Finding Forgiveness through Faith

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.

Questions for Discussion and Personal Reflection

  1. How have traumatic circumstances in your life affected your belief (or disbelief) in God?
  2. What would it take for you to actually rejoice in suffering? How might God actually use our suffering for good purposes?

I am Gilbert Tuhabonye, and I am a runner. Running is my therapy. It's my freedom. It grounds me, makes me happy. My nickname is "Tumagu", and tumagu means dust, meaning energy. My grandma come up to that name, "Wow, look at that boy! He runs like the wind! Look at the dust! We 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 loved it, I enjoyed it. I am a Tutsi from Burundi, Africa. Burundi is a small country south of Rwanda. It is the heart of Africa. Pretend that your body is Africa. It is the heart of Africa. Tropical, like Hawaii. Gorgeous. October the 21st, 1993. It is the date I will never forget in my entire life. That day, the Hutu president was assassinated by the Tutsis extremists. The Hutu all over the country retaliated. At my school, the Hutu teacher and the Hutu students carefully rounded up all the Tutsis to be killed. There was neighbors turning against their neighbors. The Hutu wanted to make sure that no one would escape. We tried to run. They come in, they started tying us together. We were led away, roped together, hacked with machete, almost two miles to a place that they're going to burn everybody alive. At that moment, I heard a voice, and the voice was very strong. I didn't know what the voice was. The voice was telling me to be calm and quiet. As soon as I get inside the building, the building explodes. I witness my classmates, 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'll be okay. But I didn't know where the voice was coming from. That moment, I just say, "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 up with an idea that I've never had before. I took a dead body— someone that I know— and broke the window. At this moment, I call it a miracle. These people were outside, chanting, waiting for anybody trying to escape. I land in the middle 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 realize that I had escaped. I can remember the, uh, the,noise. I mean, the 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 a fire. As you can see, my arms, the whole area here, you could see to the bone. My back, all the way to the neck was 3rd burn degree. Everything was really, really painful. But we also rejoice in our suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope. When I was in the hospital just trying to reflect on the life, trying to understand how in the world, yesterday, these people were my friends, now they want to kill me. I could not understand. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, 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 the people trying to kill me. So I can move on in life. There's no question in mind, God is real. He is my strength. He is my everything. I keep hearing that voice. I know where the voice comes from, because the voice will never tell me to do bad things, always say, "Do the good things, do the right thing, give back to people. Help other people." That's the message that I hear every day. God wants me to be alive and to tell this story to the world, to do everything that I do. That is, that is God. When you listen my story, you can summarize my life in three cycles. I start running as a carefree child, mountains of Burundi, Africa. Then I ran for my life. Now I run with joy.