like a hammer to my heart, and I started crying. I understood that because of all my evil thoughts and sins – the things I used to do – that I did not value the love that Christ had me. Then I started asking myself, “How could God ever receive me? Is there still a chance for me?”
You see, I used to hate people. But I started to feel the need to ask these people for forgiveness. God told me I must never hate people again, in spite of what happened to my father. And so I started loving those who killed my father – those whom I couldn’t love before.
My heart was full of love and burning to serve God. I said to God, “Here I am, send me,” just like the prophet Isaiah. But I didn’t know how to serve him.
This is my father who is still with me!
Then, through a miracle, I met Sammy from Belgium through my membership in a WhatsApp group called, “The Word of God.” Sammy wrote to me privately and he started telling me about a man called Desmond Ford and Good News Unlimited. He told me to go to the goodnewsunlimited.com website and read the book Jesus Only by Desmond Ford. Even before I read the book, I knew that Jesus wanted me to meet him through this book.
And so I started trying to find out things about Desmond Ford. I started by reading about his life, and I could only say, “This is my father who is still with me.” I found that Des’ story resembles the story of my own father. My father stood for truth and for what was right, and was mistreated for it; and I saw that Des suffered the same.
I had heard many preachers telling me about what I had to do to be saved. But when I read Jesus Only, I realised that I had received salvation without having done anything. I had been a very bad person, beyond evil. I understood that Jesus receives me just as I am, but he doesn’t leave me as I am.
So I started reading the messages on the Good News Unlimited website. Every message was just for me. I heard God speaking to me, “This message by Good News Unlimited is the message for this hour.” I started sharing these messages from GNU with as many people as I could, but it was difficult and expensive to translate from English to Kinyarwanda. This message had filled me, and I did not know how to get it out to the people. It was as if God had given it to me alone, and I was bursting with joy and the need to share it.
Man of God, God Bless You!
From the time that I read Jesus Only, I immediately felt that I was part of Good News Unlimited. One time, I dreamed I was at a meeting where Desmond Ford was preaching. When he had finished, I went to the front and said to him, “Man of God, God bless you.” I had no more words to say. My heart was too full. I woke up that morning full of joy.
Right now I am sitting with Eliezer Gonzalez and Duncan Wood, and in my eyes they are no different to Desmond Ford. I am requesting that they take my greetings to Desmond Ford, and say to him, as in my dream, “Man of God, God bless you.” What I am requesting from Good News Unlimited is to help me to get these messages into the Kinyarwanda language so that I can take them to as many people as possible. God has called me and has told me that now I am a messenger for the gospel. And now God has called me to Good News Unlimited so that we may share the work of God together.
What am I doing right now? Every Saturday at 4 pm I have a national radio talkback programme about family and relationships that I present in Rwanda. It is also heard in parts of Burundi and Tanzania. I have also started my own charity to help homeless children in Kigali, the capital city where I live in Rwanda.
God is never surprised…
My final message to you is that God only creates you when he has prepared everything for you. He knows your past and your future. What you call good or bad – he knows all of that. He is never surprised. Often God does not see things the way you see them. What you call bad, at times might be good. My unwanted pregnancy turned out to be my salvation in time of war – that’s a concrete example.
So just know and rest in the love of God your Creator. Know that Jesus loved you, took your place, died for you and saved you. He says, “It is not you who loved me, but I who have loved you. It is not you who chose me, but I who chose you.”
That’s why all you have to do is to know him. Just like the Israelites were healed by looking at the snake on the pole, that’s how we are saved – by looking at Jesus on the cross.
Jesus Only is your salvation. There is no other name under heaven by which we may be saved.
May God be praised through Good News Unlimited.
That’s Right; I’m a Woman!
After I heard this, I said to Emma,
“I believe God wants you to take the gospel to all the people of Rwanda.Would you like to present a brand new Good News Unlimited radio programme nationally across Rwanda? Go and negotiate with the management of your radio station on behalf of Good News Unlimited.”
A few days later, she reported that there had been some difficult moments with the radio station. It had gone something like this:
Manager: But Emma, you can’t have your own preaching programme on our radio station!
Emma: Why not?
Manager: Because you’re a woman. We’ve never heard of a woman preaching before. And you’re not a pastor. And you don’t work for a church.
Emma: That’s right. I’m a woman. I’m the woman at the tomb of Jesus; the first one who saw him. I’m the woman to whom he said, “Go and tell my disciples, that I’m alive.” That’s my authority! I’m not a pastor; I’m an evangelist. And you’re right, I don’t work for a church; I simply represent the gospel.
Manager: You’re hired.
Emma will soon be broadcasting the gospel message across Rwanda and into the surrounding nations. GNU aims to fund this through the gifts given for the gospel work by our supporters. Please pray for this inspirational woman, and for her God-given ministry.
– Eliezer Gonzalez