Will you give a cup of water?

Hello, this is Heidi Saxton, Father Ubald’s editor from his upcoming book “Forgiveness Makes You Free.” Last June Father hosted my husband Craig and me to the Center for the Secret of Peace in southwest Rwanda. It was an amazing place! He showed us several projects that he had undertaken to minister to the needs of the people there, and it has been a great privilege to share those experiences you here in this blog.

In addition to his building projects and evangelism meetings throughout the country, he has also been actively working to raise up a group of Catholic men and women known as the “Missionaries of Peace.” They have a center of formation, with Sister Victoire (below) teaching these young men and women all they will need to know to be witnesses to peace.  Here are a few pictures we took of our time together!

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IMG_3006They are a joyful, prayerful, and generous group of people. Listening to them speak about their work, I was touched by their simple trust in God’s provision. They have seventy in formation at present, and it costs about $120 to feed and house a single novice each year. Please pray for them, that God would provide all they need to continue their important work of reconciliation and peace. For more information, or to make a donation, go here.

 

“Open my ears, Lord…”

Next weekend Father Ubald will be at the WINE Conference at the Immaculate Conception Parish in Somerset NJ. Please pray for him as he continues his healing ministry in the weeks ahead. Please also pray for his new book, as we (Father Ubald and his editor, Heidi Saxton) will be putting the final edits into the manuscript during that weekend!

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If you ask Father Ubald how he heals people — and there have been many people healed through his healing prayer services — he will quickly put things in proper perspective. “Jesus heals. Only Jesus. I am only his instrument. You must open yourself to Jesus, and let him do the work he wants to do in you.”

In Forgiveness Makes You Free, he describes five important steps to opening the heart to Jesus, to making yourself ready to receive his healing: Thank God with faith for all he has done for you. Forgive and receive forgiveness. Renounce evil. Decide to live for Jesus. Receive with joy the blessings he wants to give you — and share those blessings with others, especially through your testimony.

If you have a healing story that you would like to share, either in a future book or on this blog, please send it to Heidi Saxton at heidi(dot)hess(dot)saxton(at)gmail(dot)com.

 

“The LORD has eyes for the just…”

Today’s reading from the Psalms reminds us that our God, while merciful, is also a God of justice. With each refrain, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” (Psalm 34), we also read of the God who is “close to the brokenhearted,” who saves “those who are crushed in spirit.” This is just as true for believers in the United States as it is in Rwanda.

The medicine of the Great Physician, the call to forgiveness and mercy, has a bitter taste at first. And yet, in time the sweetness emerges in peace, in reconciliation, even in joy. — HHS 

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It had been seventeen years since she first asked Father Ubald to pray for her to have a child. Seventeen years since she had offered herself to Our Lady of Love, and asked for her to pray for her healing. Year by year, her hope began to fade. After ten years, she stopped going to church. After fifteen, she had resigned herself to the fact that she would never be a mother.

And then it happened. The stirrings began. And a child was born. She had not been forgotten, though she had tried to forget. She came forward at the healing service at the Center, and asked for forgiveness for having doubted. The small, sleeping  bundle in her arms made Father Ubald’s eyes light with joy. “Thank you, Jesus.”

As the interpreter whispered this young woman’s story in my ear, I was deeply moved. I remembered the stories that had been sent to me while we were putting the book together — we needed only enough for a chapter, but could have had enough for a book. Each of those stories was a sign of God’s love, just as this tiny child had been. God has not forgotten the people of Rwanda, those who cry out for justice. “From all their distress he rescues them.” And when he does, they come to the Center to tell what God has done.

What has God done for you? Have you shared your story? Will you share the blessing? If you would like to help Father Ubald continue this important ministry all over the world, please make your donation here. No gift is too small. Each gift is an answered prayer.

Heidi Hess Saxton is Father Ubald’s editor at Ave Maria Press. Father Ubald’s book, Forgiveness Makes You Free will be released in April 2019. You can read more of Heidi’s writing on her blog “Life on the Road Less Traveled.”

Forgiving Jesus at Our Lady of Kibeho

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The National Shrine of Our Lady of Kibeho has become a popular place of pilgrimage for both Rwandans and those coming from every corner of the world to hear the story of the Blessed Mother appearing to those three schoolgirls, warning them of the coming devastation and predicting the genocide that would soon cover the land in a river of blood. Immaculée Ilibagiza, herself a survivor of the genocide and a good friend of Father Ubald’s, frequently leads pilgrimages there. You can find more about her schedule here.

While traveling with Fr. Ubald, he told us the true story of a spiritual healing that had recently taken place at the shrine in Kibeho while he was preaching about forgiveness as the way to find peace. When Fr. Ubald challenged those present to forgive those who had harmed them, a man came forward to give testimony. He said he had grown very hard against God and the Church because of how he had suffered during the genocide, having lost so many people who had been dear to him — including his wife.

Years after the genocide, he had remarried a woman who was a devout Catholic, who had prayed for her new husband to find peace. When she heard that Father Ubald was having a retreat for victims of the genocide, she encouraged her husband to attend — but he refused. She did not press the issue, but continued to pray.

