Goreth and Evariste
Happy Valentine’s Day from Amani!
“Twelve years,” they say, beaming.
“But it was yesterday,” says Goreth, laughing. Goreth and Evariste are like newlyweds, still amazed by the love they have for each other.
Goreth is Amani’s Burundi Country Director. With Evariste’s partnering support, she started Amahoro ava mw’Ijuru (Amani Burundi) in 2004 and continues to lead women in this community of peace.
In a culture where couples rarely express emotion and reveal little of themselves, Goreth and Evariste’s effusive love is surprising to say the least. Their warmth and affection for each other is contagious; people who meet them are drawn toward love.
Evariste still remembers the first time he saw her.
“She was so beautiful. She still is,” he says. She smiles like he’s telling her for the first time.
It was when Goreth got a job with Campus Crusade for Christ that she first met Evariste — she still likes to remind him that she was his boss in those early years. Their friendship grew despite social barriers of ethnic prejudices. Not only were they from different ethinic communities where mixed relations were taboo, but Goreth grew up as an orphan in an upper class family while Evariste came from a very poor background.
Suddenly, war broke out in Burundi, and ethnic cleansing escalated. Fleeing the violence, Goreth narrowly escaped death when she was singled out for execution at a border crossing because of her Tutsi heritage. A former neighbor recognized her and pleaded for her life, begging, “She is good; she was raised in the home of a Hutu.” God spared her life.
Goreth escaped to Rwanda only to find herself again in the throes of a genocide that would surely snuff out her life. Miraculously, she survived, and along with many other refugees, began the long journey into exile which would eventually lead her to Nairobi.
It was in 1996 that Goreth once again met Evariste, this time in Nairobi. Unbeknownst to Goreth, Evariste had moved to Nairobi to further his studies. When Evariste saw Goreth he hardly recognized her, “Could this be the same beautiful woman I saw years ago?” War had taken its toll. Goreth’s face, which had once radiated light, had dulled and darkened. She had seen death: her eyes had become deep crevasses that spoke of soul wrenching-pain.
Evariste could not see the weakened vessel standing before him but only had eyes for the beautiful woman of virtue he had once known. Defying all human and social barriers he proposed to her — this was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with!
At first they kept their engagement a secret. There was much to fear coming out of a genocide where families were ripped apart because of their ethnic mix. Goreth and Evariste were soon ostracized by the Burundian community when the truth of their engagement was revealed.
Finally, they married in 1999. Together, they faced a world that rejected them. In the midst of poverty and loneliness, their love kept them alive.
In 2000 Goreth heard about Amani ya Juu. Someone told her, “Go to Amani, they will take a refugee like you.”
At Amani Goreth and Evariste found a community of love and acceptance. “Could this be real?” they often asked. After years of running they had found a place where they could rest, where they were safe, where they could heal from the pain of war.
After four years of training and working at Amani, Goreth and Evariste decided it was time to make a bold move and return to Burundi to help rebuild their country. While Goreth had vowed never to return to her home country after experiencing so much brutality, hatred, and destruction, her heart had been transformed by Christ’s peace. There was no question about her return to Burundi. Her farewell words to the Amani family can still be heard today ”If I don’t go back, how will my people hear about God’s peace?”
Amahoro ava mw’Ijuru was planted. There have been many challenges, and it has not always been safe for them. Goreth and Evariste know that love comes at a cost, a cost they are willing to pay in order to pass peace in a place that has been marked by violence and poverty.
Does their wedding seem like yesterday? Yes. Together, they have learned that a love that is fought for is a love that endures.