Since Burundi’s independence in 1962, there have been two events called genocides in the country. The 1972 mass killings of Hutus by the Tutsi-dominated army, and the 1994 mass killings of Tutsis by the majority-Hutu populace are both described as genocide in the final report of the International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi presented to the Unitied Nations Security Council in 2002.
At the age of 9 months, Elder Innocent Hitimana’s parents were killed in that war in Burundi in 1994. He does not know their names or where this took place. A kind passer-by, an elderly lady picked him up and raised him as her own. However when he was 16 years old his “adopted grandmother” passed away and her children chased him away because they did not want him to lay claim to any inheritance.
He was sent to a boarding school and at the age of 18 was required to work in exchange for the schooling he had received. So he went to the government (ministry of solidarity), an area overseeing social programs in Burundi. The government sent him to an orphanage and covered his schooling and room and board. While at this school, he found the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From that day he felt at ease. He was called “brother” and felt like the Church was his family.
At the age of 21 he had what we say is the equivalent of a high school degree. The government then helped him find a job that would pay for more school. However, after two months into this internship the government had learned Elder Hitimana had decided to serve a mission for his church. The government official over the program was angry with him, expelled Elder Hitimana from the program and said he should work first and serve a mission later.
Elder Hitimana then went to live with a Senior Couple named Cahoons for eight months. It was with the Cahoons that he was able to prepare for his mission. With tears of gratitude streaming down his face, he told his sad story in French, the language he is assigned to in the MTC. He wants to do Family File work in the temple but does not even know the names of his parents or where they are from. This is the sobering story, one of many, of one of the missionaries who has sacrificed all to come on this mission.