Happy Independence and Liberation Day!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Yesterday, along with millions of Americans, we celebrated the 233rd anniversary of our country's declaration of independence from the powerful monarchy of England. July 4th is a celebration of our many freedoms.... religion, speech, work, family, schooling, etc. We have so many freedoms in this country for which to be greatful. The 4th of July is also a time to stop and reflect on the men and women who gave their lives for our freedoms. From the Revolutionary War, to the Gulf War, to today's ongoing struggles in the Middle East, brave soldiers have fought to protect the freedom that was proclaimed so many years ago.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in an airport in Denver, on my way back to California from Oklahoma. I overheard a woman sitting behind me, talking to another traveler... this woman was from Sweden. She had actually won a lottery for a green card. She was on her way to L.A. to get this green card. (I had no idea there was even such a lottery.... apparently dozens of countries are given a specific number of "green card lottery tickets", and only a few from each country win said "lottery." This green card then makes them eligible for citizenship after a certain amount of time.) The other traveler was asking this woman why she would want to leave all of her friends and family and move here, to America. In accented English, the American-citizen-to-be proceeded to tell the other woman about the greatness that was in America that was not in her own country. "There are so many more opportunities for happiness in America. America is just the greatest country to be a part of. I am so honored to soon be called a citizen of America." As I sat there, my first thought was "Oh, lady... you really don't know much about the US, do you?" My mind was racing with the pain, the selfishness, materialism and ungreatful cynicism that I have become all too apathetic towards. But then I stopped myself, kind of ashamed in my own mind, as I listened more to what she was saying. Yes, this is a great country, full of opportunity. We have a rich history, which I should both be proud of and take lessons from. We have so many freedoms and opportunities in this land... freedoms that I so often take for granted. Overhearing that conversation has given me a new perspective on this land that I love, but have sadly taken for granted. My heart swells with pride and joy as I thank God for allowing me to be born into this great land.

Don't get the wrong idea though... I'm not one of those American-centric people who believe America is the only great place to live on earth. Every country has great history for which every citizen should be proud. July 4th is a great day of celebration in America... but did you also know it is a great day of celebration in Rwanda?

4 Jul is Rwanda's Liberation day.... the day that 15 years ago the Patriotic Army liberated this country from the ho
rrific genocide that killed nearly a million Rwandans-- about 20% of their total population. (Rwanda is roughly the size of Maryland, but has the most higly condensed population in all of Sub-Saharan Africa. Today, their population is roughly 8 million.) On 4 Jul 15 years ago, the Patriotic Army freed the capital city of Kigali from the 100-day reign of terror of the Hutu militias and marked the beginning of a new era of government, justice, healing and redemption.

I just finished the book, As We Forgive (which I mentioned here). This book is all about the incredible, miraculous healing that is taking place in Rwanda right now. After such widespread panic and massacre, the country is still deeply wounded, but is also triumphantly healing. This book gives the testimonies of victims and offenders alike, who through tragic yet miraculous circumstances are rising above the hate and prejudice to experience forgiveness and grace on levels that we cannot even comprehend. Women who were raped by their neighbors and witnessed their husband and ALL of their children murdered right before their eyes are somehow, by the grace of God, able to look their violators in the eye and say "I forgive you." Offenders who commited such henious acts are learning about Christ, and his love for sinners-- even sinners like them-- and are able to seek the forgiveness of those they have so inhumanely wronged. Offender and victim are able to work side by side, rebuilding homes and harvesting fields. This, friends, is no small feat. This is a healing so deep it can only be by the hand of God. Reading this book has helped me appreciate and understand what a celebration 4 July truly is for the country of Rwanda. Here is a glimpse at this year's celebration of Liberation in Rwanda....

(Where the reporter sounds like she is saying "wonder" she is really saying "Rwanda")

Rwanda celebrated 15 years of Liberation, and America celebrated 233 years for Freedom. (The only two countries in the WORLD who share the same day of their freedom celebration) One thing I know for sure is that no words can describe the feeling of "freedom." And I am so greatful for the true freedom that we have in Christ. Both our country and Rwanda's freedom come from the One who is truly able to set us free, and who has freed us from the bonds of sin. We have so much to be thankful for on this July 4th, but its important to remember that we are not the only one celebrating freedom. It is also important to remember and pray for those who do not yet know freedom... whether it be spiritual freedom from sin, or physical freedom from some kind of oppression, God is the God who sets us free!

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