When I returned from my elective in Zaire, I realised that I knew little about tribal conflicts and the movements of Rwandan refugees. It seemed as if the news coverage over the past three years had passed me by. I had never stopped to think about the realities: God's people, a beautiful part of his creation in the midst of such turmoil, hatred and grief. Lesley Bilinda, a nurse working for Tear Fund in Rwanda, writes about her experiences in the months leading up to the genocide of 1994 and describes her return recently in search of her husband, pastor Charles Bilinda, a Rwandan Tutsi.
The first chapters give a picture of the trials and pleasures of a new culture and the responsibilities working in community healthcare. I respected Lesley Bilinda for living initially with Rwandans and was pleased to read of the rewards that this gave, gaining trust amongst local people and communicating in local languages.
This is followed by an outline of her relationship with Charles Bilinda. She gives insight into their time of seeking God's guidance and detail as to how he brings their two separate paths together. Mingled with this are hints and examples of opposition and challenges associated with their mixed marriage.
The Rwandan conflicts are told chronologically and the events are made more vivid by their careful dating and interlacing with UK News bulletins and international politics. The Colour of Darkness portrays the stench of rotting human flesh and sensation of nausea to an intensity which left me stunned for days afterwards. My disbelief that such hatred can exist lead me to be tempted to think that I was reading a horrific fictional novel.
However, Lesley Bilinda does not only describe her personal tragedy, but she talks of her Rwandan friends, family and colleagues, including countless testimonies of amazing courage and witness to God's grace and comfort.
The steady loss of so much of what Lesley Bilinda had loved and worked for reminded me of the story of Job. The incredible emptiness is most apparent as she realises that God had allowed her to be stripped of her marriage, many friends, her home, job, future aspirations and ambitions. Again and again she upholds God's faithfulness and might and writes about her feelings of the security she finds in him.
I felt immensely privileged to be allowed into someone's deepest thoughts, fears and emotions. It was a humbling experience to hear God speaking through the testimony of The Colour of Darkness - putting our busy and stressful lives into perspective. It made me weep and yet praise God for the hope and peace which he brought to so many in the midst of despair and darkness.
Clinical Medical Student