African Refugee Reunites with Family After 11 Years

4 years 6 months 1 day ago Tuesday, July 23 2013 Jul 23, 2013 Tuesday, July 23, 2013 6:42:00 PM CDT July 23, 2013 in News
By: Patrick Rawlings, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA - A refugee from the Congo, now living in Columbia, said he would never forget the day he reunited with his family after more than a decade apart.

Nene Rwenyaguza said, "It's like another wedding."

His long road to the U.S. started with a massacre that separated him from his family.

It was part of the genocide that began when tribal Hutu militias targeted their rivals, the Tutsis, in Rwanda in 1994. It left up to one million people dead.

The Hutus heard there were some Tutsis living in the Congo and headed to the region where Rwenyaguza's family lived.

"In the Congo it was very hard. It was very dangerous," he said.

In 2002, the conflict reached his village.

"The enemy was coming at night and they were coming with machetes and guns, and they said they will kill us."

Rwenyaguza said he and several other men tried to steer the Hutus away from the women and children. He was one of only three men to survive.

"When it was morning I was looking at all the villages; fire already. I said, maybe my family was died."

He said he searched for survivors and their families and was told his own family had been killed, their bodies dragged away.

For six years, Nene looked for his family but could not find them.

"I was running. Three days into Uvira, this is a city. Uvira to Bukavu. Bukavu to Rwanda. Rwanda to Uganda. Uganda to Kenya."

"But I prayed. I say, God where is my family? Maybe somebody could tell me if was died or had seen them, but nobody was telling me they was died."

He decided to come to the U.S. and received papers to be sent as a refugee in 2007. He arrived in St. Louis in January of 2008.

Just one month later, the U.S. Immigrations/Refugee department said it was able to locate his family in a refugee camp in Kenya.

"My pastor in Kenya was calling me, you're family is alive. I was not believing that, I say can you give them name and call them. They were sending me pictures and I say, thank you Jesus."

He then started the process and paperwork to apply for refugee status so his family could come here and join him.

While going through the process, Rwenyaguza was invited by the Congolese community in Columbia to move here and become their pastor.

He secured a job with a cleaning company that services Boone County National Bank.

"One day he came in and he didn't have his interpreter with him," said Charlotte Gaddy, consumer lending officer at Boone County National Bank. She said they began talking and developed a relationship.

"I asked him, ‘Nene, do you go to church?' And, he looked up at me and he said, 'Oh, do you know my Jesus?' And I said, yes, I know your Jesus very well, and he went, ‘Thank you Jesus.'"

Gaddy said they talked for the next hour and he told her how he came to this country, and how he found his family through our refugee department.

"He just became one of my children," Gaddy said. "There's just something about his spirit and my spirit, we just connected."

Last summer, Rwenyaguza was notified that his family would arrive in just a few weeks.

"Immigration was telling me, be patient, your family will be here."

Those few weeks turned into another year of waiting.

"They'd say they were coming again as so he got very excited," said Gaddy.

"Then there was an outbreak of polio, that delayed it so they didn't get to come. There was a miscommunication on identification on his youngest son Freddy, so the government let the paperwork set for months and months and months."

When members of the Columbia community heard of Rwenyaguza's story they rallied behind him.
"After we furnished his apartment, we went on to furnish four more apartments for Congolese members of his congregation," said Gaddy.

Finally, Rwenyaguza got the news he was waiting for.

"My wife, she was calling me, telling me you know they're giving us a flight," said Nene. "I put my hands up, I said, thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus."
Rwenyaguza spread the word.

"I call all the people, all my friends, I say my family will be here on the eighteenth," he said. "That day I will not forget, and the fourth, the day of independence, I will not forget that day."

The reunion was emotional, an embrace separated by 11 years.

"I say I will be strong and not cry, but few minutes, I don't know what happened," he said. "Their life will continue to be good, and I know this is an answer from God."

Rwenyaguza said he is excited about the future and making memories with his family.

"Tomorrow we will dance."

Gaddy said anyone wanting to offer support for Nene can contact her at the bank.

"When these families get here they have nothing," said Gaddy. "I just look for people that are willing to share and give."

 

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - The Boone County Sheriff's Department was seeking the public's help finding 79-year-old Lynda Smith, who has several illnesses... More >>
1 hour ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 8:56:00 PM CST January 23, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, broadcast a "Medicare for All" town hall Tuesday night. Renee Hoagenson, a democratic candidate... More >>
1 hour ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 8:12:00 PM CST January 23, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - MoDOT is planning to improve almost six miles of sidewalks along Providence from Vandiver Drive to Route K... More >>
2 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 7:22:00 PM CST January 23, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA- Columbia Police Department's K9s received stab and bullet protective vest thanks to a charitable donation. K9's Kane, Raf,... More >>
3 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 6:52:00 PM CST January 23, 2018 in News
HOLTS SUMMIT - The City Administrator of Holts Summit, Rick Hess, has an unusual approach. Instead of waiting for city... More >>
3 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 6:44:00 PM CST January 23, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Ambulance providers in Missouri are in the process of making tough financial decisions after they were hit... More >>
3 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 6:36:00 PM CST January 23, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA – An arraignment was held on Tuesday afternoon for Matthew McMillan, who was involved in the events that led... More >>
4 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 5:54:00 PM CST January 23, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY- Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway launched an audit of the government of Camden County Tuesday. She said it... More >>
4 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 5:42:00 PM CST January 23, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Want to own a home? A new partnership looks to make that a possibility. The City of... More >>
5 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 3:59:00 PM CST January 23, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Several mid-Missouri lawmakers are against Governor Eric Greitens’ proposed higher education cuts. The governor outlined his... More >>
6 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 3:35:00 PM CST January 23, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Supreme Court reviewed an appeal on Tuesday morning from an anonymous woman who believes the... More >>
6 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 3:27:00 PM CST January 23, 2018 in News
MORGAN COUNTY - Prosecutors charged a man with numerous child sex crimes on Monday, including incest, statutory rape, and statutory... More >>
6 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 3:14:46 PM CST January 23, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Tuesday was National Reading Day, and First Chance For Children was in for a surprise just before story... More >>
7 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 2:12:00 PM CST January 23, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Two vehicles collided at the intersection of Broadway and Brickton Road Tuesday afternoon. Officer Joe Jackson with... More >>
8 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 1:49:00 PM CST January 23, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY- A Kirksville man was sentenced Monday for stealing more than $380,502 from MU fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon. ... More >>
10 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 11:15:00 AM CST January 23, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Congresswoman Vicki Hartzler talked about tax reform and the government shutdown Tuesday as she spoke to the Rotary... More >>
10 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 11:11:00 AM CST January 23, 2018 in News
TROY (AP) — A former eastern Missouri police officer has been sentenced to five years in prison for statutory rape.... More >>
13 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 8:35:00 AM CST January 23, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, people with disabilities are three times more likely to... More >>
19 hours ago Tuesday, January 23 2018 Jan 23, 2018 Tuesday, January 23, 2018 2:06:00 AM CST January 23, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 29°
10pm 30°
11pm 29°
12am 29°
1am 28°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

9:01p
Chicago Med
10:00p
KOMU 8 News @ 10
10:35p
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
9:30p
Seinfeld
10:00p
Seinfeld
10:30p
Rules of Engagement

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
Ellen's Game of Games
8:00p
This Is Us
9:01p
Chicago Med
7:00p
The Flash
8:00p
Black Lightning
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld