Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I was in Africa a couple of months ago on a bloggers’ trip, in a place called Widow’s Village in rural Rwanda. This village is government-funded, and provides housing for widows and children of the genocide. 

The women are older now, but their faces bear the scars of the horrendous losses they’ve suffered. Many of them have been raped, and have watched their husbands and children be killed. Some have lost nine of eleven children. Others are now taking care of their daughters’ children because their daughters have gone mad and run away.

I was there one day when my team leader asked if any of the women wanted to tell their story. And surprisingly, they did. They wanted to tell their story. 

Because no matter how hard it is, our story is one thing we’ll always have. God gives us our stories, not to define us, but to illuminate his presence on earth. 

Our stories do not define us. They explain us, yes, but they do not define us. God’s love for us defines us, and our stories pave the way to that love. 

At one point one of the widows, Margaret—whose breath smelled slightly of vodka—sat down heavily in the dirt as her sister shared about the genocide and the losses she’d encountered. I sat down with Margaret, there in Africa’s red dirt, and put my arm around her. A child in my lap and Rwanda all around me.

Life is hard. 

Sometimes I say to God, “Look at your people—look at how Earth has done them in.”

But then Margaret whispered, “God is so good.”

I leaned in and she said it again. “God, he’s so good. He gives me everything I need. Praise him.”

This is a woman who’s lost everything. Her children, her husband, her home. She’s witnessed evil face-on. Yet she still believes in goodness. 

Our stories do not define us. They are gifts to us, to show how God steps from heaven to earth on our behalf. To show how our Creator interacts with his creation. Our job is not to control the story, but to read it, and wait for the Savior. To wait for him to come and pull us out of the climax—to pull us out of the evil—and to set the lonely in families. 

And this setting the lonely in families is what takes place in my debut novel, A Promise in Pieces. Clara Wilson is a preacher’s daughter who finds it hard to reconcile the faith her daddy preaches Sunday morning with the war happening across the ocean. She slips out one night, through the window of her bedroom, and runs away with a friend to serve as a nurse in Normandy, France, where she comes face to face with evil, and meets a dying soldier who breathes life back into her fractured faith. 

And it’s a letter this soldier gives her, to take home to his soon-to-be-widowed wife, which leads Clara to the family she’s always longed for—while restoring the one she already has. 

We all are like children, longing to belong, and I relate to Clara. I too am a preacher’s daughter who traveled the globe searching for the faith my father preached. Trying to find God in the corners of the earth, and then my Mum got sick. And I found God where I least expected, at the bedside of my dying mom. 

And when Clara finally arrives back home, a baby quilt from the soldier’s wife in her hands, she too is broken by her mother’s illness and spends her days as a midwife and her nights caring for her parents. The quilt wrapped around the shoulders of young and old and the pieces of Clara’s life being woven together like patchwork cloth. 

In the end, love finds us all. It finds Clara through a kind carpenter, a war veteran who gardens and carves a cradle for Clara’s adopted child. It found me through a farm boy who gave me roots and at the same time, wings.

It finds all of us through our stories which lead us to a God who never leaves or forsakes us—who leans close to us as we sit on the red dirt, in the middle of our suffering, and says, “Come home, child. Come home.”

Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of four books including A Promise in Pieces, releasing April 15 with Abingdon Press. She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

1 comment :

  1. This is a lovely post. Thank you for your words.


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