Inspiring Women: Immaculee Ilibagiza

For the month of April, my book club's Member Pick is a memoir written by an incredible woman named Immaculee Ilibagiza who survived the Rwandan genocide by hiding in a secret and cramped bathroom for 91 days with 7 other women in the home of a family friend. The book is called Left to Tell : Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust  because she was the only survivor from her immediate family of 6 (her parents and 3 brothers) and she believes God spared her life so that she'll be able to tell her story and teach all around the country on the power of forgiveness. Many of you have seen Hollywood's adaptation of the genocide through Don Cheadle's amazing performance in Hotel Rwanda but this book goes deeper. It's a first hand account of the evil that unfolded and a bit of the background of the history of the tensions between the tribes in Rwanda. This book is not for the weak at heart, Ilibagiza doesn't get grossly graphic but the she doesn't try to sugar-coat the daily realities of being hunted by neighbors and people that she once trusted. I learned so much from this book, about what it really means to feel abandoned and how God works in the most unexpected ways. It's also a short read (about 200 pages) and although a lot of the suspense is overshadowed by the fact that you know she survived in the end, one can't help but relate to her wanting to give up on her faith, and admire her strength and determination to keep hope in such a horrendous situation. Here's one of my favorite quotes:
I was certain that God had a greater purpose for me, and I prayed every day for Him to reveal it to me. At first I was expecting Him to show me my entire future all at once – maybe with a flash of lightening and a clap of thunder thrown in for good measure. But I came to learn that God never shows us something that we aren’t ready to understand. Instead, He lets us see what we need to see, when we need to see it. He’ll wait until our eyes and hearts are open to Him, and then when we’re ready, He will plant our feet on the path that’s best for us . . . but it’s up to us to do the walking.
How she strengthened her relationship with God through the experience is the focus on the book, but it's not heavily and overbearing. I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the genocide, or looking for a good source of inspiration! Ms. Ilibagiza currently travels around the U.S. talking about faith, hope and forgiveness, check her website to see if she'll be in your neighborhood soon. If you live in NYC, she'll be in town on April 14th at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Brooklyn. Maybe I'll see you there!

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