The day of the retreat, the man had a change of heart while he was out milking the cow. He called his wife to bring him some water to clean himself up, and told her that he was going to the retreat. They went to the church together, and when it came time for those who had been harmed to stand up and announce their intention to forgive, he announced, “The first person I forgive is Jesus.” He strongly believed that Jesus had turned his back on him back in 1994.

“Some were shocked, even horrified, that the man would say such a thing … ” admitted Father Ubald to me as he relayed the story. “But the next week he was back. He said to me, ‘Now it is I who must beg pardon. I must say I am sorry for keeping this hatred in my heart for so long.'” Like so many others, he had felt betrayed by the very people who should have shown him the love of God. “That is why we need so badly to build the Chapel of God the Father,” said Father Ubald. “The people need to be reminded that we are all children of one heavenly Father — God the Father.”

He took us inside, where the scaffolding still filled the sanctuary, though the workers had stopped building because there was no money to pay them. “I heard God very clearly tell me that this placed needed to be built. I pray every day that he will make a way for this to happen, so that everyone will hear of the God who loves like a good father.”

“I will help you, Father,” I found myself saying. My husband eyed me questioningly. We have two special needs teenagers and an elderly parent living with us, and I am only working half time. “I believe you have been given a mission from God — and I will tell people what I have seen, and pray with you that he will touch the right hearts to respond.”

If you would like to help, please make your donation here. No gift is too small. Each gift is an answered prayer.

Heidi Hess Saxton is Father Ubald’s editor at Ave Maria Press. His book, Forgiveness Makes You Free will be released in April 2019. You can read more of Heidi’s writing on her blog “Life on the Road Less Traveled.”

Our Lady of Kibeho, Pray for Us!

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For eight days my husband Craig and I traveled hundreds of miles with Fr. Ubald, over bumpy paths and winding roads. Despite its grim history, Rwanda is a beautiful place. Homes with miniature goats hug the roads, as banana groves and other crops line the mountainside above and the valleys below. On each side of the roads, the bright, resplendent textiles of the women’s dresses caught my eye as we drove past. And yet the large plastic jerry cans, carried by so many people, reminded us that few of these places have running water or indoor plumbing. While rich in natural beauty, Rwanda is also a place where many live in great poverty. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the Blessed Mother choose to come here in the 1980s, to remind her poor little ones that they had not been forgotten. OLK

We had just left the National Shrine of Our Lady of Kibeho, and heard the story of the three school girl visionaries — Alphonsine, Marie-Claire, and Anathalie — who had been visited by Our Lady between  1981 and 1987, warning that Rwanda would become a “river of blood” if hatred was not quelled by love. (For more information about the appearances and visionaries, pick up a copy of Immaculée Ilibagiza’s Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa.) Two of the three visionaries were still living: Alphonsine was a religious sister there at the shrine. Natalie was a nun in Italy. Marie-Claire and her husband had been killed in the genocide.

Not far from the National Shrine, Father Ubald is overseeing another important pilgrimage site, the Chapel of God the Father. He had hoped to open it in time for the 25th anniversary of the genocide this spring, and is trusting God to provide the additional funds — $100,000 is needed to complete construction and to build the roads, toilets, and other infrastructure the government requires for it to be open to the public. (Please pray with us, that God would provide the resources needed, and ask the Lord if you might be able to help by making a donation here.)

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National Shrine of Our Lady of Kibeho

Next week I will give you an example of the healings that are taking place at Kibeho and in other places where Fr. Ubald is preaching and evangelizing about the power of forgiveness and mercy to bring healing and peace to those traumatized by violence. (Thank you to Katsey Long for providing these photographs, which were taken during the shooting of the documentary.)

Heidi Hess Saxton is Father Ubald’s editor at Ave Maria Press. His book, Forgiveness Makes You Free will be released in April 2019. You can read more of Heidi’s writing on her blog “Life on the Road Less Traveled.” If you are enjoying this blog series and would like to help Fr. Ubald, please make a tax-deductible donation to the Center for the Secret of Peace by clicking here.

At the Center

 

49 Praying at CoP PG3A5517In this blogpost series, Fr. Ubald’s editor Heidi Saxton shares her experience of visiting Fr. Ubald in Rwanda to help him finish his upcoming book with Ave Maria Press, Forgiveness Makes You Free (April 2019). More information will be posted about the release of this book in upcoming posts.

Bouncing in the back of Fr. Ubald’s SUV that first night we arrived at Rusizi, I was amazed at the number of people walking the dirt path toward the Center. The headlights shone on women with heavy burdens on their heads and shoulder, and children who peered inside and spotted us. “Mbadzungu!” (white people).

Why were these people walking toward the center so late at night? “They are coming to prepare for tomorrow,” Father explained. “There will be special healing prayers after Mass.”

When we arrived, I could see that the church that was under construction, just beyond the makeshift shelter with the outdoor altar, protected by an aluminum shelter. Tonight a screen had been raised, and they showed Father’s documentary, Forgiveness: The Secret of Peace.

