Enric Sifa laughs a lot. He’s handsome, youthful, and short. In his early twenties, he looks forward to attending Warner Pacific this year. But age isn’t the only thing that makes Enric different from other freshmen.
When he’s not studying, Enric goes on music concert tours, raises funds for Africa New Life Ministries (ANLM), and travels the world.
All this for a young man who lost some of his family, including his parents, as a result of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
At nine years old Enric was out on his own, living on the street in Kigali, Rwanda.
He says, “I would get up and go and shoot marbles. We would do that for hours. If I won, I would go and buy food and then go to the movies. You see, each movie lasted a few hours and the days go by slow when you are out on the street. So you could see three movies and then that was six hours gone and the day would be shorter.”
He adds, “If I didn’t win at marbles, I would go out looking for luggage to carry. People would pay you a little bit and then you could eat.”
One Saturday night Enric went to one of the bars nearby. He loved music and had heard that a famous musician would be playing. But that night he didn’t hear any music. Instead, he was severely beaten, as so many street kids often are.
After being beaten up Enric went to sleep on the street and heard a voice talking to him. “You don't need to go to bars and clubs to find joy,” the voice said. “There is something better for you.”
Enric says: “I didn't know it was a voice of God, but for sure it was because it was so peaceful. Next day while I was just walking in town, I heard music in a building. I didn't know it was church, but I was desperate for music. I went to check it out and when I entered people were dancing, smiling, singing, and full of joy. The music was free and no one was there to beat me up. After that I kept going back, and as the days went on God revealed his truth to me and I fell in love with Jesus.”
At that church Enric found acceptance and warmth. More importantly, he was sponsored and now had a new home and “family.”
One of Enric’s favorite things growing up was receiving letters from his American sponsor. These letters proved to him that somebody cared about him, that somebody knew his name, and that somebody was always praying for him. That reality later gave him the confidence to pursue his dream of becoming a musician.
Thankfully, at his church Enric’s musical abilities were actively encouraged. Soon he was teaching songs to the younger children.
Enric was fifteen years old when someone gave him his first guitar. He remembers that day very well.
Some time later, Rwanda held a national contest for the best song about AIDS. Enric entered a song he wrote and won. Suddenly he was a celebrity on the order of “American Idol” or “America’s Got Talent.”
Even today if you get into a taxi in Rwanda, you’ll probably hear Enric’s songs on the radio or CD player. Whenever Enric goes back in Africa, especially to Rwanda, he has to travel with someone else; girls flock to his concerts and scream his name.
With much levity, Enric hams it up around a table with ANLM founder Charles Mugisha Buregeya, Charles’s brother Fred, and Alan Hotchkiss, ANLM’s executive director. During the conversation, fatherly advice and teasing are dished out by all three men. Enric is still part of a growing international family.
Enric is quick to tell everyone that he is a Christian. He shares his faith and is bold about what he believes.
His musical style, he says, is soul pop. His favorite artists include Seal and John Regent. Now he plays simply as Enric and has his own Christian band here in the U.S.
If he hadn’t received one of ANLM’s first child sponsorships, Enric says he would be dead or in serious trouble by now. Instead, he sings for God’s glory and looks forward to studying at Warner Pacific the next few years.
Copyright © 2011 Charles Mugisha Buregeya, founder of Africa New Life Ministries, www.africanewlife.org. Excerpted from the new book, From the Jungles of Uganda to the Hills of Rwanda Faith Prevails by Charles Mugisha Buregeya with Susan W. Lester. Reprinted by permission.