Visible Scars and Visible Blessings: Artisan Michael’s Story
By Claudine Tuyisenge, Azizi Life Staff Writer
There’s always hope with God – even after a bitter life.
Michael Iraguha was born in 1990 in the Southern Province of Rwanda. He is a young man, is happily married, and has one two-year-old son. He was raised in a happy home with his four siblings. This same Michael was at death’s door in 1994.
Michael was four years old in 1994, when neighbors began killing neighbors in a well-planned effort to exterminate the minority Tutsi people. It was during a lull in the violence that young Michael was sent by his parents to a remote place in the Western Province to take a message to a family friend. It was a long journey, so he was to stay overnight and return the next day. On the day of his planned return, he found himself enjoying playing with children his age so much that when sunset came he was still there. In the absence of the family friend who would have directed him to return home, it was easy for him to decide to stay over one more night. That night, with the family friend still absent, her ex-husband came into the house. He was wearing a very long coat, which unnerved Michael. “Is your mother around? ” he asked the children. “Noooo” they replied. “Go and find her quickly!” he ordered in a very scary voice. “Should we go with Michael, Dad?” they asked. “No! I said you only, your mother is not his,” he said with anger. In the meantime, Michael was sitting on the floor mat. Feeling sad and afraid, he kept his head between his legs to prevent himself from having any eye contact with that scary man. The other children refused to go without Michael. As they protested, the man took a very sharp machete out of his black coat – it looked as if he had been sharpening it the entire day – and his children ran away screaming for help. When Michael also tried to run, the man put his machete down, caught him, and tied his neck preventing him from shouting. He couldn’t breathe. Michael fell at the mercy of the man. The man took his machete again and cut Michael’s temple expecting him to die. While Michael was struggling, shaking his legs, an oil lamp next to him fell to the ground. In the dark now, his assailant hit the oil lamp with the machete, thinking he was cutting Michael’s neck. Thinking Michael was dead, he left Michael there alone. Michael had survived the Genocide against the Tutsi.
The children were finally able to locate their mother. She was shocked at the sight of blood in and outside of her own home. She found Michael bleeding and called to her neighbors to help take Michael to the local Health Center. She couldn’t fathom how she would explain this to Michael’s parents, so she didn’t. As a result, Michael was kept there in the Western Province under poor local treatment instead of being returned home to the South. There it took him a long while to recover. This early childhood trauma impacted Michael’s life in ways visible to those he met.
The attack left him a long scar across his cheek, and his recovery caused him to start primary school later than his peers.
During Michael’s recovery, his perpetrator was caught by the army and was brought before him. The arresting officers said to little Michael, “The life of this man is in your hands, Michael. What do you want us to do?”
Michael’s own life had been saved by God, and the gathering crowd urged him to extend God’s grace. He responded, “Please, forgive him.”
Michael never saw the man again and is convinced that if they did meet unexpectedly, he would not recognize him. Despite all of these challenges, Michael did finish primary and high school. After high school, his church provided an opportunity for him to attend a Bible college in Kenya.
During his studies in Kenya, Michael met a Rwandese young girl attending the same college. They became friends, began dating, and after three years were married. Married and unemployed, Michael found providing for his family to be difficult. However, an opportunity had opened up to try his hand at making specialty boxes with Azizi Life, and Michael proved to be the best. Despite not having any experience and only having sporadic orders to fulfill, Michael consistently showed diligence, reliability, and attention to detail.
In time, Azizi Life began a beekeeping social enterprise called Beeutiful Creations. A Beeutiful Creations manager would on occasion see Michael working hard. The manager decided to teach Michael to make candles and other beeswax products when he was not making the boxes. Michael quickly learned cutting and rolling candles and making soaps and lip balms. He officially started working with Beeutiful Creations full-time in 2017.
Currently, he is mostly involved in soap making, producing Beeutiful Creations biodegradable packaging, as well as fulfilling custom orders. He thoroughly enjoys and is passionate about his work. “I learned a lot from Beeutiful Creations and really appreciate the opportunity,” said Michael.
“With the wage I earn from Beeutiful Creations, my family can afford food, rent, and clothing. Additionally, Beeutiful Creations provides my family with medical insurance,” Michael said proudly and with a smile.
“I am not lucky but blessed to be part of the Beeutiful Creations team. I always learn something new from my team.”
Shop Beeutiful Creations candles at AziziLife.com.
Learn more about and support Azizi Life’s Beekeeping Impact initiative here.
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