I looked around. Hundreds of people had gathered on a Monday night, to prepare for a Tuesday Mass the next morning — there is a special service held on the 13th of each month to commemorate Fatima, whose message was much like that of Our Lady of Kibeho: pray for conversions, to avert the coming disaster.

“We saw your tears, and yet we did not turn,” invoked Fr. Ubald. “But do not cry any more, Blessed Mother. We are listening, and we will obey. Help us to forgive and to show mercy, that we may know peace.”

The next morning when we arrived for Mass, the grounds of the Center were already filled with thousands of people. Some made their way from the shore of Lake Kivu, stopping first at the shrine of Our Lady of Kibeho, then climbing on their knees to Jesus (see picture), whose Sacred Heart is full of mercy for all. Finally, they make their way toward Our Lady of Love, holding the Child Jesus. Many women have been healed of infertility by asking for her intercession.

Under the shelter, behind the altar, are two more statues: The first, Our Lady of Peace, offers a gentle benediction to all those who seek healing and release from the torments and traumas of the past, and to her right, her most beloved daughter, St. Josephine Bakhita, a living icon of forgiveness under unthinkable circumstances.

After the Mass and healing prayers had concluded, I went to see the chapel Father is building to accommodate those who come to pray and adore Jesus in his Eucharistic presence throughout the week. They are building it on faith … trusting that God will provide the money they need to finish the building. They need $600,000 to complete the building as well as the other additions that must be made before they will be allowed to open it to the public. You can see more pictures of the project here. If you have been touched by Father Ubald’s ministry and would like to help, please go here to make your tax deductible contribution. Thank you!

IMG_3188Heidi Hess Saxton is Fr. Ubald’s editor on his book Forgiveness Makes You Free (Ave Maria Press, April 2019). She and her husband Craig spent time with Fr. Ubald in June 2018. You can read more about Heidi on her blog “A Life on the Road Less Traveled.”

First Impressions: On Forgiving the Impossible

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June 10, 2018

Dear Diary:

We’ve been anticipating this trip for months now, and spent the last week almost non-stop getting ready to leave – gathering children’s books for the Missionary of Peace school, freezing casseroles for the family to eat while we’re gone, weighing the luggage over and over to be sure we don’t go over. In between, I try to imagine what we’ll find there. After months of working with Father Ubald — questioning him over and over about his experiences, transcribing and shaping his own notes, and reading a dozen books about the history and culture of Rwanda — I am eager to meet the people at the heart of his story: his brother and sister, who also survived the genocide. Sister Donata and the Missionaries of Peace, who have labored alongside him to bring healing to the people. And of course, to meet Straton, the man so recently released from prison, who had taken responsibility for the deaths of Father Ubald’s mother and so many family members.

Try as I might, I cannot imagine what I will say to him. What could I possibly ask, and how could he possibly respond to my questions, in a way that would make sense of the great tragedy: one million Tutsi men, women, and children slaughtered in the space of just 100 days — not through the impersonal detonation of a bomb, but in bloody combat, at the hands of former neighbors and friends?

And how could it possibly be true that this kind of violence could be forgiven? And how could the two sides be so reconciled that they would once more be able to live together in peace? Clearly, there was still much reconciliation still left to do — Father had told me that he continued to receive messages from people who had killed members of his family, who were afraid to speak to him face to face. “Tell them I forgive them,” he always said. “Tell them forgiveness makes you free.”

Try as I might, I cannot imagine it. This, I need to see for myself.

Heidi Hess Saxton is Father Ubald’s editor at Ave Maria Press. His book, Forgiveness Makes You Free will be released in April 2019. You can read more of Heidi’s writing on her blog “Life on the Road Less Traveled.”

 

Forgiveness Makes You Free: A Rwandan Story of Peace and Healing

Hello! My name is Heidi Saxton, and this picture is of me and my husband Craig getting ready to board a plane to Rwanda, where we would be helping Father Ubald to finish his new book with Ave Maria Press called Forgiveness Makes You Free. It will be released in April 2019, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. I will post preorder information for the book, in which Father shares his story of surviving the genocide and the five keys to finding peace and healing even in the most traumatic and painful circumstances of life. You won’t want to miss it!

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Bestselling author of Left to Tell, Immaculée Ilibagiza, had this to say about Father’s book in the foreword:

Forgiveness Makes You Free is a gift of mercy from the hand of God. It tells the story of a priest who learned, step by step, to follow after Jesus and to present himself as a ‘living offering’ to God, who learned how to pray, how to forgive, how to resist the enemy, and how to receive the gifts God wanted to give him. Above all, it shows how he learned to follow after Jesus, no matter how much it cost him.”

Between now and then, I asked Father Ubald for permission to share experiences from our trip, to give you a better sense of the important work that is being accomplished among the Rwandan people through his ministry. As you read these posts in the coming weeks, please prayerfully consider how the Lord is asking you to support this important work. Thank you!

Heidi Hess Saxton is an acquisitions editor for Ave Maria Press. You can find her online through her blog Life on the Road Less Traveled.