I shall not be moved

 

 

Yona Kanamuzeyi was surprised and not sure he wanted the job. After two years in Burundi studying at the theological college, he had expected to return to the congregation he had been pastoring before in Northern Rwanda. Now the church had asked him to go instead to work among the refugees in the southern part of Rwanda.

The fighting in Rwanda between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes had left many people homeless. In 1960 the government began settling a number of them in the region of Bugesera. Because of its crocodile-infested rivers and swampy land, few people lived there. Yona knew that to work there would not be easy, but he also knew that God was leading him to do it.

Yona did have energy and patience--and a close fellowship with God. His practical ideas and ability to organize made him an ideal person for his new job at Maranyunda.

One of his jobs was to receive the supplies which arrived for the refugees: powdered milk, medicines, bedding, clothing. He had to see about using money gifts to buy food, seeds, and young banana and coffee trees to plant. There never seemed to be enough and some tried dishonestly to get more than their share. He needed the wisdom of Solomon and the mind of a detective.

The first time Yona met with the Christian refugees, they gathered under a large tree for protection from the sun. To encourage them, Yona read from the Bible about how the Lord was their shelter and shade. He talked about how they were to be like strong trees near the nourishing stream. According to Psalm 1, such trees remain firm in times of storm or in times of dryness. Then he taught them to sing the chorus, "Just like a tree planted by the waters, I shall not be moved."

How happy Yona was when he could have a house! His wife, Mary, and their children could come to live with him. The other people could not understand the way Yona and Mary loved each other; he did not treat her like a slave! The women would ask Mary, "Doesn't he ever beat you or curse you?”

"No," answered Mary. "Instead, sometimes he asks my forgiveness, and I ask his. And Jesus forgives us. Then we pray together."

About 1961 some Tutsi refugees, who had fled to neighboring countries, began to use terrorist tactics. They hoped to overthrow the government of Rwanda and bring back their king. These terrorists were called "Inyenzi" or "cockroaches." As the situation worsened, any Tutsi could be suspected of being lnyenzi.

Though destruction and fighting were common in many places, the people in Bugesera district continued to live peaceably. But in late 1963, rumors flew everywhere that the Inyenzi were going to invade Rwanda. Twice the Inyenzi actually attempted invasions from Burundi, but the Rwandan army pushed them back.

From that time on, the army began arresting anyone suspected of Inyenzi connections. Some of those arrested were killed. Many of the hundreds who were put in prison died from the crowded conditions.

Yona continued his work. One time he ignored the curfew to find and bury the body of a church worker who had been shot in the street. He encouraged the Christians who also, in spite of the curfew, gathered in his house to pray.

In January 1964, a friend came to Yona and said, "You're going to die."

"Why do you say that?" asked Yona.

"For two reasons: your belief in the Word of God, and for the way you love everyone."

Yona said, "Those two things--the Word of God and the love of God are two things I can't live without."

He told Mary about this, and they prayed together. "God, you called me and sent me here," Yona said. "You know me, the days I've already lived and the days which remain. If it's your will to call me home, I'm ready."

Thursday morning, January 23, in family worship, Yona read Psalm 27, verses 3 and 4: “Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life."

At 7:30 that evening a jeep stopped in front of Yona's house. Six soldiers came in, surrounded Yona, and said, “We want to question you." Yona and Mary knew that when the soldiers took someone at night, they were never seen again.

As he left, eight-year-old Wesley said, ''You'll hurry back, won't you, Papa?"

"Yes, I'll hurry," said Yona.

Two other prisoners were taken along in the Jeep. The soldiers drove north until they crossed the bridge over the Nyaborongo River. Then they made the prisoners get out of the Jeep and put all their possessions on a pile. Before he laid down his journal, Yona wrote in it, "We're going to heaven." Then he made a note of the amount of church money he had at home. He placed his journal, his key, and a few francs on the pile and asked that they be given to his wife. "You'd better pray instead," said a soldier.

Yona prayed, "Lord, you know I haven't done anything against the government. I pray that you will help these people who don't know what they're doing." As the hands of the three prisoners were tied behind their backs, they sang together. "There is a happy land far, far away."

Then the soldier led Yona away, leaving the other two behind. As he went, he sang.

 

There's a land that is fairer than day.

And by faith, we can see it afar.

Where the Father waits over the way.

To prepare us a dwelling place there.

 

They took Yona to the bridge, shot him, and threw his body into the river. The stunned soldiers hardly knew what to do next. They had never seen anyone die singing. They released the other two men and threatened them to tell no one. One of them--Andrew--later shared this testimony of Yona's last moments.

 

From: They loved their enemies by Marian Hostetler, pag. 75-78, 1988, Herald Press,  Scottdale, Pa, USA.

 

 

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