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An Incredible Story of Faith, Hope and Forgiveness in the Burundian Civil War

An Incredible Story of Faith, Hope and Forgiveness in the Burundian Civil War

Rachael Franklin talks to author Jess Komanapalli and Theo Mbazumutima, whose inspiring story is told in the new biography My Country Wept

How did you come to meet Theo and discover his story?
Jess: My good friend Alison is a missionary in Burundi. She introduced me to Theo when he came to preach at her church and told me that I should hear his testimony. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that’s an incredible story!’
 
What were the challenges in writing this book?
Jess: Living on different continents, bad internet connections and power cuts often made the logistics of interviewing Theo pretty tricky! A big challenge was trying to get Theo to dig down and remember little details of events or conversations, or how he felt at certain times. But Theo was always willing to do what was needed to help recall or find things out.
Theo: The challenge for me was when I had to expose my weaknesses. Part of me wanted to play a strong man of God but when I remembered that I lost my courage in front of people who wanted to kill me, or I remembered that I failed to forgive for many years, these were hard moments.
 
Is this just a book about the Burundian Civil War or does it have relevance to us today?
Jess: Without doubt, Theo’s story has relevance today. The war is just a backdrop for situations and crises we all go through. This is a book about God’s love for all of his children. It’s a book about faith in trials, about the power and beauty in the acts of repentance and forgiveness, about God’s ability to rescue us from, and even use, our most difficult and painful experiences, and about the good purposes and plans God has for each of us.
 
What strikes you most about Theo’s story?
Jess: Theo has endured and experienced so many traumatic and unbelievable hardships, but he has emerged from it all with a strong faith and commitment to God, and with a desire to help transform the lives of other people. He was always adamant that he shouldn’t be made a hero in any way but was open about his failings and about the times when he was angry with God or doubted him. Theo always pointed to God as the hero in this story.
 
Theo, have you learned anything new by looking back over your life?
Theo: God is trustworthy, and whatever he allows in our lives is the best he has for us. We may not understand it then, we may not even understand it in this life, but I now have the chance to see things from my past and say that God could not have given me any better life experience.
 
You now run REMA Ministries working with refugees in Burundi. What inspired you to do so?
Theo: I remembered the different promises I made when I was asking God to save me from death. I always said out of desperation: “God if you save me, I will serve you for the rest of my life”. And one day I was complaining that the Church was doing nothing to assist us refugees. God’s answer was surprising: “You are the Church”, and I knew that I had to do something to assist refugees, and REMA Ministries was born.
 
What do you hope readers will get out of reading My Country Wept ?
Jess: I hope readers will be extremely encouraged in their faith. Theo’s story has helped me remember just how powerfully God can act on our behalf to intervene in any situation and to direct our paths. I also hope it challenges those who are struggling with issues of forgiveness or repentance to allow God to do a work in their lives which will bear much fruit.
Theo: It is my hope and my prayer that people will understand that we can depend on God for every detail of our life. Even if we do not understand what is going on, the author of our life is trustworthy and will lead us through. 
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My Country Wept (Paperback)
Komanapalli, Jessica
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