By Bishop Godfrey Mawa
It was during my holidays from the university, that I received an invitation from the head quarters of Victory Churches of Rwanda under the presidency of Bishop Joseph Kamanza, to go and minister in Kigali Rwanda.
As a young, upcoming Missionary and Evangelist, I was so happy and excited for the opportunity to serve. When the day for my travels commenced, I packed my luggage, dressed casually, fixed my shades upon my small handbag, a walkman player on my waist, my bible and camera in the handbag.
On Monday, early in the morning of September 15th 2003, after a moment of prayer with my mother, she escorted me to the Jaguar bus Station in Kampala City. So I could board for my mission trip. I have always loved sitting in the front seat or any seat next to the window for better sightseeing. The window of course helps me enjoy my long journeys as traveling is one of my hobbies.
It was a long trip but we arrived safely in Kigali where I found my hosts warmly waiting for me. Thy took me home, I rested and the next day the mission started. I ministered in what was one of my greatest ministries in my life. Throughout the week, I witnessed souls commit their lives to Christ and the Lord healing, touching, changing and giving hope to lives of the Rwandese people.
Remember that at that time, it had only been 9 years since the Rwandan genocide and only 5 years later the massacre of the Hutus, The whole country was still going though a lot of pain due to the loss of their loved ones and they needed to hear the message of hope, healing and forgiveness. The harvest was so ripe. It was a great honor to witness many people commit their lives to the Lord and be set free from bondage.
Eve of the tragedy
On my last day in Kigali City, the Sunday of September 20th, I ministered until late in the night as there were many people in need of prayer and counseling. We went back home and I packed mu stuff because I had to travel back to Uganda the next morning. So before I went to sleep, I asked my hosts to wake me up very early in the morning and drive me to the station. I was most concerned about obtaining that front seat, so I could get my pictures taken of all the particular magnificent scenes I had memorized on the way.
Early in the morning, my hosts did as I had requested, and so we got to the bus station ahead of schedule. The bus attendants were so impressed, they even welcomed me saying, ‘hey, you’re our first passenger this morning’ as they took charge of my luggage. With excitement, I rushed onto the Bus. I wanted to secure the front seat by leaving my handbag there, right next o the drivers’s seat.
Upon reaching the front seat and to my shear dismay, I found some people resting there. I was so disappointed. What could have been my seat has already been occupied. My goal of taking perfect pictures would never be fulfilled. Of course, these people didn’t know how important that was to me.
However, the bus attendants explained to me that the people seated in the front seats where from Burundi, and they were just passing through Rwanda. So they had spent the night resting in the bus. I sadly looked for an alternative seat in the middle area of the buss where I placed my handbag. I tried to distract myself by moving out of the bus to keep chasing with my hosts while we waited for more passengers to arrive. But I was disappointed.
Little did I know that the Lord was involved in every move to save my life for His own glory. On filing the passenger seats, I bid goodbye t my hosts and boarded the bus. The bus set off for Uganda 6 a.m that morning.
At that time, our buses didn’t have speed governors. It wasn’t until this day occurred that our government saw the need for speed governors due to the rampant increase in accidents killing people from speeding vehicles and reckless drivers.
As we drove along the Katuna-Kabale highway, our bus was definitely speeding. Approaching our bus was a World Food Program (WFP) trailer carrying loads of maize sacks on transit to the Republic of Burundi through Rwanda, Both drivers of the Jaguar Bus and the World Food Program trailer, with confidence, didn’t reduce their speed or think of an alternative amidst the speedy motion on the highway.
A little earlier after crossing the Rwanda/Uganda boarder, our bus drove keeping left. Yet later, our bus driver moved our bus from the left side to the right hand side of the road, which was actually wrong. It’s assumed that our driver was sure he was on the right . Yet the driver of the World Food Program trailer coming right towards us was also sure and confident he was driving on the right side and he was right, Investigations assume that this was the cause of what I now know as my worst life-changing event.
Earlier on, when we arrived at the boarder, we cleared our passports at the Rwanda/Uganda immigration office and crossed over. I had real conversations and joked around with some of the passengers that were traveling with me. Little did I know that in a few minutes they would be no more.
I was inspired to calmly sing a Swahili song I had learnt in Rwanda – Sounds as though my spirit had sensed an unusual restless in my spirit. We got back into the bus, and started our journey from Katuna towards Kabale district. A few minutes after we had set off from the boarder, the Spirit of the Lord deposited it strongly upon my spirit that something horrible was about to happen.
It was quite scary, and I somehow thought this was a threat from the devil. I cast away the spirit of fear and the evil spirits in Jesus’ name in a short quiet prayer.
My spirit so troubled and disturbed, rendered me restless, I begun to sweat. I knew something was going wrong, thought I didn’t know what it was exactly – I was compelled to make a prayer I never thought I would, more so, in my youthful days. This was not an ordinary moment in my life. This was my prayer; Lord, should anything happen to us, please receive my spirit. After the prayer, there was peace within me and stillness in my spirit, I am glad God holds the key to the unknown.
The Arab Woman
Seated beside me in the bus was an Arab woman. She turned to me and inquired, ‘Hey young man, are you a Rwandese?’
’No’, I responded. ‘Had you just come to do business or visit relatives in Rwanda?’
’No mama!’ I replied. ‘I came to Rwanda to preach,” I added. ‘Oh, so you are a preacher?’ She inquired.
‘Yes’, I replied. I saw this as an opportunity to share the love of God and good news of Jesus Christ to this woman.
I begun t tell her more about Christ and what He did for all of us at the cross of Calvary. I told her how He paid the price for the remission of sins and God’s promise to anyone who believes in His son Jesus Christ and confesses Him as Lord of their lives. I even asked her if she wanted to accept Christ as her personal Lord and Savior, but she declined.
Those few minutes after speaking to her still remain as one of the worst memories of my life. I suddenly heard a heavy bang, and them the munching crash.
The two giant vehicles had crushed so hard into each other that we were all swooped off the road landing on a building beside the road. Seated outside the building were women who had been running their daily chores before they were instantly buried dead beneath the rubble of the building.
I remember the crash, like the sound of a heavy destructive earthquake taking us by surprise. It’s hard to explain this misfortune due to the limitation of diction. Then came the fruitful anguish cry of those dying – glass was shattering, smashing, blood splattering, mixed together with the rush of terror and only horror to follow as everyone struggled o cling to live, if only there was a second chance.
I can still hear the groans of those who lost their well “invested-in” lives and their deep regrets. The knowledge that this situation, this moment was irreversible. It’s over, its over, and the world is vanity.
From my mouth I shouted ‘Jesus!’ it was a narrow spin from the gates of death – an absolute escape from the plot and snares that satan had set against my life. All this happened within a niche of time. And suddenly, a calm silence! You could hear a pin drop..then, the groans of those dying started yo erupt. I found my mouth uttering words I didn’t now or understood, until i begun to say, I won’t die. But will live yo see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
I looked around and all I could see were dead bodies strewn all around me. There were brains and bloodstreams all around. What a mess! Dead people had fallen from the back upon me; people’s blood was all over me.
Multitudes of people gathered all over the accident scene. They begun to wail and cry. Never had they seen such a mass of people perish at one-go. They were so frightened and confused. I heard them cry out saying; ‘Everybody is dead,. But then, I couldn’t help myself out because I was fixed in a corner of the wreck; dead people has fallen upon me, including the Arab lady who was seated right next to me. I didn’t know whether i was inured or not, all I knew was that I was alive. I felt no pain. I was amazed and overwhelmed. So, I waited.
Shortly after, someone looked through the window and saw my lips moving and shouted, ‘someone’s alive in here.’ So the locals got an ax and broke through the wrecked bus where I was trapped. They pulled me out and laid me down, that is when i learnt that my left hand had sustained a fracture and my clavicle bone was seriously damaged.
Elsewhere, they kept searching for any possible survivors and secure some of the victim’s property. I was carried into a small car that belonged to a good samaritan and they rushed me to the nearest hospital in Kabale. As I was being slowly driven off from the accident scene, I saw heads, hands, legs, bones of the victims aligned in rows and more being collected. Blood, brains and liquids were all over. human flesh plastered on the walls of the wrecked bus.
Later, the Uganda Red Cross ambulance picked me up and rushed me to Mulago hospital in Kampala. It was in the hospital that I begun to share the good tidings of Jesus christ and witnessed many lives committing themselves to Christ. This miracle lives on to this day.
The media reported twice that I was dead, even after my voice had been heard over the radio on that fateful day telling my testimony. Some of my friends wept and started to mourn when they read in the papers that I was among the dead. They’d know of my mission trip to Rwanda.
The devil is so fast at making all possible ways for sad news to be transmitted, but good news shut up his mouth, instantaneously. I left he accident scene crushed and wounded, but not destroyed.