The Story of Us

True or False? Every Problem has a Solution!

  • Gwen Reimer, Blog Coordinator
  • Program Director, EIS
Sarah Simbe Nakur
Sarah Simbe Nakur

News spread in my hometown village that Sarah is back home safe and sound. A miracle has taken place! It roused the curiosity of many!

Everyone who heard about it felt that it was impossible, therefore was curious to personally hear the story. People, including those I did not expect, started flocking to my father’s house to personally hear the story. One by one or in a group they came. Tell us, how did you get here? How did you escape? They would ask.

Dad, astounded by my presence, said Simbi is still alive! With a smile, I narrated the whole story. Attentively he listened and at the end of the story, he said: “This is a miracle! One thing I request of you, my daughter, please make sure you write a book for I know this story will help many”. Since then, I have been sharing my story “Miracle Escape” as those questions repeatedly come when I interact with people. I also share it in the fulfillment and in light of this verse (Psalm118:17: You shall not die but live and tell the great things that the Lord has done); which kept me going during the times of Rwandan 1994 calamities, where over a million people died in short period of time.

I was a university student with only two months until graduation. On Wednesday, April 6th, I went to bed earlier than usual, to be awaken by my roommate around 8 o’clock in the evening, who was listening to the news on the radio. “Did you hear that?” “What?” I replied. “Someone shot down the president’s airplane” was the response. Everything changed in the twinkling of an eye. Fear, anger, distrust got hold of everyone who heard the bad news. Thousands of questions swirled in our minds! Chaos was at hand.

Students, including those who lived outside the campus, sought shelter in my bedroom till morning. It was a night of uncertainty and fear. Some students had already lost their parents and were waiting to hear the sad news. The next day, it was clear that no one on the flight survived. This increased fear to both Hutus and Tutsis, based on the country’s history. The children of some dignitaries got evacuated from campus and foreigners’ students found shelter in the homes of other foreigners who worked at the campus. Rwandan and Burundian students were left at the mercies of the soldier who came to protect the campus though the presence and actions of some of them were more terrifying.

Thursday afternoon, the chaos began when hundreds of displaced people in the area came to seek shelter at the campus. The extremist Hutus and militias men in the area had turned their focus on Tutsis, moderate Hutus and any other Hutu exhibiting physical Tutsi’s traits and by late evening, a son of one of the Rwandan government ministers got killed by unknown men.

Friday morning everyone in my room left and I stayed there alone. The mass killings started around 9:00 am. The killers brought both individuals who sought shelter at the campus and students outside; and atrociously killed both young and old.

Alone in my room, I resolved to praying and asked God about my fate. I asked Him to speak to me through the Bible. I said, “let where I place my right thumb be the answer”. I closed my eyes, opened my Bible to Isaiah 41:10-13, and this is what I read: “Fear not for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I’ll strengthen you. Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand “…You can read the whole verses.

Can you imagine? I’m in my room and I’m reading, Fear not, but outside there are people – lots of people – some are killing, and others are being killed, but I’m being told, Fear not. It was a relief, but my assurance didn’t last long once I considered what was happening outside. I asked God again for help. I turned to my Bible, and I landed on Isaiah 43:1 which told me again to fear not and God will be with me. As I was not fully convinced, I asked God for another chance to speak to me. At this time my thumb landed on Psalm 91 and verse 7-9 caught my attention. It says: “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.8 Only with your eyes shall you look. It was a clear answer to my request that made me so strong. I was convinced that nothing could touch me. Then I said, “God, let’s make a deal! Because Tutsis are being killed, let whoever sees me, see me as a Hutu and let all fear be gone.” As soon as I said “Amen”, a soldier came to my room and asked me if there were Tutsis in the room. A male student came behind him and said to leave the room alone as there were no Tutsis there. Then I was rounded up with the other students and led outside for the final triage to determine the next person to be killed.

Staying inside or going outside both meant death to me but I encouraged myself to go outside. Staying inside was the worse decision that required more explanation. Going outside, though it meant death, meant less explanation to provide. When I saw the dead bodies in front of me, soldiers and the militias men ready to kill and screaming at me, I lost my courage to proceed. Lo and behold, a man that I did not know up to now, came and said: “Do not touch this woman! I know her, she is my neighbor. She was born in my neighborhood.” All the soldiers and militias kept quiet.

To tell you the truth, I was born in Kenya, lived in the southern part of Rwanda but went to school in the north and lived on the campus. I was not from the north or his neighbor as he said, but his words were efficient to save my life.

I quietly watched everything that took place on the field and could not believe that it was indeed real. Though I met all the criteria to be killed, no one dared to touch me.

When the killing subsided, I made my way to a paved a path where I saw bodies to my left and to my right and remembered what I read in Psalm 91 and was speechless. I joined other students at the cafeteria, and no one could understand how I was still alive! Everything I read in the Bible kept me going. I saw God honoring his promises.

Later that night, we slept outside, and two Hutu male students came and sat next to me to offer protection for me as I lay down till the following morning. In the evening, we moved away from the campus to a different town and slept in a stadium on a cold cement floor. The next morning a soldier came to my group and said he wanted to shed some blood before he went to work. He was thinking about me, and when he saw me looking at him, something changed his mind, and he went to talk to another student before he came to me. He couldn’t understand why I was still alive and why he could not even approach me, from the previous attempt he had made with intentions to kill me. He came up to me and shook my hand and said, “Don’t be afraid. You are not going to die and you will not die. Goodbye!”

Later, we decided to move back south. On our way, at each roadblock, we were brought down for screening and at each block I miraculously escaped death. I still vividly remember a very short Hutu man carrying a machete. I mean very, very short, his height could be at the level of my armpit, he took my ID and compared it to his own and said, “Look, this woman when she was 16, she looked just like me. Can you look at this picture, can you see it? Maybe she comes from a rich family, that is why you see what you see now. Don’t touch her!” No one dared to say a word and they let me cross.

I finally made it home after miraculously escaping two other dangerous roadblocks, where killers were confused, scared and quarreled because of me.

Home again, my mind brought to memories what I saw and that brought anger and resentment, till the day I knelt before God to express my feelings. There, I found forgiveness and healing. Shortly after my arrival, I was united with other family members for a short period of time before chaos hit the area. The family got scattered again, each one miraculously escaping death at roadblocks. My ordeal continued till I found a way to exit the country and went back to Kenya, where I was born and where I completely recovered from trauma before making it to Canada. Thus, with confidence I can assure everyone that each problem, no matter how hard it may be, has a solution!