The word of God in James 4:14 proclaims, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears a little while and then vanishes.” Eustache Nsinga has passed from this life to another far too quickly. Most of us are still in shock. This seems unbelievable.
Eustache Nsinga was born on 4 August 1973 to Emmanuel Basomingera and Marianne Mukasarambuye in Bujumbura, Burundi. He passed from this life to another on Christmas Eve, 24 December 2011 in Kigali. That day will remain unforgettable in all of our lives.
On Christmas Eve 2011 I was performing the Christmas Eve Service at Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR) when I was asked to step outside of the assembly for an urgent matter. Gatete, Eustache’s housekeeper came with the news that Eustache Nsinga had passed from this life to another. I thought, “Surely not. This must be an ugly rumor or a big misunderstanding.” I returned to the assembly and sat with my wife, Jana; and told her, “There is an awful rumor going around that Eustache Nsinga has died.”
Then my phone rang. I rarely pick up a phone call during church, but as I looked down I saw it was from Eustache. I stepped out and answered the phone expecting to hear Eustache’s voice. Instead it was his brother, Innocent confirming the news. Eustache has passed from this life to another.
I imagine I am not the only one who has felt shock over this Christmas season.
This morning as I checked emails I received one from a relative of Eustache in Canada. She had seen the dialogue on Facebook and thought this was just a really bad joke. She wrote asking, “Pastor, tell me what is true.”
It is true. Eustache Nsinga has passed from this life to another.
Another word besides unforgettable fills our discussion of Eustache’s passing. That word is irreplaceable. How can we face life without Eustache? A man’s days on this earth are fleeting. We are all just a mist. Yet, the principles of a man’s life endure. There are principles those of us a bit older teach to younger generations.
Many of you are fortunate to have known Eustache longer than the 5 years I knew Eustache. In my interactions with Eustache there were 4 principles in his life that are enduring characteristics. These 4 principles are the substance which makes the memories of Eustache irreplaceable.
The first principle I remember from Eustache’s life is justice and equality. Eustache befriended me in the early days as we started CCR a little over 4 years ago. From the beginning he never treated me different from others due to the color of my skin. He made me feel as at home in Rwanda as I would feel in the village in the United States where my parents live.
God’s word proclaims in Leviticus 19:33-35, "When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don't take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God”. Eustache lived this principle.
When I asked him why he was so kind and treated people with equality he told stories. One was of his early years as a refugee in Burundi. Another was his early days as a student at La Roche University in America. I remember him telling me of traveling to the United States when French and Kinyarwanda were his preferred languages and his English skills were just beginning. He told me of going to the university cafeteria, looking at food, and struggling to explain what he wanted to eat. Those memories stayed with Eustache and empowered him to treat others with kindness and equality.
The second enduring principle of Eustache Nsinga’s life was his faithfulness to his covenants. God’s word proclaims, “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. (Deuteronomy 7:9.) …. If you listen to these regulations and faithfully obey them, the Lord your God will keep his covenant of unfailing love with you, as he promised with an oath to your ancestors. (Deuteronomy 7:12.)”
In my early years in Rwanda I was fortunate to be part of a small project called the Presidential Scholars that helped some of Rwanda’s best young academic minds study in the USA. The program has grown to over 300 students and Eustache was one of our key early advisors. He shared with me his story of attending La Roche College and upon graduation being one of the few to return to Rwanda while others just disappeared in America. Eustache was faithful to his covenants. He loved Rwanda and could not imagine breaking faith with his covenant to return. As years passed he pointed out that those who thought they had found a better path through broken covenants had become irrelevant while his faithfulness was rewarded.
What gave Eustache the ability to persevere and keep his covenants?
Two more enduring principles of Eustache’s life stand out. The third enduring principle of Eustache’s life is joy. God’s word proclaims, “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. (John 16:22.)” This is the joy we speak of today. Loss of life on this earth does not endure. Another day is coming. On that day we will rejoice. Our joy cannot be contained by the circumstances of today.
That joy is given by the fourth enduring principle of Eustache’s life, hope. “And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. (Romans 5:4.)” Eustache’s character was one that could endure great difficulties confident in eternal hope.
As we say goodbye to Eustache from this earth some questions come to mind. His death was far too early. He had given much and still had much to give. He was young. He was talented. His dreams for Rwanda had not yet come to pass.
Where is this going? We will go to Eustache (2 Samuel 12:23). He will not return to us. King David as he grieved for his sick son stopped his grief when the son died. He recognized in the passing of life that now the season had come in which he would go to his passed son. We are now in that season. We will go to Eustache.
We experienced that the last few days. The news of Eustache’s death was shocking. It left us confused and disorientated. It made us physically in pain. Then as we met and embraced we were comforted and healed.
I have a small genetic misfortune. My dad, brothers, and uncles all have portions of the cartilage in our spines that will deteriorate. As the cartilage collapses it causes severe pain that radiates down our legs and arms. I have had 4 seasons in which this pain came to my life. During the first season I was very angry with God. Yet, a friend told me is it ok to be angry with God. He is a big enough God to receive the anger. In the midst of the anger God healed my spirit.
The last time I experienced this pain just before I went into surgery I saw a phone call coming into my mobile phone. It was Eustache Nsinga calling to encourage me. He was like Jesus to me. He had lived through pain. He knew what it was like to suffer. He came close to encourage and suffered with me. In the process I found courage and hope.
Ultimately, Jesus answers the question of where is God when we suffer by his death upon the cross. Our sin has caused great suffering. On the cross the consequences of sin are taken away (Hebrews 2:17-18).
What can we expect? The Resurrection is coming. Let me close by reading God’s word.
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die (John 11:25).”
“For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him (1 Thessalonians 4:14).”
“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever (John 14:16).”