Pastor Dan Muhire can't forget how his Aunt Anizia withered away long before she died at age 50. She survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but her husband and five sons were murdered. Anizia recovered physically after the government replaced the house she had lost. But inside, she still suffered.
"Someone would come to greet her and she would say, 'Why are you greeting me? They have killed my children. Is there hope for me?'" Muhire recalled.
"She would walk aimlessly without knowing where she was going, and then come back in the night." As Muhire spoke at the Worship Center Church in Kigali, voices in the next room cried out to God in the native language of Kinyarwanda. Their singing, clapping, and drumming seemed to strengthen Muhire's resolve.
"We need to give people [hope] to live today by showing them there is life tomorrow. My auntie died because there was no sense of living again."
The Worship Center Church is one of a multitude of new, independent Pentecostal and charismatic churches throughout Rwanda. Most of them have sprung up since 1994. Recovery from trauma is a central feature of these new fellowships.
Pastor Muhire told Christianity Today about a key distinctive of his church: It is committed to addressing trauma holistically for individuals and their extended family. He learned the hard way about the need for a different approach. After his aunt died in 2003, her 33-year-old daughter mysteriously died in her sleep less than 12 months later.
"If there was a church, or counseling, if my aunt was somehow shown the meaning of living again, of why she survived, I believe she would have stayed [alive] longer," Muhire said.
The Big Shift