My Rwandese Family
By Abala, Oregon
When I was twelve years old, my family and I had to leave our home in Congo. It was not safe for us to stay there because there was violence and conflict. We escaped across the border into Zambia and were placed in a United Nations refugee camp. I completed sixth grade through high school in the camp.
I had high grades in high school and was trying to get a scholarship because I very much wanted to go to college. It is difficult and expensive to go to college in Africa. There is no financial aid, so to go to college you either need to have money or get a scholarship. It is especially difficult for refugees because they don’t have any money.
I had an interview with UNHCR, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. The purpose of this interview was to see if I qualified for a UNHCR scholarship to go to college. Many refugees applied for the few UNHCR scholarships available.
I was able to get a ride to Lusaka for the interview. It was about 450 miles from the refugee camp where I lived with my family. I had my interview with a panel of seven UNHCR representatives. I thought they would tell me if I was accepted right then, but I had to wait to learn the result. I was much more likely to be accepted if I was already in Lusaka. Also, I had no money to go back to the refugee camp.
I had no place to stay and only knew one person in Lusaka. He was a friend who was a college student. He let me stay with him that night, but it was too dangerous for him to let me stay another night because it was against school policy, and he would be expelled if he was caught.
I knew there was an ECKANKAR center in Lusaka. I thought if I went there, maybe I could find a place to stay with one of the ECKists. My friend told me how to get there. I walked because I had no money to get there by bus. It was about seven miles. When I got there, no one was there.
I was very hungry, very tired, and had nowhere to go. I was feeling hopeless and afraid, so I asked the Mahanta for guidance and help, and I sang HU. I felt my heart open and felt things would be OK. The Mahanta gave me the idea to call the UNHCR agency to see if they could help me.
I didn’t have money for a phone call, so I walked back to where my friend was and borrowed his phone to call the agency. They couldn’t help me, but they gave me the number of a person to call who might be able to help. I called the number and explained the situation. The person told me that he didn’t have much, but he would share with me what he could. He asked me to meet him at a certain place where he could pick me up.
When he picked me up, I recognized him, and he recognized me. He was one of the seven UNHCR representatives on the panel for my interview the day before. I knew no one in Lusaka, and yet the Mahanta sent someone I had met the day before. But I could tell from the way he spoke that he was Rwandese. I was Congolese. There had been long-standing conflict between Rwanda and Congo, and there was a lot of mistrust and hatred between the two nationalities. Violence and even killing between Congolese and Rwandans was still very common. From the time I was a little boy, I learned that these people were very dangerous.
Even though at first I was afraid, I had asked the Mahanta for guidance and help, and this man showed up. I accepted that he had been sent by the Mahanta to help me, and my fear left.
He took me to his home and gave me food and a place to stay. He was very openhearted and kind. He and his wife accepted me as part of their family. I did get accepted into college and got a UNHCR scholarship, but it was too late to start that term. I had to wait till the next term. I stayed with the Rwandese family for three months until I went to college, where I lived on campus in dorms.
While I lived with this family, they even spoke Swahili for me rather than their native language, so I could understand them. I ate Rwandese food, which was very different from Congolese food. I lived like a Rwandan and felt very comfortable being there. We became like a family, and we shared everything that a family would share.
Even after I started living in dorms in college, my Rwandese friend still looked out for me. When I graduated from college, he was the only one who came because my family was too far away. He was like an uncle to me.
My friends and family were suspicious of him. They couldn’t believe that a Rwandan could be that good of a friend and person, or would let me live with him for that long. They thought he might kill me.
But I knew I was safe. He told me that he had been a Rwandese refugee trying to make his way through Congo to find a safe place to live, at about the same time that my family had to leave our home in Congo for the refugee camp in Zambia. There was killing of Rwandans in Congo, and a Congolese saved his life. He told me the Congolese man who saved him was very good-hearted. So now he was helping me.
When I first met the Rwandese man, my mind told me to be suspicious and afraid, but my inner guidance told me something different. You can be guided in a way that your mind may think is wrong, but it’s really the Mahanta helping you into a far better situation. I had to surrender and give myself fully to the Mahanta so I could see the guidance. Otherwise I would have missed this beautiful experience.
Not only did the Mahanta send me someone to stay with who gave me food, shelter, love, protection, and a way to go to college, but he also gave me a very valuable lesson. He showed me that Rwandans are Soul too. As Soul, I saw no difference between us. I came to understand that we humans are “just one.” Politics divide us. Politics keep changing, but what doesn’t change is that each of us is Soul.
Not only did I get this lesson, but the experience expanded the thinking of both our families and friends, just like it had expanded mine. His family’s Rwandese friends became my friends, and my Congolese friends became his family’s friends.
I am so grateful to the Mahanta for his love and guidance that allowed me to have this wonderful experience with my Rwandese family. When I asked the Mahanta for help my second day in Lusaka, all I wanted was a place to stay that night and some food, but he gave me so much more. And it was not just about me. Through this experience, the Mahanta touched the hearts of many other people.
A Contemplation Seed
Have you ever sung HU, felt your heart open, and received inner guidance from the Mahanta?