Frederick: A Story of Boundless Hope

Frederick: A Story of Boundless Hope

by Frederick Ndabaramiye, Amy Parker


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“My God won’t let me do that.”

These seven words of boundless hope would irreversibly change the life of the teenage boy who spoke them.

On April 7, 1994 the life of Frederick Ndabaramiye and his family changed forever as the Rwandan genocide erupted in their homeland. When Frederick faced those same genocidaires a few years later, he noted the machete that hung from the right hand closest to him and wondered if his would soon be added to the layers of dried blood that clung to the blade. Either way, young Frederick knew that he wouldn’t be able to carry out the orders just given to him, to raise that blade against the other passengers of the bus, regardless of the race marked on their identity cards.

That bold decision would cause Frederick to lose his hands. But what the killers meant for harm, God intended for good. The cords that bound him served as a tourniquet, saving his life when his hands were hacked away. This new disability eventually fueled Frederick’s passion to show the world that disabilities do not have to stop you from living a life of undeniable purpose. From that passion, the Ubumwe Community Center was born, where "people like me" come to discover their own purposes and abilities despite their circumstances.

Through miraculous mercy and divine appointment, Frederick forgives those who harmed him and goes on to fully grasp his God-given mission. In this extraordinary true story of forgiveness, faith, and hope, you will be challenged, convicted, and forever converted to a believer of the impossible.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780529101198
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 09/23/2014
Pages: 190
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Amy Parker’s children’s books have sold more than a million copies, including two Christian Retailing’s Best award-winning books and the bestselling books A Night Night Prayer; Night Night, Farm; and Night Night, Train. Visit Amy at and on Instagram @amyparkerbooks and Facebook @amyparkerauthor.

Read an Excerpt


A Story of Boundless Hope

By Frederick Ndabaramiye, Amy Parker

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2014 Frederick Ndabaramiye and Amy Parker
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-2238-9


new beginnings

"If you feel that the world is sometimes a cold place, that the human spirit cannot beat back despair, think of Frederick Ndabaramiye.... Think of him, and smile."

—Charlie Gibson

"You ready?"

The guy spoke to me as he adjusted the height on his tripod. I had never seen a camera so big. Another person was pulling a chair a few centimeters to the left. Someone else repositioned the traditional African mask—the only object relatively familiar to me—that sat in Charlene's living room. A light as bright as the African sun shined on the man across from me.

Did he say his name was Charlie?

"Frederick." Charlene kneeled down in front of me. "Are you okay? Are you ready to start?"

I had a basic understanding of English, but my ability to speak the language was much less developed. Even so, I knew the answer to both of her questions: no and no.

A few weeks ago, I had boarded a huge, mysterious vehicle I had never seen before and trusted it to carry me—through the air—to the other side of the world, to a place I knew very little about. I was overwhelmed before I even boarded the airplane. I had never been to Kigali, Rwanda's capital city where we would be flying out from, but even at nighttime, I could tell that it was larger than any town I'd ever seen. As we drove to the airport, an infinite field of lights rose up all around me. I could only imagine how big it looked in the daytime.

The airport was monstrously large and full of people, a lot of them speaking English and other languages I didn't understand. Upstairs in the terminal, glass cases held cigars and candies and liquors and sodas in endless varieties. Stern-faced, uniformed men behind glass walls asked me all kinds of questions about where I was going and what I was doing there. They peered at my passport before waving me through to go meet my fate on that big white plane.

"How long will it take to get there?" I asked Tony, my translator, at least a hundred times. He would answer and pull out a map to show me where we were now and where we were going, but it did little to calm my anxiety.

"Have you ever been inside an airplane before?"

"Yes." He smiled at me, anticipating my next question.

"What does it look like?"

He described rows of seats and windows with a driver in the front, something that sounded like a really, really big bus. Except for the part where it flew in the air. I couldn't quite wrap my mind around the image, though, until we climbed aboard. Tony found our seats and let me slide in first, by the window, where I could see that the ground was already several meters below us.

