Rwanda – A Place of No Return Until God Called
Written by: Karen Hardin
As a college student, Parfait Karekezi was considered one of the lucky ones. A Rwandan by birth, he lived in a country where college was a privilege not available to the masses. Only a very small percentage of students from his tribe were accepted. Fortunately for him, his good grades had qualified him to be able to accept one of the few spots available. But despite his hard work, Parfait soon became disillusioned with the system and behind the scenes injustices in the educational system of his country. After only two years he determined to make his way to America to complete his education. It was a move that most likely saved his life.
Parfait was living in America attending the University of Indiana when he received the news that his two older sisters along with their husbands, a two-year old niece and his two younger brothers had been murdered in the genocide of Rwanda that ravaged the country. On April 6, 1994 the unrest, which had existed between the two primary tribes in the nation for the past thirty some years escalated to a head. In response to an attack from the Tutsi tribe, the Hutu, who controlled the government at the time, made the decision to try to completely eliminate the minority Tutsi tribe once and for all. Parfait’s family was Tutsi. When it was all over, only his mother, younger brother, niece and nephew had survived. Parfait later learned that of his friends and classmates only a few could be found. Rwanda had been changed forever, and so had its people.
“I had no purpose in life,” Parfait stated as he recounted the tragedy many years before. The devastation of the massive killings destroyed families. Some news accounts have estimated that 800,000 lives were lost in a mere 100 days. Those that were left may have been physically alive, but the joy of life had been stolen. Even though Parfait was not living in the country the devastation of the attack filled his heart. After graduating from Indiana University, he took a job as a truck driver. The silence of the road and long trips became a solace in some ways distancing him from the horror that had robbed him of much of his family and friends. He had no desire to return to his home country. He was a man with no hope and no future.
It was in the late ‘90’s that Parfait, made two important introductions while on the road. In 1996 at a truck stop chapel service in Connecticut he met Jesus Christ. Two years later he met Michelle Miller at a similar service in Pennsylvania. At the time she was the chaplain’s assistant, she would soon become Parfait’s wife. But even more change was in store for his life.
Two months prior to their wedding Parfait sensed the Lord’s direction to move to Tulsa to join Victory Christian Center. Pastors Billy Joe and Sharon had ministered more than once in his church in South Bend, Indiana. As he prayed, he sensed God’s leading that Tulsa was to be his new home and knew that Victory was a part of that plan and an important step in his future.
After relocating, Parfait went back to Indiana to marry Michelle. Afterwards, they both returned to Tulsa and joined Victory where they immediately became involved in the prayer ministry and Friday night prayer. Eventually they were asked to lead the 6:00 a.m. early morning prayer sessions. They were faithful in that area for four to five years. Other volunteer opportunities followed assisting with Victory by Virtue/Straight Talk for Men, Evangelism Explosion outreaches into the apartment complexes and more. During this time, Parfait also attended Victory Bible Institute and Victory World Missions Training Center taking advantage of every opportunity that Victory afforded. Their faithful service was providing them with significant hands on training and experience that would serve them well in the next area where God was leading…back to Rwanda.
“It had been over sixteen years since I left Rwanda and since my family had been killed,” Parfait explained. “Initially I had no desire to return, but after two to three years of listening to Pastor Billy Joe teach on forgiveness I made the decision to forgive. I didn’t know who had killed my family, but it no longer mattered.”
Today Parfait and Michelle are full-time missionaries to Rwanda. One of the many areas that has opened to them for ministry is in the prisons where there are currently sixty thousand inmates incarcerated because of their participation in the 1994 genocide.
“These are known as the ‘forgotten people’,” Parfait explained. “They have received this label because most of the ministry in Rwanda is directed toward those who are survivors of the holocaust. Very little is targeted towards those who caused it.”
Many may find it ironic that Parfait and his wife, Michelle, now find themselves sharing the Gospel and God’s forgiveness to some of the very people responsible for the loss of his own family.
“One of the prison directors said to us that while they do have some ministers come to evangelize in the prison, there hasn’t been anyone available to help disciple them. Since that time, God has opened a door for us to open the first International Victory Bible Institute (IVBI) in one of the prisons. In addition, we plan to start another six IVBI’s. The government is really embracing our program because they can see the need for this ministry and most importantly the change that takes place after an inmate accepts the Lord.”
The Healing Power of the Holy Spirit
“There continues to be a great need for healing and deliverance from the torment that is experienced by both the innocent and the guilty from the devastating events of 1994,” Parfait went on to explain. “You might think that everything has returned to normal and that people have accepted that ‘life goes on,’ but this is not so.”
Parfait’s statement is evidenced in the life of a fellow Rwandan named John.
“He is from my hometown and came to see me,” Parfait explained. “I asked him how he was doing and he explained that since the genocide he had no joy. Immediately God spoke to me that He would restore his joy and give him the power of the Holy Spirit.”
On his way to another ministry outreach an hour away, Parfait invited John to drive with him. Over the next hour Parfait asked John to read scripture after scripture regarding the work of the Holy Spirit. When they arrived at their destination Parfait laid hands on him and prayed. Immediately John received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and began to speak with tongues. He was filled to overflowing and prayed the entire afternoon. After the outreach, Parfait drove him home…and he was still speaking in tongues. For the next three days, John did little more than speak in tongues from morning until night. The change in him was so dramatic that his family began to think that he had gone crazy. If someone had said that to him in the past, he would have gotten mad. But not now.
“I’m not crazy. I’m praying,” he explained to his concerned family. “I’m different.” The difference was his joy was restored. He knew it and so did others that met him. In fact, his pastor wanted to know more and invited Parfait to come preach on the Holy Spirit in his church. One invitation led to another as word spread of the mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit wherever Parfait and Michelle went. Most recently they were invited to a leadership conference for government officials and pastors in neighboring Burundi. At that conference seventeen government leaders received Christ, another 300 who came to the evening crusade gave their hearts to the Lord along with approximately 200 inmates in the local prison.
TO THE LEAST OF THESE
“Last fall after Michelle and I went back to Rwanda we noticed many children begging in the streets. We stopped to find out why. They should have been in school, but we learned that they had no money to attend. Since that time we have worked to help sponsor these children. For just $115 a year we can provide the uniforms, haircuts, shoes and school supplies needed to allow them the opportunity for an education. Isaiah 58:6-7 says, ‘…share your bread with the hungry…cover the naked…’
“There are still many widows and orphans in Rwanda because of the genocide. There are many more who need to experience His healing touch. God has called us to this nation…to minister to “the least of these.”