Immaculee Ilibgiza: The Real Life of a Refugee (part 2)
By Kristi Watts
The 700 Club
Seven weeks in the bathroom have left us all frighteningly gaunt. We were shrinking and our starvation diet left us weak and lightheaded. I could tell by my clothes that I have lost at least 40 pounds. Our skin was pale, our lips were cracked, and our gums were swelling and sore. To make matters worse, since we hadn’t showered or changed clothes, we were plagued by vicious infestation of body lice .We coud see them marching across our faces. We may not have been a pretty sight, but I had never felt more beautiful. Read part one of Immaculee's story.
“I’m falling in love with God. I felt like I had all I wanted in life... This time I was asking God, ‘Now tell me what You want. I will just do it.'"
Her relationship with the Lord grew, and despite the constant torments from the killers searching the house time after time, she had faith the Lord would protect her.
“He said, 'I’m going to put My cross on the door. No one will ever cross the door, because my cross is there. Trust Me. I hear your prayers."
Not only did the Lord protect her, but He also prepared her.
“He said,'When you come out, your parents will be dead. Everybody left behind will be gone. If you continue to trust Me, if you continue to call upon Me, I will be here with you. I will love you, and I will give you more than your parents can give you.'
“I remember screaming out, ‘If my parents can be taken care of by You and if You can be my father, my everything, what do I worry about?'”
Immaculee would later find that her mother, father and brothers had been viciously beaten and slaughtered -- chopped to death by machetes.
How did Immaculee not hate the people who killed her family?
“Oh, it was grace, but it didn’t [come] because I wanted it to. It happened because I took the decision to pray, to hold on to God, to understand God. And once you understand who He is, He’s all loving. There’s a time when I felt that He was teaching me about forgiveness and love.
“I’m like, ‘Oh please, those people, they’re evil.' That was my first reaction. 'Don’t tell me to love them.' Then I was like, ‘Just tell me how do I do that?'
“The sin is terrible. Hate it and how you hate it is to pray for these people to be delivered from that powerful evil. How do you hate the person who is created by the same God?”
After 91 days in the bathroom, she finally thought it was safe to leave. Weak and feeble, she knew that only God could have prepared her for what came next.
“Around the road were dead bodies. That was from the time we came out of the bathroom, everywhere we were passing by was dead bodies.”
Immaculee along with 50 other Tutsi refugees were promised safety by French soldiers who had come to rescue them; they were mortified when the French abandoned them in the midst of a thousand Hutu Militia.
“They have machetes with blood. Everyone has machetes. They were right there. It crossed my mind in a second that this is it. This is it. Then something was telling me, 'You don’t give up this last moment. You trusted in God so much.' I was telling God, ‘You know what? You showed me that You are around. You are here. You are not willing to let this happen now. I trusted You in the bathroom. They were so close. You showed me that You were the one doing it. It was not luck. It was not coincidence. It was because You were there.'
“Something was telling me, ‘This is how you are going to know that I’m around you.' Then one of the killers came around us and looked at me. Angry. I can remember his red eyes. He’s pushing me down. He’s like, 'No more. I’ve got you.'
"This is a battle between good and evil. I can feel it. I’m not me. I’m the Holy Spirit here. God is going to talk. God is going to do it. I’m like, 'GO AWAY EVIL.' And the man was losing strength in his eyes."
Miraculously, the man dropped his machete and walked away. Immaculee led the group right through the crowd of killers. Although they circled her like sharks who’ve smelled blood, not one of them touched her or the other Tutsis.
“I’m like, 'God, the machetes are not allowed to touch me. You said You can do all things.”
Immaculee was one of few who survived that horrific genocide. As the months passed and the fate of her family sunk in, God’s compassion, grace and love held her and comforted her.
The full power of God in her life would never be as clear as when she came face to face with the man who killed her family.
“When I went in the prison I was, to tell the truth, scared. I was expecting anything. I went there because the guy who was the chief of the prison was a friend of my father. He wanted me to face him. He wanted me to slap him. He thought that this is the best he can do for survivors like him. He was a survivor also.
"This is someone I know, I respected. I hated to see him dirty. I was crying. I saw him like that," Immaculee recalls. "I started to compare him with my father…”
Immaculee felt bad for the man who killed her family.
“I’m like, 'It’s OK. It's OK really. I forgive you. Deal with it. It’s bigger than me. Just deal with it. I hope you can find hope.'”
Immaculee had found freedom -- in more ways than one.
Today she lives in New York with her husband and two children. On a recent visit back to Rwanda, she grieved for the souls lost and the ones that would never see the face of God.
“To have God as No. 1 in your life is the greatest lesson. Everything else comes second. 'Cause once you know Him, once you get to understand His role in your life, truly sincerely, you forgive, you love, you do everything else. I mean everything good comes out of that relationship with Him. I think that’s where He took me to. ”
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