Monday, April 19, 2010

Emmanuel, Part 1


Have you ever read a passage of Scripture and thought: "God, was that really necessary? I am really busy, and that was too much information ("TMI") and a waste a lot of papyrus and paper throughout history. Please stick to the important points”.

For example, try this passage from 2 Samuel 23:

8 These are the names of David's mighty men:
Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.
 9 Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty men, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim for battle. Then the men of Israel retreated, 10 but he stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The LORD brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.
 11 Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel's troops fled from them. 12 But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the LORD brought about a great victory.
 13 During harvest time, three of the thirty chief men came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. 15 David longed for water and said, "Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!" 16 So the three mighty men broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the LORD. 17 "Far be it from me, O LORD, to do this!" he said. "Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?" And David would not drink it. Such were the exploits of the three mighty men.
 18 Abishai the brother of Joab son of Zeruiah was chief of the Three. He raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed, and so he became as famous as the Three. 19 Was he not held in greater honor than the Three? He became their commander, even though he was not included among them.
 20 Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, who performed great exploits. He struck down two of Moab's best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.  21 And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian's hand and killed him with his own spear. 22 Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty men. 23 He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.
 24 Among the Thirty were: Asahel the brother of Joab, Elhanan son of Dodo from Bethlehem,
 25 Shammah the Harodite, Elika the Harodite,
 26 Helez the Paltite, Ira son of Ikkesh from Tekoa,
 27 Abiezer from Anathoth, Mebunnai the Hushathite,
 28 Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai the Netophathite,
 29 Heled son of Baanah the Netophathite, Ithai son of Ribai from Gibeah in Benjamin,
 30 Benaiah the Pirathonite, from the ravines of Gaash,
 31 Abi-Albon the Arbathite, Azmaveth the Barhumite,
 32 Eliahba the Shaalbonite, the sons of Jashen, 
33 son of Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam son of Sharar the Hararite,
 34 Eliphelet son of Ahasbai the Maacathite, Eliam son of Ahithophel the Gilonite,
 35 Hezro the Carmelite, Paarai the Arbite,
 36 Igal son of Nathan from Zobah, the son of Hagri,
 37 Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai the Beerothite, the armor-bearer of Joab son of Zeruiah,
 38 Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite
 39 and Uriah the Hittite. There were thirty-seven in all.

Is anybody still there?

Yesterday my dear 19-year-old friend Emmanuel [“God with us”] MANIRAKIZA [“God heals”], gathered five other young Rwandans and me together and read this entire passage to us with great excitement, explaining that it has become one of his favorite passages of the Bible. (What?!? Am I missing something? Answer: Yes.)

He further explained that life is full of so many great challenges, “lions”, and we can either foolishly and futilely attempt to flee from them, or we can chase them down, sometimes in the most difficult of circumstances (“through the snow and into the pit”) and have victory over them. Emmanuel, who is quite humble but knows no false modesty, then proclaimed: “I am and I shall be (by the strength that God provides!) a fearless chaser of lions, through any and all circumstances.”

So the passage that I might have thought was a needless waste, has been extraordinarily inspirational and instructive to my friend Emmanuel, who now uses it to inspire and instruct others. God is like that. His word is like that, “living and active” [Hebrews 4:12]. Emmanuel blesses and teaches me.

Hang in there, please….

Perhaps I should mention: Emmanuel is a “double orphan”. His father was stoned to death when he was 3 years old, and his mother died of cholera in a refugee camp when he was five. His suckling baby sister died within an hour thereafter. Life in the refugee camp was so brutal and wicked that little Emmanuel necessarily fled into the bush with his two older sisters, from whom he soon became separated and lost. He lived like an animal, chewing on plants for water. He wandered the forest for months, and was found by United Nations personnel, collapsed on a dirt road. He was again placed in a refugee camp, and again necessarily fled due to “all the fighting and killing inside the U.N. camp". At seven years old he lived alone as a street urchin and beggar in villages and in the bush, eating only raw food from unattended fields. He still bears a scar from being shot in the face.

“Survival on the streets” seldom permitted him to attend school, but when showed up, he consistently outperformed all of the other students. Ultimately, his brilliance and dire circumstances were recognized and he was sent off to Bishop John’s Sonrise School. But when this boarding school closed down for vacation, all students (orphans included) were picked up by someone and returned to their own villages for the vacation period so that they may remain connected to their villages and extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.). With eyes welling up with tears, Emmanuel describes the first school vacation when all of the students were dismissed and Emmanuel sat alone and heard an announcement on public radio: “There is a young orphan boy called Emmanuel MANIRAKIZA sitting at Sonrise School. Would someone from his village PLEASE come and pick him up?!?” Emmanuel prayed and wondered who it would be that would come and get him. Answer: Nobody. Emmanuel despaired with the discovery that “Nobody cares about me. Was I born to suffer my entire life alone? Nothing could be more painful than this unbearable loneliness”. [Emmanuel wiped his eyes as he recalled such former despair.]

He explains that near the end of fifth grade at Sonrise School, it all began to make sense to him: “There is a God, and He loves me. He created me for a purpose, and I must do all that I can to prepare myself to accomplish His purposes for my life.” Emmanuel then began to study “for this purpose”, and when the National Exam was administered a year later, he scored within the top 10 students of the entire nation of 10 million people,… and he was awarded a financial prize with which he purchased a small plot of land for his orphaned sister (with who he had become reunited by amazing divine providence - a story for another time)… and a pair of shoes for himself.

Emmanuel, with his Sonrise School teacher, Nathan Allen                                                           
"Teacher Nathan gave me a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. Oh, I love that book which teaches that racism and discrimination are not a Rwandan problem, but a problem within mankind, and we must all recognize and resist it. We may look different on the outside, but we all have the same heart inside."

Emmanuel now joyfully describes himself as the most blessed person on earth,… a lion chaser, created and called for a purpose. He is an irrepressible and passionate preacher of God’s truth,… and a great inspiration and blessing to me.

Another essential piece of Emmanuel’s story in my next post in 2 – 3 days.