Today I’d like to welcome Rick Sheffer, husband to Dr. Ilene Sheffer, who will tell the story of their recent journey to Rwanda. The link below will take you to a pdf file he prepared, which tells the true story of their adventure, and an explanation of the reason for their visit.
This story is remarkable. It shows how sometimes simply “doing the right thing,” can have enormous, lasting consequences, indeed even saving lives. Between 1985 and 1994, Dr. Ilene Sheffer saw the opportunity to do something “small,” (as she puts it,) by helping young people from Rwanda come to America to study. But in the spring of 1994 something ominous occurred, affecting these students.
Word from relatives in Belgium began pouring in that their family and friends were being killed back in their home country at an alarming rate. At the same time, absolutely no word of these atrocities was being reported in the American press. In desperation, the students turned to the one person they felt could help them sort through their trauma.
That person was Ilene.
At this time, over 45 Rwandan students were in southwestern Michigan attending regional colleges and universities. Without means of support from family, Ilene went about finding part-time employment for “her students” and trying to get help from the U.S. Government. Meanwhile, the Rwandan ambassador to the United States demanded the deportation of the students, a fate that spelled certain death. Further, they demanded the names and addresses of all current and past Rwandan students who attended Ilene’s college.
The demand was refused.
Next, the FBI came to investigate, and Ilene found herself in the middle! Naturally, the Rwandans were cleared of the wild accusations made by their ambassador, and the FBI concluded Ilene had done nothing improper.
Yet, virtually all of these students lost all of their families and friends back in Rwanda, where over 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered by their Hutu countrymen over a brief 90 day period.
Fast forward to 2011; those 60 students have started families of their own. They’ve married. They’ve had children. Every one completed their degree program. Some even went on to finish Masters and Doctoral degrees, but all of the students, and their families, believe they are alive today because of Ilene’s involvement in their lives. For 17 years they’ve sought to host her in Rwanda. The link below tells the story of the fulfillment of that wish.
Click the link below to read more about this remarkable, and inspirational true story. When you’re done, leave a comment below if you feel moved.