Thursday, November 13, 2014

Maggy's Miracle

I sat next to Maggy for breakfast again today.  The smile never leaves her face.  Yes, she talks a lot because she knows we want to hear the story.  We want to know everything.  When her girls come in, she shows us the scars on their wrists and head and neck where the merciless machete blows left their marks.  They were only 5 or 6 years old, but she took them and cared for them even flew one to France – a little orphaned girl in a coma—and stayed with her for months until she was able to return to Burundi.

 But these were not the first.  Maggy had taken in seven orphans from the war and was searching for a place to hide them.  Four were Hutu and three were Tutsi.   Hutu’s would not take her because she was Tutsi and she had three Tutsi children.  The Tutsi would not take her because she had four Hutu children.  Finally she gathered her Hutu friends and her children and they hid in the church. 
She told them, “If the Tutsi come, I will protect you. If the Hutu come, you can protect me." 

  But Sunday morning the Tutsi came.  She said to them, “It is Sunday, you are all Christians.  Leave us alone.”  But they said, “Oh, you love these people so much.  We will show you.”  They stripped her naked and tied her to a chair and made her watch them kill 72 Hutu friends before her eyes.  

They looked for others in the church and asked at the closet of the priest, “Is anyone here.”  A little orphan boy said, “No,” and they left.  She feels they were protected by the angels of heaven.  

Maggy determined to never hate like that.  She buried her friends in a common grave as there was no time or ability to do better.  She kept the place secret hoping to protect them from further desecration.  Later she marked the sacred place with the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Thus began her quest to bless humanity especially those affected by war and hatred.  She had as many as 500 orphans at one time because they would bring them to her from Rwanda, and the Congo.  Another time they (the rebels) sent a child warrior to kill her.  He told her to kneel down.  She said to him, “Why do you want to kill me, my child?  Why do you want to kill your mother?”  He said, “You are my mother?”  “She said, “Yes, you can come and be my driver.  You don’t have to kill anymore.”  He came and is still her driver to this day. 

Richard (right) was one of her orphans.  He had been locked in a school
which was set on fire. He is now one of her directors. 
Her philosophy is to keep children in the family if possible.  She began searching for their extended families and then she provided a house for the children near them. 

Where parents were killed, there were still existing aunts and uncles and cousins who survived.  With a home of their own and being near family, they could learn to work and support themselves.  In an Institution, it is hard for them to have an identity.

Now she has the best hospital in Burundi, a farm where she teaches people how to grow food and care for animals.  She built Angel City, a theater, a swimming pool and a library.   In the theater she had them put on plays and they acted out things from the war to help victims and perpetrators heal.  

She continues to follow up with those in her program, but she is slowly giving responsibility to her “children”.  The orphans she cared for have become her colleagues.  They run the three hotels, the farm, the Angel city and the hospital.  They have gone to school and become trained.  They have married and live in their own homes caring for their children.  They prepared the food for us while we stayed with her at her modest home.  She stands for right and truth wherever she is.   

At Rema hospital one morning, we visited classrooms in the medical school.  She gave inspiring messages to the students. 

  Then, on the sidewalk we met a young woman with a child on her back.  Maggy stopped and talked to her sternly in Kirundi.  Later she told us that she was telling the woman that there was no excuse for being dirty.  “We have water here in Burundi.  You can be poor, but you can be clean.”

  When we visited her school, the children were the cleanest we had seen in Africa.  The classes were normal size, 25 or so.  The rooms and grounds                                                                                        were clean with beautiful grassy areas. 

Yes, I sat next to Maggy and marveled at her strength and purpose.  She epitomized what I read recently in 
“A Year of Miracles.” 
“I love, I love!” you might say.  And of course you love.  We all do.  The problem, however, is that we do not love only.  We love, but then we take it back.  We love, but then we stop when it becomes inconvenient.   We love, but only until the ego is challenged by the thought of risk. 
“And so it is that while we love, we do not wield the power of love.  We love, but we do not love only.  And so we love, but we do not work                                                                                                                 miracles.
“For miracles occur naturally as expressions of love.  When you choose to love, you choose to work miracles.”

And also what we read from the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“The work in which we are unitedly engaged is one of no ordinary kind.  The enemies we have to contend against are subtle and well skilled in maneuvering; it behooves us to be on the alert to concentrate our energies, and that the best feelings should exist in our midst; and then, by the help of the Almighty, we shall go on from victory to victory, and from conquest to conquest; and our evil passions will be subdued, our prejudices depart; we shall find no room in our bosoms for hatred; vice will hide its deformed head, and we shall stand approved in the sight of Heaven, and be acknowledged the sons of God. 
Let us realize that we are not to live to ourselves, but to God; by so doing the greatest blessings will rest upon us both in time and in eternity. 

“Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.” 

Maggy was the first to be screened with the equipment the church
purchased for Rema Hospital.

Dr. Jesse Hunsaker and his wife Diane were here to train Maggy's staff on the use of the new equipment.

                                                       Sunset in Ruiygi, Burundi


  1. Wow and wow. What a beautifully told story of how one person, this Maggy, has felt the power of the atonement in being able to forgive and continue to hope and work for her people. Her example reaches well beyond her people. Makes me ponder how I use my hours and days. Thanks so much, dear Van Wagoners, for sharing your lives and this story.

  2. Dr. Hunsaker is our former stake president. I'm so glad you contacted us. We had lost your contact info and now have it! When is your mission completed? Hugh is now retired and we are looking forward to serving a mission December-ish.


Thanks for checking up on us. We would love to hear from you. The Vans