The Fruit of Forgiveness
Under the shade of the mango tree, a legacy of fear and hatred—decades old—was overshadowed by the joy of a few who refused to remain its captive.
The sweetness of ripe mangoes is a familiar fragrance to any Rwandan. One can simply follow his nose to the base of the bearing tree, where shady branches stand outstretched and inviting . . . a welcomed repose to the sweltering heat that rises in waves from the dry, rust-colored earth.
It’s a scene from the pages of history—a postage stamp rendering of a place and a time where the land nourished its people without asking who they were or what tribe they came from.
This all changed in the Spring of 1994—20 years ago—when nearly a million innocent Rwandans were slaughtered because their ethnic roots stemmed from the “wrong” tree.
Lives were uprooted by the violence, and with them, the monuments of everyday life—schools, homes, businesses, and churches—were completely destroyed.
After the genocide, one congregation stared into the charred remains of their building and wept for what hatred had plucked from the ground.
All they had left was one another—a lonely band of widows, orphans, and survivors—fighting to live, fighting to make sense of the world that had crumbled down around them.
With nothing but a faint glimmer of hope, they began meeting under the shade of a nearby mango tree. Raising their voices together, they stood side by side under newly forming fruit, thankful for grace, thankful for each other.
When World Help President Vernon Brewer heard of the “Church of the Blessed Mango Tree,” he knew he had to visit.
With a drum for his pulpit and an audience of 40 genocide victims huddled closely around, Vernon shared his story. One by one, more stories were shared that day. Stories of survival, grace, redemption, forgiveness, and hope for the future. Even then, Vernon knew that this little church would play a significant part in knitting a broken Rwanda back together.
Throughout the years, and with the faithful investment of many of World Help’s partnering churches and supporters, God has done just that.
Today, bricks and mortar have been built on the ashes of a church once destroyed by hate. Now, hundreds from the surrounding community attend every week to hear the life-changing message of the Gospel.
Widows like Juliet, a recent seamstress graduate from our partnering vocational program, are being empowered to provide for their families once again. Juliet leads a co-op of men and women at the Church of the Blessed Mango Tree who sell handmade goods—beautiful bags and colorful textiles—locally and internationally through the help of our partnering staff.
An entire community of survivors is growing out of a soil that has been cultivated in forgiveness and is now brimming with the tender shoots of reconciliation . . . strangers who have found their home in a church, in each other.
Although they meet inside the sturdy walls of their new facility, the church still bears the name of the place where it started. For it was under a tree, riddled with reminders of ruin all around them, that God chose to plant something new . . . something better . . . something, like a mango tree, that gives refuge to all and bears fruit that is sweeter than any other.