Post written by David Chesley
God is remarkably faithful.
My name is David Chesley, and I am serving a judicial internship in the Republic of Uganda in East Africa, assisting Justice Michael Chibita of the Supreme Court of Uganda.
I also have the opportunity to witness many different areas of the law, mostly working for a judge, but also assisting in plea bargaining for criminal defendants who do not have lawyers. It is a daunting project, in no small part because I will be supporting many people who have committed serious crimes, but the living God I serve has graciously prepared me for the experience.
Flight to Uganda
That preparation began on my flight in late May from Washington-Dulles International Airport to Brussels, Belgium. I had the opportunity to sit on the plane next to a middle-aged woman from Rwanda, East Africa, who had moved to Luxembourg some thirty years earlier. She was a French speaker with little English knowledge, and I learned French as a boy growing up in Africa myself, so she was overjoyed to meet me and to be able to communicate.
Besides helping her to translate in occasional conversations with airline staff, I enjoyed chatting and getting to know her. In the course of time, I discussed what was bringing me to Uganda, including my interest in the law and my faith in Jesus Christ, something she shared. I called her “Maman,” or “Mom,” a traditional African way of expressing respect and affection for someone older than yourself, and she lit up. Then she shared what had brought her from Luxembourg to visit the Washington, D.C., area. Her story floored me.
Her name was Immaculée, and she has given me permission to share her story with you. She had suffered as a young wife and mother during the Rwandan genocide of the early 1990s, when most of her family were killed by their very own next-door neighbors. She was left with just two siblings out of almost a dozen and two young children. She decided to take the little ones with her to Europe in search of a new life.
Mercifully, her life in Luxembourg over the past decades has been a peaceful one, and she has since started a successful business, remarried, and seen her children grow up hard-working and healthy.
However, as she shared with me, she still carried her grief and anger toward the cruel people who had senselessly scarred her and her family. She had learned to live with this grief, but for whatever reason, my small kindnesses in chatting with her on the plane gave her the courage to tell me the story.
A less-than-professional selfie photo of the two of us is attached with her permission.
She had flown to the U.S. to visit her old neighbors from Rwanda, now immigrated to America—family members of the very people who had killed her own family many years ago. She could not express why she had accepted the invitation to visit this family; they had not expressed remorse or offered any apology.
I was at a loss. Yet as I listened to her, affirming that I could not relate to her story but that I was amazed by her courage and, more importantly, that our Savior Jesus Christ understood her suffering in a way I could not, somehow she began to receive healing from her grief by the Holy Spirit. I cannot explain the interaction. I know only that it was a privilege for me to share in her healing. As she questioned why she had come to America to visit these heartless former neighbors, I thought of a verse.
In English, it reads, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’”Romans 12:19-21
This humble, kind woman who had suffered greater pain than I ever have saw that God would hold her persecutors accountable, in this life or the next, and that she did not need to carry the weight of unanswered grief; He was carrying it. Vengeance is His, and He will indeed repay.
This truth was God’s gift to me as well as I work with criminal defendants. Vengeance is His, and He will repay. It is for me only to serve Him.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Student Staff member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.