Alex Nsengimana received his first gift when he was seven years old. It’s a shoebox.
The boy had just endured the horrors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 people were brutally murdered.
Among those who died were my grandmother and my uncle, who lived with him and his brother and sister after his mother died two years ago.
When the genocide ended 100 days later, Nsengimana found herself in an orphanage in Kigali village, Rwanda. The humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse was providing assistance.
“One day they asked me to line up in the garden to get a present,” says Nsengimana, now 34. “
Inside the shoebox, they found toys, school supplies, and hygiene items, including a comb with a brush on one side and a pick on the other.
“It was such a unique item,” he said of the comb. “So I kept it for the next three years and had a hair comb everywhere I went.”
Nsengimana said it was as if a seed of hope had been planted.
“I felt God’s love,” he said. “I had a gift from a stranger I had never met that reminded me that I was special and that someone cared for me.”
Years later, after being adopted by a family in Winona, Wisconsin, Nsengimana became involved in Operation Christmas Child. This is the same Samaritan purse program that sent him the shoebox. The program collects shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene products and delivers them to children around the world. Since 1993, more than 198 million of his children in more than 170 countries have received Operation Christmas his Child’s shoe box, according to the program’s website.
“I was now part of the other side of the story…packing shoeboxes for other kids,” he said. It was an opportunity to become
“This changed my life”
Nsengimana recently shared his story with congregations at Washington Avenue Bible Church in Ephrata Borough and First Baptist Church in New Holland.
He recalled an incident in which he and his brothers, Brother Filth and Sister Lillian, were caught during a shootout between militias and those trying to stop the genocide.
“I slipped and fell to the ground as everyone was running for their lives.Suddenly I heard this sound over my head,” he said. “I was falling and it was a bullet that missed my head about an inch. When I look back I see God spreading his wings to protect us. Why are we alive?” because there should not be
Pastor Jack Peters of New Holland’s First Baptist Church said Nsengimana’s story resonated with his congregation.
“It was shocking because many of us have been packing shoe boxes for years, but here stood before us someone whose life was changed because he received a shoe box,” said Peters. “Hearing him talk has renewed my determination to keep going.”
The First Baptist Church of New Holland has participated in Operation Christmas Child since 2014. Last year he donated 642 shoe boxes.
Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week is November 14-21, but online donations can be made at any time www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/ways-to-give/.
For more information about the project, including how to volunteer and how to pack a shoebox, visit www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/.
Married and living in North Carolina, Nsengimana returned to Rwanda in March 2013 to distribute shoe boxes to children at an orphanage where she lived when she was young. Her sister lives in Rwanda and her brother lives in Wisconsin.
During his visit to his home country, Nsengimana went to the prison where the man who murdered his uncle is being held. He said the meeting started a process of forgiveness and reconciliation, adding that it was difficult and there were many tears, but he realized he had to let it go and forgive the man.
“This is what changed my life,” he said. “Those boxes are a visible display of God’s love.”
In 2014, Nsengimana joined Operation Christmas Child as a spokesperson.
“All they do is help people in need, and they come with them to bring hope, both physical and spiritual,” he said. is.”
https://lancasteronline.com/news/local/genocide-survivor-and-operation-christmas-child-shoebox-recipient-shares-story-of-forgiveness-and-hope/article_1cb150a6-3b75-11ed-918c-cb034db08e73.html Genocide Survivor and Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Recipient Tells Story of Forgiveness and Hope | Local News