Q&A with Medad Birungi, Author of Tombstones and Banana Trees
Q: Can you tell us a little about how you came up with the title Tombstones and Banana Trees?
I was born under a banana tree. Mother had to hide there when she went into labor as my father would not pay for her to go to the hospital. He wanted my birth to be quickly followed by my death as he was full of hatred and anger. Much of my early life was marked by tombstones. I felt like life was over when my father abandoned me, my mother, sisters and brothers. And when my sister was murdered, I became a raging civil war—full of death and thoughts of revenge. But, just like Lazarus, I found out that tombstones are not what they seem. When Jesus arrested me, he challenged me to forgive others—even though they had wounded me so badly that I had wanted to kill them. This type of revolutionary forgiveness has changed not just my life, but the lives of many, many others.
Q: In your book, you share with your readers the story of your childhood. Can you tell us a little about the first six years of your life?
I was very poor. I grew up in southwest Uganda—an area known as the Switzerland of Africa. It is very beautiful there, but for me the beauty was clouded out. My father had many wives and hated my mother—his first wife—with cruelty. He beat us all and eventually we fought back. He left us, but by abandoning us he left us with no food, no money, no possessions and no hope for the future.
Q: As a teenager, you were filled with anger and a desire for revenge, yet God was working in your life. When you chose to accept Christ, why do you think that you needed to forgive your father and others who had abused and mistreated you?
In the East African Revival of the 1930s, public confession of sin was considered essential for any Christian—especially a new one. That tradition was still in effect when I accepted Jesus as my savior, and I am glad that I confessed. Not only did it result in many people getting saved, but it helped to free me from the guilt of all the wrong things I had done. Most of all, we need to forgive because that is what we were commended to do… and for good reason: unforgiveness is a cancer.
Q: Do you think forgiveness for acts of extreme abuse and murder are required by God? Can this type of forgiveness be accomplished without God’s supernatural power?
Forgiveness for acts of extreme abuse and murder are absolutely required by God. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught us to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive others.” Jesus also prayed on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Stephen also forgave those who were stoning him to death. God forgave David when he killed Uriah and he forgave Paul who killed many Christians. To walk in forgiveness and grace, we must release others through the forgiveness allowed by grace through Christ Jesus. God promises to forgive us unconditionally ALL our sins with confession that is present with absolute repentance. We are to forgive others unconditionally for ALL sins also. Otherwise, Christianity will lose meaning and vengeance, genocide, civil war and more extreme abuse and murder revenging for past sins will be committed.
This type of forgiveness cannot be accomplished without God’s supernatural power. Forgiveness that is genuine and unconditional can ONLY be experienced by the supernatural love of God flowing through the heart by the Holy Spirit. This power comes only by humility and prayer, strength and the unconditional love given to us by God.
Q: When you made the choice to forgive, your life was not the only one affected. Can you please share with us how that forgiveness went on to affect your family and the community around you?
Forgiveness is a choice, but you cannot choose the consequences. When I chose to forgive my father, my stepmothers and some of my relatives, I also chose to do restitution and sort things out with them. This was very hard and frightening, but it brought healing to all of us. Forgiveness gave me unconditional love for my relatives and family members. We helped our father when he got sick by taking him to the hospital, caring for him for seven months and footing all the medical bills. He reconciled with my mother after 22 years of separation. He came back home and was reconciled with us. We also reconciled with our relatives and stepmothers/brothers/sisters when he brought his family back for a reconciliation meeting and made me a heir to his household.
There was great repentance, forgiveness and reconciliations in the family and community around. Deep hatred and deep rooted bitterness were removed and we became a loving and reconciled community. My mother received their children and my younger stepsisters had their schooling at our village school. I also started paying school fees for the grandchildren of those who murdered my sister and cared for those who had hurt us when we were abandoned by our father. My sisters forgave those who raped them. Relationships were healed and restored and our home became a center for inner healing and a Christian home cell church. People still meet in my mother’s house today for weekly fellowship. Jesus visited the village.
Q: You have established a charity by the name of World Shine Ministries and a portion of the proceeds from Tombstones and Banana Trees will go to benefit its work. Can you tell us about the ministry of WSM and how our listeners can become involved?
World Shine Ministries is an inter-denominational, non-governmental, Christian organization. It works to spread the knowledge of the Christian gospel, to relieve poverty and suffering and to assist needy children and students with education so that their conditions of life can be improved. We have a school, World Shine Foundation School, in a remote community called Rwentobo where we have 510 disadvantaged children/children at risk (orphans, street children and children from homes of domestic violence) whom we look after. Among the children are 87 Moslems and others with a background of Christianity or African traditional religions.
World Shine Ministries in Uganda is also involved in:
- Pastor’s conferences
- Christian broadcasting
- Working with women and fighting domestic violence; advocacy for women emancipation
- Sponsoring orphans’ schooling
- Supporting HIV/AIDS widows
- HIV/AIDS education
- Poverty eradication
- Camps and conferences for young people
Listeners can be involved by: sponsoring a child ($20 per month), supporting the school financially, sending a goat to a widow ($50), supporting WSM activities, volunteering, coming as a team to support in building, performing medical or social work, teaching and conducting conferences, children’s camps or evangelism or becoming a short/long term missionary.
If you would like to support World Shine Ministries, please visit www.worldshinefoundation.org for more information.
Tombstones and Banana Trees: A True Story of Revolutionary Forgiveness
by Medad Birungi with Craig Borlase
David C Cook/July 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7814-0502-7/208 pages/paperback/$14.99
www.davidccook.com and www.worldshinefoundation.org