I didn't sleep all night. I stared out that window the entire time, watching the ground as it fell out from under us while an intense pressure pushed me back in my seat. And I didn't stop watching until the ground rose back up to hold the plane so that I could step out onto solid ground.

After a whole night and day of travel, I exited the airplane through a long tunnel. At the end of that tunnel, I discovered a dizzying world beyond anything I'd ever imagined, even after all the stories I had heard about America. There were lights, so many lights, and voices yelling over loudspeakers in words I didn't understand. There were a thousand white people; I had never seen so many before. Even though I knew they wouldn't really use my head as alligator bait, as I had been warned as a child, I was still fearful at the sight of them.

How would I speak to them? Would they even care what I had to say?

"I'll be right here to help you, the whole time," Tony reassured me, sensing my increased anxiety.

After we picked up our bags, we made our way to the exit to find a car. Standing there was a lady holding up a sign that said, "Frederick." When she saw me, she starting waving and calling, "Frederick! Frederick!" I knew a handful of people from the United States, but she wasn't one of them.

I walked closer and asked her, "How do you know me?"

"Charlene Jendry gave me a picture of you," she explained. "My name is Margaret. I'm going to be your driver." She grinned.

I had never seen a lady drive a car before. In Rwanda today, you sometimes see women driving, but back then, it seemed so strange to me. However, this trip had already been an adventure of many firsts, so I followed her to the car.

As we loaded our luggage into Margaret's car, Tony announced, "Now we're getting close."

We drove away from all of the people in the airport terminal only to see just as many cars on the wide, flat road. There was row after row of very tall houses. No one at all was walking on the roads until we got to a smaller road, but even then, there were only a few people running and riding bicycles. No one was carrying goods on their heads to or from the market. I saw no burlap bags of charcoal, no baskets of avocados or bananas. Yet everyone seemed to be in a focused hurry to go somewhere.

I had a hard time falling asleep that night, my first night in America. That was probably due, in part, to the television being on all night. I sat there in a dizzied daze watching the flickering images of white people talking and dancing and leisurely reading books. I tried to translate the fast, fluent conversations, and I swayed and danced to the music. It was all so surreal.

I was in America.

After I had settled into Charlene's house—which felt more like a hotel—I tried to follow all of the advice and tips I had been given about travel to this new world, even down to the food. Back at the orphanage, a lady from Canada had visited and told me that Americans ate a lot of fast food, that they had hamburgers and hot dogs everywhere. However, when we went to one restaurant, a place where a guy in a tall white hat chopped and cooked our food on the sizzling table in front of us, I tried to order a hamburger, and I was promptly told that they didn't even have it on the menu. But I was quite pleased to discover that they had rice and mixed vegetables instead. To top it off, the guy even made a volcano out of onions with real smoke coming out of it! That place helped to make me feel a bit more at home.

When I finally did get to try a hamburger, I decided then that I would just stick to the rice and vegetables. But I discovered I really liked the french fries. And chicken. Chicken was my favorite.

Toward the end of my stay in the U.S., I was also able to go visit my friend David Jiranek in New York. David was a photographer whom I'd met at the Imbabazi Orphanage in Rwanda. When he heard that I was coming to the States, he arranged for me to come to his house and meet his family.

New York City was huge, much bigger than Kigali. There were people everywhere—on foot and in cars. And there were the tallest houses, taller than anything I had ever imagined.

One day while I was there, David and his wife, Cricket, took me to see a parade. I had never seen anything like it before. There were so many people—even more than before—crowded into the streets. But the oddest thing of all were these big, colorful plastic people floating in the air. They had ropes tied to them that ran down to men and women standing on the ground, guiding the floating people down the street.

David, Cricket, and I were watching the parade when I became mesmerized by one of the tall houses. I just stood there, looking up, trying to see the top, thinking about the people inside and imagining what they were doing, what their houses looked like from the inside. After a few moments, I looked back to David, but he was gone. I spun around. Cricket was gone too. No one looked familiar, and I had absolutely no idea where I was. I didn't have a phone number or an address—nothing. I walked quickly through the streets, watching in all directions, trying to remember what color everyone was wearing. Then, from out of nowhere, I heard someone calling my name, "Frederick!" I turned, and there stood Cricket. I was never so relieved to see a familiar face. From then on, I insisted that I stand in the middle of the group, and I never fell behind again.

