Throughout scripture, God uses unexpected people to teach us what it means to be God’s children. A group of orphans in ZOE’s empowerment program (www.zoehelps.org) taught me what it means to respond to God’s forgiveness.
The members of this orphan group in Rwanda understand what it is to walk in the wilderness. After the loss of their parents, they were abused and exploited by many in their own community both physically and emotionally. They rejoiced at the opportunity to join with other children through ZOE, to pull each other out of extreme poverty. Together, they would start businesses, grow food, learn to stay healthy, achieve an education, protect one another, and experience God’s love and healing.
One of their group businesses was keeping a goat herd. It turns out that the goats liked each other, and the group wound up with many more offspring than they had anticipated. As they met to decide what to do with their abundance, they reflected on God’s redemption of their lives and call to forgive others. As a group, they selected 12 families from the community which had once abused them. To each of these families, the orphans presented a goat as a visible act of Christian reconciliation and forgiveness.
As we prepare for the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, will we remember that we cannot accept God’s grace in our own lives while denying it to others? If a group of orphans in Rwanda can forgive deep physical and mental offenses against them – offenses which placed their very lives in jeopardy and still leave emotional scars – how much more can I forgive the offenses and slights I have received, even as God forgives my own sin? May African orphans lead us in this Lenten season through their example.