One hour after leaving the Genocide Museum in Nyamata, we stood at the edge of a large marsh with a about 100 residents of Bugesera. Instead of the muted colors and hushed tones of the memorial, we were now surrounded by a swaying, singing crowd of worshipers, each dressed in their best and brightest clothing. Smiling and shouting praises, they came to bear witness as 20 new believers gave their lives to Jesus Christ in baptism.
Moving from the witness of death and evil at the Genocide memorial, directly to the testimony of faith and new life at this baptism service is the most extreme contrast I have ever experienced. It was Stunning.
This is the gospel on display.
Here is a list of gospel words: Forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, healing, transformation, grace, faith, hope, and love.
Now lift these words off the page and set them down in the streets and fields of a war torn country. Bring them into the hearts and homes of the people of Rwanda. Lay them like healing ointment on open wounds.
The gospel works. It stands up to the most extreme challenge. In the darkest of circumstances, it brings light and life.
The gospel is more than a list of words, it’s a story – the record of God’s intervention in a world where ultimate evil is real. The gospel story is radical; filled with darkness and light, struggle and sacrifice, grace, forgiveness, healing, hope, and, ultimately, the victory of God. Pulsing at the center of the story are the cross and the resurrection of Christ.
The people of Bugesera have their own story – tragic and tainted with hatred, violence, abuse, shame, guilt, and loss. The gospel is the only story big enough, radical and rich enough, to counter the narrative of death in Rwanda. This is how the gospel works. God meets story with story. The story sparks living faith. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe (Romans 1:16).
I’ve seen the power of the gospel displayed over and over. I’m convinced of it. It’s a core conviction. I’ve seen it in Rwanda, where a new, gospel centered church is springing up at the epicenter of tragedy, injustice, and death. I’ve seen it in Portland, where the need for forgiveness and redemption, reconciliation and transformation is just as real. The power of the gospel is real for me, and for you, and for each person we will encounter today.
The power of the gospel is the second core conviction I’ll be coming back to often in Salt and Stir. Now you know the reason why.
For the first core conviction, the reality of evil, see my previous post: Three Burning Convictions.