The food in New York was unbelievable. Every time I ordered a meal, they brought me enough for five people. And then they kept asking me if I wanted more. A guy in one restaurant came by and asked me if I wanted more iced tea.

"Oya," I answered, which means "no" in Rwanda.

But he brought me more tea anyway.

At the end of the meal, when he had a moment, I asked him playfully, "So why did you bring me more tea when I said I didn't want any?"

Confused, he answered, "But you said yes."

"I said, 'Oya.' That means 'no' back home in Rwanda."

He laughed. "Well, in America, 'oh yeah,' means yes!"

I had no idea! After that, I just learned to say, "No, thank you."

I experienced so many new things during that trip to New York. The first time I stepped inside a train, I didn't know what was going to happen. I felt like I was about to fly, but then the train took off, I lost my balance, and people all around me scrambled to catch me. At the next stop, I found a seat and sat down from then on. I thought it was so funny to sit inside while watching the people whirring by outside.

After lunch one day, I experienced the sweet, cold taste of ice cream for the first time. We didn't have ice cream in Rwanda, but after trying it in New York, I was always hungry for it—no matter how much I had eaten.

David also took me out on the ocean in a boat; that was the first time in my life to even touch a boat. I felt like we were going so fast out on the huge, wavy water. It was scary and thrilling at the same time.

Even with all the sights and sounds of the big city, the most amazing thing about my trip was right there at home, near Charlene's house, at the Columbus Zoo. Some may think that because I'm from Africa, there are lions roaming in my backyard. But in the volcanic mountain ranges of Rwanda, gorillas are one of the few exotic animals that make their home there. And I had never even been to see those. Although I had seen photos of the lions and hippos on the other side of our country in Akagera National Park, it seemed that only wealthy Rwandans and international tourists were privy to viewing the animals that roamed the park. There, at the Columbus Zoo, every animal you could think of—gorillas, elephants, rhinos, and then some—was right there in front of you, nestled into their own little piece of Africa or Australia or wherever they were from.

Even if someone had told me about all of these things before I arrived, I never could have imagined it. Never would it have prepared me for the experience of actually being there—the completely new smells, the change in the weather, the size and shapes of the trees, the different hue of the sky.

And I never would have dreamed that a group of people a world away would care about a young Rwandan man with no hands, that all of this was taking place because some compassionate people here in the United States wanted to make sure that I received my new fingers.

These guys with the cameras had been following me around Columbus to document the whole thing, so I had grown used to them. Yet now they wanted to film me talking to the guy sitting across from me: Charlie Gibson, that was his name. He seemed really nice, so I wasn't really worried about that. And I had a translator, so I knew we would be able to communicate. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that what I was about to do would change my life in ways I could never fathom. I knew that talking about what had happened to me would force me to remember everything, to feel the pain all over again, to watch those people die, to remember the men who watched and laughed as they cut off my hands.

Yet there was a propelling peace inside of me, a part of me that knew, without a doubt, that this was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. Although all evidence pointed to the contrary, I was assured that right here in this living room was exactly where I belonged.

For now.

An unbelievable future waited ahead of me. But first, I would have to tell the world about my past, about how I came to be a young Rwandan man with no hands.

Charlene watched protectively as the guy finished with the light and came to clip a tiny microphone onto my shirt.

She spoke softly. "Frederick, are you ready?"

I looked her in the eyes, collected my voice, and said, "Yes."


killing a country

"After being there in 1982, Rwanda was the last country I'd expect a genocide to happen in."

—Jack Hanna

When I lost my hands, everyone thought the genocide was over.

And maybe, to the outside world, it was. But here in Rwanda, the heart of Africa, the fear of sweeping, imminent death was still very much alive.

It had never really gone away.

* * *

For me, the genocide began with the blaring of a loudspeaker outside my sister's house. After school had dismissed in March, I made the five-hour walk from Ramba to Gishwati to stay with my older sister Beatrice and her husband. I had planned to spend the break helping my sister with chores and my brother-in-law with the shop they had in town, but I would soon learn that I'd be returning home much sooner than expected.

