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October 21, 1993, in Burundi, Africa. An extremist uprising places Gilbert Tuhabonye and his classmates in the midst of a genocide massacre. As his classmates die in front of him, Gilbert hears a voice telling him to be calm and quiet, guiding him to an escape route as he does what he grew up doing: run. Outpacing his pursuers, Gilbert manages to evade capture, winding up in a hospital covered in third-degree burns. Learn here how he began to heal, find purpose, and learn to run with joy.
I am Gilbert Tuhabonye and I am a runner. Running is my therapy, it’s my freedom, it grounds me, makes me happy. My nick name is Tumango and Tumango means dust, meaning energy. My grandma came up with that name, “Wow look at that boy, he runs like the wind, look it’s the dust, you only see dust!” When I was young my parents didn’t have transportation, I would walk and run to school five miles every day, it was a chance for me to exercise, I didn’t know, but I just slowly I just enjoyed it. I’m a Tutsi from Burundi, Africa. Burundi is a small country south of Rwanda, it is the heart of Africa, pretend that everybody is Africa; it is the heart of Africa, tropical like Hawaii, gorgeous. October 21, 1993, it is the date I will never forget in my entire life. That day the Hutu president was assassinated by the Tutsi’s extremists. They heard too all over the country retaliate and my school the Hutu teacher and the Hutu students carefully rounded up all the Tutsis’ to be killed. It was neighbors turning against the neighbors. The Hutu wanted to make sure that no one will escape. I tried to run, they came to me, they started tying us together, and we were laid away, roped together, hot with machete, almost two miles to a place that they are going to burn everybody alive. At that moment, I had voice and the voice was very strong, I didn’t even know what a voice was. The voice was telling me to be calm and quite. As soon as I get inside the building, the building exploded. I witnessed my classmate, my teammates dying one by one and I was waiting for my turn. After eight hours I kept hearing a voice, the voice was telling me that I’d be okay, but I didn’t know where the voice was coming from. At that moment I just said God please forgive me. At that moment, there was numerous ways to get out, there’s a door here, there’s a door here. I came after an idea that I’d never had before, I took a dead body, somebody that I know, and broke the window, and at this moment I call it a miracle. This before I went outside, chanting, waiting for anybody trying to escape. I laid in the midst of them, they did not see me, to me that is a miracle I was able to get away. It took 10, 20 seconds for them to lead eyes that I escaped. I can remember the noise, I mean there were crowds of people chasing me, it was dark, I was dead tired, but God saved me. The voice was guiding me where to go; eventually I landed in the hospital where I received treatment. I had a third degree burn when I was in the fire, as you can see my arms, the whole area here you can see to the bone, my back, all the way to the neck was third burn degree. Everything was really, really painful, but we also rejoiced in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character and the character whole. When I was in the hospital just trying to reflect on the life, I tried to understand how in the world these people yesterday, my friend now they want to kill me, I cannot understand and hope does not disappoint us, because God has to pour out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirits, whom he has given us. Finally the Bible was my answer, I took the Bible, I read the Bible cover to cover, tried to understand and I was able to find a solution and I was able to forgive and forget that people tried to kill me, so I could move on in live. There’s no question in mind God is real, he’s my strength, he’s my everything. I keep hearing that voice, I know where the voice comes from, because the voice usually never tells me to do bad things, it’s always saying really good things, do the right thing, give back to people, help other people. That’s the message I hear every day, God will need to be alive to tell the story to the world, to give everything that I do that is God. When you listen to my story you can summarize my life in to a cycle, I started running as a care free child, mountains of Burundi, Africa and I ran for my life, now I run to enjoy.