Beauty for Ashes Isaiah 61:3

Esther is a woman with a burning passion for girls sold into prostitution at very young ages such as 13 and 14 years old. She lives in Nyamitanga near Mbarara, Uganda.  She is originally from Rwanda and when she was 8 years old, her parents were killed in the Rwandan genocide.  Her father was a cattle keeper and was on a list to be killed.  He was of the Tutsi tribe and was referred to as a cockroach.

The Rwandan Genocide was From April to July 1994. Members of the Hutu ethnic majority in the east-central African nation of Rwanda murdered as many as 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority. Begun by extreme Hutu nationalists in the capital of Kigali, the genocide spread throughout the country with staggering speed and brutality, as ordinary citizens were incited by local officials and the Hutu Power government to take up arms against their neighbors. By the time the Tutsi-led Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) gained control of the country through a military offensive in early July, hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were dead and many more displaced from their homes. The RPF victory created 2 million more refugees (mainly Hutus) from Rwanda, exacerbating what had already become a full-blown humanitarian crisis.  History.com Staff (2009) The Rwandan Genocide Retrieved November 30, 2016 from the World Wide Web: http://www.history.com/topics/rwandan-genocide

After Esther’s mom was killed, her dad took her and her siblings to hide in a sorghum field. There were many people hiding in these large fields.  There was a certain man who was in a position of authority and friend to her father.  Her father thought that this man was going to help them, but he didn’t.  This man sent dogs into the bush to find them.  During the genocide, these dogs were starved and were trained to eat blood and feed on the bodies of the deceased.  Dogs tracked and found Esther’s dad in the field and she watched as this so called friend slit her dad’s throat with a machete.  Her dad’s body was then used as a road block.

While hiding in these fields, she found a familiar friend who was about 18 years old and so they ran together and walked long distances. They reached the river near the border and stayed in the swamps.  They drank the swamp water and fed on papyrus- a type of tree.  They tried to swim in the water of the River Kagera which is a branch of the River Nile on the border, but the current was too strong. She hid in the swamp with her friend and eventually they crossed over into Uganda.  After the genocide was over, she ended up reuniting and living with her uncle, the only surviving sibling to her dad.  He lived in Rwanda.  This uncle was desperate for money and so he prostituted her to men instead of loving and caring for her.  He also had intentions of selling her in exchange for cows when she was 11 years old.  She eventually ran away with the help of another older friend and ended up living permanently in Uganda.

David is a survivor from living on the streets of western Uganda from the time he was 9 years old until he was 18 years old. His parents were imprisoned during the persecution of Christians by Idi Amin’s regime. This was the time of the revival movement in western Uganda which saw churches being closed. Bishop Elijah, David’s father, was an evangelist, so imprisoning him was an aim to weaken the influence of Christianity as well as weaken the spread of the gospel in the region. This left David and the rest of his siblings to fend for themselves. David’s older brother was imprisoned and this increased his fears.  Feeling insecure, David ran away from home and fled to Mbarara from his village in Bushenyi- Nyakashebeya.  Here he joined other young boys on the street and they became a family.  Life on the street was extremely difficult.  David and the other street kids were often beaten for begging or because of accusations of stealing.  They made their home under an avocado tree where under the tree there was also a rubbish pit that they ate from.  On days when it rained, public latrines became their homes; they would cover the hole in the ground and sleep.  Many of the kids that David lived with on the streets fell sick and died. After several years, it came to be that a local pastor started visiting with the street kids regularly and took them swimming in the river and played football with them. He would also bring them food every Sunday.  Slowly by slowly, they built a friendship and trust with this Pastor.  This man ended up rescuing David from the streets and let him come to live with him.  After living with the Pastor for 1 year, the pastor helped David trace and reunite with his family. His parents were released from prison when Amin’s regime ended.  All of his siblings are alive and well today.

Esther and David Kamanzi founded the Home of Love and Dreams. Besides their 5 biological children, they are the parents to twenty two other children who are ex-street kids or rescued from sexual slavery or abuse.

Part 2 will focus on the Home of Love and Dreams…stay tuned!

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