I was ten or eleven at the time. I'm not sure exactly how old—then or now. It seems in Western countries, everyone knows their birth time to the minute. I don't know my birth time to the year. It's not that birthdays aren't important—they are—we just don't focus on the day. Or, I guess, even the year. We consider all of life a miracle, especially now, in a country so well known for its deaths.

This particular day, however, would be a day I would always remember. This day would later be lamented by presidents, recorded in history books, dissected through debates, and memorialized in museums. Countless press conferences and articles and books would try to explain what happened that day, try to define the aftermath that followed, try to answer the questions that weighed heavy on the hearts of all who watched the terrors unfold, either in person or eventually on a television screen.

Why was the president's plane shot down? How did the Hutus come to believe that killing their own president was the best for the country? When did this country become so embedded with hate, and what made it fester into a full-blown epidemic that would decimate a nation? How would a country ever recover from such a devastating blow to its economy, to its infrastructure, to its population?

Most of the outside world had few answers to these questions. Even for those of us inside the country, we had seen the signs, we knew the history, but never would we have predicted such an outcome.

It couldn't be disputed, however, that Rwanda's political past was littered with horrific atrocities fueled mostly by racism. There had been three races, or tribes, that made up most of the Rwandan population: the majority Hutus, a word meaning "cultivators" or "planters"; the elite Tutsis, a traditionally taller, more slender people, with their roots firmly planted in royalty; and the Twas, a people very short in stature, very few in number, but very big in mystery and magic. The Twas, because of their small number and secretive nature, were rarely seen; they kept to themselves.

Throughout the last several decades, there had been continuous tension between the two larger people groups. The Hutus vastly outnumbered the Tutsis; however the Tutsis ruled over the Hutus because of their royal status. Then, when the king died in 1959, the Hutus rose up to overthrow the Tutsi monarchy, killing many Tutsis in the process. It seems there were external forces at work too, as Rwanda was officially under Belgian rule, but even after Rwanda was declared independent in 1962, the uprisings continued. The Tutsis would attempt a retaliation, but being largely outnumbered, it was their tribe that repeatedly received the bulk of the collateral damage.

In 1973, the Hutus finally secured their rule when they overthrew the Tutsi government and Juvénal Habyarimana became president. This seemed to calm much of the fighting for a period, although propaganda and discrimination still fueled hatred against the Tutsis.

Meanwhile, over time, the two tribes had blended, leaving few physical characteristics that separated the "races." Still, the government was issuing its citizens the identity cards that were very clearly marked "Hutu" and "Tutsi." My parents' cards, for instance, said "Hutu." But for most of us, high in the hills, in small villages and towns, it didn't much matter to us what our neighbor's identity card said. For the Hutus in power, however, it would later become an indicator of who would live and who would die.

Although a Hutu president was in office, it seemed the radical Hutu groups were still not satisfied. And soon these Hutus and their supporters would launch a plan in hopes of wiping out the Tutsis once and for all.

For me, that day would obliterate everything I knew about safety, peace, forgiveness, and love. And in ways that only God can explain, it would make me a better man.

It was April 7, 1994.

Around five o'clock that morning, Beatrice called for me. "Byuka, Frederick!" Wake up! "Ujye kuvoma." It was time to get the water.


Excerpted from Frederick by Frederick Ndabaramiye, Amy Parker. Copyright © 2014 Frederick Ndabaramiye and Amy Parker. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword from jack hanna xiii

Prologue xvii

1 New beginnings 1

2 Killing a country 13

3 It isn't over 29

4 How the killers saved my life 43

5 What will never be 51

6 Trying to die 65

7 Learning to live again 75

8 Finding home 87

9 Beautiful fingers 101

10 Faith and forgiveness 117

11 Why did i survive? 125

12 Building a dream 133

13 People like me 147

14 I am able 157

15 Rebuilding hope 167

Epilogue: boundless hope 111

Acknowledgments 181

About the authors 185

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