African Refugee Reunites with Family After 11 Years

4 years 11 months 19 hours 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
ST. LOUIS - An attorney is suing a nonprofit group connected to former Gov. Eric Greitens for its records. ... More >>
10 hours ago Saturday, June 23 2018 Jun 23, 2018 Saturday, June 23, 2018 9:52:00 PM CDT June 23, 2018 in News
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Outside a sprawling mall in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, young single men and women walk... More >>
13 hours ago Saturday, June 23 2018 Jun 23, 2018 Saturday, June 23, 2018 6:21:17 PM CDT June 23, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - One softball player is setting her team up for success before she leaves for college. On Saturday,... More >>
15 hours ago Saturday, June 23 2018 Jun 23, 2018 Saturday, June 23, 2018 4:54:00 PM CDT June 23, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The discussion on community policing continues to ripple through Columbia after a citywide meeting Saturday. The City... More >>
16 hours ago Saturday, June 23 2018 Jun 23, 2018 Saturday, June 23, 2018 3:31:00 PM CDT June 23, 2018 in News
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are investigating the shooting death of a man near a house in... More >>
17 hours ago Saturday, June 23 2018 Jun 23, 2018 Saturday, June 23, 2018 3:12:00 PM CDT June 23, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she was kicked out of a Virginia restaurant by its owner... More >>
17 hours ago Saturday, June 23 2018 Jun 23, 2018 Saturday, June 23, 2018 2:47:00 PM CDT June 23, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA (AP) — The wife of a former University of Missouri football coach is helping her husband remember the details... More >>
18 hours ago Saturday, June 23 2018 Jun 23, 2018 Saturday, June 23, 2018 2:18:00 PM CDT June 23, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA – Reaching all generations was the goal of one Columbia woman on Saturday. Cheryl Miller is the president... More >>
19 hours ago Saturday, June 23 2018 Jun 23, 2018 Saturday, June 23, 2018 1:03:00 PM CDT June 23, 2018 in News
CAMDEN COUNTY - Two teenage boys suffered serious injuries in an ATV accident Friday night, according to the Missouri State... More >>
22 hours ago Saturday, June 23 2018 Jun 23, 2018 Saturday, June 23, 2018 9:34:00 AM CDT June 23, 2018 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A national gathering in St. Louis in September will focus on election security. Missouri... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, June 23 2018 Jun 23, 2018 Saturday, June 23, 2018 7:54:00 AM CDT June 23, 2018 in News
FULTON - The city of Fulton kicked off their annual Street Festival in style Friday with live music, a carnival,... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, June 23 2018 Jun 23, 2018 Saturday, June 23, 2018 2:23:00 AM CDT June 23, 2018 in News
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 30-year-old inmate was charged Friday with capital murder in the shooting deaths of... More >>
1 day ago Friday, June 22 2018 Jun 22, 2018 Friday, June 22, 2018 8:41:21 PM CDT June 22, 2018 in News
BOONVILLE - People will see a few more cars drive through town this weekend, as the city celebrates its annual... More >>
1 day ago Friday, June 22 2018 Jun 22, 2018 Friday, June 22, 2018 5:41:00 PM CDT June 22, 2018 in News
BOONVILLE – Police said a technician at a local gas station found an internal skimmer device inside a gas pump... More >>
1 day ago Friday, June 22 2018 Jun 22, 2018 Friday, June 22, 2018 4:49:00 PM CDT June 22, 2018 in News
CALLAWAY COUNTY - A Fulton man could face more than 200 years in prison after being found guilty of 12... More >>
1 day ago Friday, June 22 2018 Jun 22, 2018 Friday, June 22, 2018 4:01:00 PM CDT June 22, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY – The U.S. House passed the 2018 farm bill, formally known as the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of... More >>
1 day ago Friday, June 22 2018 Jun 22, 2018 Friday, June 22, 2018 3:49:00 PM CDT June 22, 2018 in News
FULTON - Despite rainfall these past two days, statistics show most of Missouri is dryer than usual. Data released... More >>
1 day ago Friday, June 22 2018 Jun 22, 2018 Friday, June 22, 2018 3:37:00 PM CDT June 22, 2018 in News
HUNTSVILLE – The sentencing phase of the trial for a convicted murderer began Friday. Jeffrey Nichols was convicted Thursday... More >>
1 day ago Friday, June 22 2018 Jun 22, 2018 Friday, June 22, 2018 3:15:00 PM CDT June 22, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 72°
9am 79°
10am 82°
11am 84°
12pm 87°