Pascal Nzabonimpa lived a desolate life in a small village in Rwanda. But his experience with Compassion allowed him to grow strong, survive the Rwandan genocide and become a light to others. "Thanks to Jesus Christ I survived," Pascal says. "I'm a living testimony of what Compassion does. I am Compassion."
They called him "The Chosen One."
That's the nickname people christened Pascal Nzabonimpa as a young child growing up in the small village of Kamabare. Pascal was special because he was a sponsored child attending the Kamabare Student Center in the mountainous section of southern Rwanda.
His sponsorship by the Sutton Elm Baptist Church in the United Kingdom allowed Pascal to eschew his family's normal dinner of boiled water with a tinge of salt for rice, potatoes, beans and even that rarest of delicacies - sweet potatoes.
"My father was a farmer on other people's land and we would have to eat whatever he brought home and many times he came home empty-handed," says Pascal, now 25 and a Compassion sponsor. "But when I joined the project, all that changed. All these wonderful things started happening."
Sponsorship Transforms Lives
Pascal bubbles with gratitude when he speaks about the years he spent at the student center. His home life was troubled. An abusive stepmother, a crowded household and extreme poverty added up to hopelessness and despair. But he received letters from his sponsors and they were life-changing.
"When I did get a letter it meant so much," he said, tears welling, "because it was someone who didn't know me but who sent food to me, clothed me and loved me because of Jesus Christ."
Before he was sponsored Pascal went to church but he says Compassion introduced him to Jesus, someone he could have faith in even when all around him there was despair.
"When you are poor you have nothing but belief," Pascal says. "You depend on Him to survive everyday. You ask Him for your lunch, your dinner; there is nothing you can do on your own without Him."
Indeed, Pascal credits his survival to his relationship with Christ.
Escape to Life
When Pascal was 16 his blissful existence was cut short by the 1994 Rwandan genocide. As a teen he was forced to flee his village.
For nearly two months he walked across his country trying to avoid the Interhamwe, a murderous group of thugs who killed more than 8,000 Rwandans a day for more than three months.
The walk to freedom was perilous. Each new town or road could've meant certain death. Pascal was scared. Still, he felt comforted because Jesus was with him on this journey. Eventually, Pascal escaped to the United States where he recently graduated from a community college. He plans to enter the University of North Carolina in the fall.
"Thanks to Jesus Christ, I survived," says Pascal, who now travels the United States telling others about Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program. "I'm a living testimony of what Compassion does. I am Compassion. And now I am able to tell my story and hopefully someone will decide to sponsor a child, someone else who is just like me."
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