The start of each new year is filled with resolutions. As another year comes to a close, people begin to reflect on the days that have passed. Optimism is high as the ball drops and confetti fills the air.
Gyms are packed. New hobbies are taken up. Old habits are dropped.
Just like a new notebook at the start of a school semester, the year begins fresh. Although change can take place on any day of the year, the start is always a great reminder of the potential that might lie ahead.
And so in the season of New Years’ resolutions, I began to think. What would my resolutions be? As I watched the ball drop, surrounded by family and friends, a wave of incredible thankfulness washed over me. Here I am, 21 years old, being given the opportunity to see another year roll around. A powerful reminder that I still have work to do while here on this earth… For life is not something to be taken for granted. But rather something that is divinely granted. Granted by a loving and incredible God who chooses to use us in His master plan to spread the Gospel.
See, today marks the 21st birthday of my dear friend Emmy. I met Emmy while on my trip to Rwanda last spring. He comes from a country who’s history is marked by death and destruction. Emmy was born shortly before the genocide that took place in Rwanda in April 1994.
Originally, the people of Rwanda lived in peace. Rwanda was made up of thirteen tribes and was united under one language—Kenyarwandan. The Germans were the first to come in and colonize the people in 1894. The Germans divided the Rwandese people into two groups, the Tutsi and the Hutu. Following WW1, the Belgians came in and made the two groups carry identity cards, labeling them as either Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa. The Twa were a small group of hunters and gathers who composed of less than one percent of Rwanda’s population.
The two main racial groups, Tutsi and Hutu, identified one’s socioeconomic status and defined one’s life chances as well as opportunities. Tutsis owned 10 or more cows (a sign of wealth) and comprised 15% of the population. Hutus owned less than 10 cows and made up 84% of the population. Although the people were divided, many intermarried. In this case, a child’s identity was based on the label of the father. Tensions grew between the two groups resulting in civil war, and ultimately, the genocide that killed over 1.2 million people within a three month time span. The Hutus began slaughtering the Tutsi people—people they referred to as cockroaches. By stripping the Tutsi people of their very humanity, the Hutus justified the merciless killings. Neighbors killed neighbors. Family killed family.
Emmy is a survivor, growing up in the aftermath with no parents and hardly any living relatives. To Emmy, making it to 21 years old is a major accomplishment and an incredible blessing. He told me today (we communicate often through Facebook) that he has to thank Jesus. Thank Jesus for 21 years of life. Here is a person who never takes a single breath for granted. And despite growing up with no parents and watching his grandmother/caretaker die, he still celebrates. He still loves. He still gives thanks.
As I talked with him this morning, my heart was so filled with hurt and joy simultaneously. Because these Rwandese people suffered in ways that I will never be able to completely comprehend. And yet, they have such a depth, understanding, and appreciation of life. Life is never taken for granted…
My New Years resolutions can be summed up into two words- Love More. That’s it. And yet it covers everything.
Love God. Love people. Love life.
Loving my God and Savior with increasing intensity, spreading the love of Jesus Christ with each and every person I come into contact with. Loving the days I’ve been given.
At the start of this new year, I’m reminded of the gift of life and the mission of love. And I have Emmy to thank for that.