Carl Wilkens is the former head of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency International in Rwanda. In 1994, he was the only one out of 257 Americans who chose to remain inthe country after the genocide began.
Since 1978, when he first went to Africa as part of a college volunteer program, he has spent 13 years working on the continent. After trainingas a high school shop teacher he later went back to night school and earned an MBA at the University of Baltimore.
I'm sure Rwanda had a huge impact on me becoming a pastor. Inever wanted to be a pastor. … But in Rwanda, [I] began to see that I love building stuff with my hands, and I love doing construction and I like building schools and clinics. Butin Rwanda, you'd see those things destroyed; and you recognize the only thing that really lasted was relationships and what was happening between people. …
When I thinkback to Rwanda, I go different places. It was a great place for our kids to grow up. We moved there to a peaceful country in 1990. They hadn't had any kind of war for years. There wasno violence. You hardly saw a [camouflage] uniform, and I'd lived in other parts of Africa where that was part of the daily life. It was serene. It was peaceful, beautiful. Peopleworked hard -- kind, happy people.
Then your mind flashes to [the] other side, like that time of the genocide. For times, I won't go there; I won't go to the genocide. I willthink about the five years of really good experiences.
I can just imagine survivors. I survived, but I'm not a survivor like the Rwandans. My beautiful [children], my incredible wifeTheresa-- They weren't killed. Surviving obviously is more than just staying alive; surviving is learning how to live again. In that way, I'm not a survivor like the Rwandans. …
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