Monday, May 27, 2019

Mount TBR - From Barefoot to Bishop: A Rwandan Refugee's Journey

Title: From Barefoot to Bishop
Author: Rt. Rev. Dr. Laurent Mbanda
Genre: Memoir
Publication Year: 2017

I've never really been one to read a lot of nonfiction, but in addition to wanting to read more classics this year, I've also decided to work through my pile of nonfiction books that have been spent years on the lonely shelves of my bookcase.

Since I work for an NGO, I am always curious about those who have made the journey out of poverty. I heard about Laurent Mbanda through my mother who had read his book and gave a copy to me last year sometime. He is not a young man, so he was not a refugee during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Instead, when he calls himself a refugee, it is from his childhood when, in November of 1959, he and his family fled the first in a wave of massacres against the Tutsi people in Rwanda.

From that time on, Laurent Mbanda spent his life as a refugee. He lived in refugee camps in neighboring Burundi where they were accepted as a necessity but never truly welcomed. He knew hunger and hopelessness. He also found a relationship with Jesus Christ during this time. A child's faith is sometimes the strongest faith we will ever encounter and I am awed by the strength of Dr. Mbanda's faith during these hardest years of his life.

He knew early in his formative years that he wanted to go into ministry. So he strived to reach that goal, no matter the cost. Even if it meant illegally trekking 500 miles into Kenya to attend a seminary. These years were incredibly hard, but each year, each step he took, moved him further along the path God had set for him to walk. He ended up married to a lovely Rwandan woman and together they journeyed to Colorado so each of them could pursue higher education. While in Colorado, they welcomed 3 beautiful children into their home. 

Eventually, Dr. Mbanda ended up serving high up in the ranks of NGO Compassion International for 17 years. It was during this time that the Rwandan genocide of 1994 happened and he went back to Rwanda under Compassion's banner to do what he could to alleviate the pain and suffering of his people.

His time with Compassion ended in 2010 when he was pressed by the Lord to become Bishop of the Shyria Diocese for the Anglican church in northern Rwanda. 

This book enthralled me. To read of a man with such faith in the face of such trials is inspiring and intimidating in that I have never faced trials of my own, not like Laurent Mbanda's trials. How would I have reacted in his place? I don't know. But I'm thankful to him for telling his story. I'm glad I read it, and I'm glad I can share my profound appreciation for his journey with others through this review.