"The voice of my father"

Gina Grate Pottenger
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
ImageThirteen-year-old Elysee Bayishime decided to disappear for a little while, since he didn’t want to do the chores his father had asked him to do. In 1994 in Rwanda, perhaps that wasn’t the wisest way to rebel. People had been vanishing without a trace for some time.
 
Having wandered outside his family’s safe compound without telling anyone where he was going, the boy suddenly found himself gripped by a soldier.
 
The soldier jerked him along for 10 minutes without saying anything. Frightened, Elysee could not pull away.
 
They arrived at the Kaburi Majengo at Gisenyi graveyard. In the darkness, which obscured his face, the man put a knife to Elysee’s face and began to question him.
 
After a few minutes, the soldier said that he was going to kill the boy.
 
“I started praying within my heart, asking God for help. When he raised up his hand, I told him, ‘Wait a minute, can’t you listen to the voice of my father calling me by name?’ I said it repeatedly.”
 
Distracted and uncertain, the soldier loosened his grip on Elysee. He twisted free and ran for his life back home.
 
From the time he was a small boy, people in the church where his parents were full-time ministers used to call Elysee the “little pastor.” He couldn’t understand it, since although he was well-behaved at church, back home he was disobedient and argumentative.
 
From 1994 to 1996, his family became refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo, driven out of Rwanda by the genocide. War and disease was claiming millions of people’s lives all around them, including Elysee’s youngest sister Cecile, who was struck down by pneumonia and cholera.
 
In 1996, they returned home to Rwanda, but life did not resume normality.
 
“Life was so difficult in our family, in terms of starting a new life without shelter,” he recalls. “My father could only manage to provide food for us one meal a day, and we were being chased from school now and then due to lack of fees.”
 
For five years, teachers, headmasters and fellow students tutored him after class to explain what had been taught during class.
 
In 2001, just as he was about to complete secondary school, a spiritual revival was organized at the school. The timing was from God.
 
Image“I was feeling tired of everything, even of myself. I was thinking how I have been a burden to many people for so long. I was remembering the kind of life our family was living. I deeply thought of myself and my life and I felt empty; this emptiness had troubled me for so long.”
 
The first speaker preached from Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
 
Elysee claimed that promise for his own: He knelt at the altar and received Jesus Christ as savior for the first time. That peace he found in knowing Jesus sustained him during the next six years when he struggled with unemployment and had no money to continue to university. He looked to God to provide, and waited on Him. Also, his friends in the Church of the Nazarene at Gisenyi prayed for and encouraged him.
 
In 2006, he became engaged to Lucie, a longtime friend who attended the Church of the Nazarene in Rwanda. The two relocated to Malawi where they had the wedding ceremony, established a new life and began attending the Ufulu Church of the Nazarene.
 
After all these years, the “little pastor” finally recognized that God was truly calling him to full-time ministry. Both Elysee and Lucie followed God’s leading in 2008 to enroll in the Nazarene Theological College of Central Africa (NTCCA) in Lilongwe, to train and prepare themselves for making Christ-like disciples.
 
They graduated in 2011, then continued their studies with Africa Nazarene University, through its satellite campus in Malawi.
 
While they are finishing their education, Elysee and Lucie took on the challenge to relaunch Nathenje Church of the Nazarene, which had started in 1983 but closed its doors some years later. The group of 19 adults and 25 children are now worshipping regularly together, and have added a nursery school that has enrolled 22 children; and they have a Nazarene Compassionate Ministries child development center that has registered 30 children. These children receive supplemental education, play activities, and memorize Bible verses.
 
ImageLast year, Elysee and Lucie were ordained as elders.
 
“We are so proud to serve God and his people at Nathenje and as ambassadors of the gospel wherever God sends us,” he said.