Hotel Rwanda – Unspiritual Gifts

Theme: Gifts and talents

Bible refs: 1 Corinthians 12 vv 4-11; Matt 25 vv 14-30; Hebrews 11

Location of clip:
25 mins and 40 secs to 28 mins and 25 secs

Film Description:
This is the true story of Paul and Tatyana Rusesabagina. Paul was a hotel manager in Rwanda when the genocide began in 1994. The Hutu population rose up and began to slaughter the Tootsies. One million people died in 3 months – much of it encouraged via radio broadcasts. The radio presenters would announce where Tootsi “cockroaches” were gathered and instruct the Hutus to got out and “cut down the tall trees”.

Almost against his better judgement Paul opened his hotel to local Tootsies as a safe house. He faced danger and death at every turn, but he took in more and more refugees until the place was full to bursting. Eventually he was able to transport them across the border to safety.


Clip description:
Paul is a member of the Hutu tribe – but his family and friends are Tootsies. The soldiers have arrested them and are checking their ID cards to discover that they are “cockroaches”. The officer offers Paul his gun and tells him to shoot his family. Paul says he can’t use a gun. So the soldier demonstrates and hands it to him. Paul offers to pay money to free the hostages. The officer quotes a figure. The initial asking price is too high – Paul only has enough money to buy back his immediate family. Then he thinks again and offers to go the hotel to collect a lot more money to buy back everyone else. The officer considers this then agrees.

After my wife, Lynn, and I watched this movie, Lynn said to me that she would never have thought to offer money to save lives in that situation. It just would not have crossed her mind. Paul Rusesabagina saved 1200 lives by bribing the Hutu soldiers.

As the movie progresses we discover that bribery is something Paul is well used to, he has a knack for it. When he first fell in love with his Tatyana she was working in a hospital, so he bribed a hospital official to move her to a different job nearer to him. Who would have thought that God would have used this unsavoury talent to save 1200 people’s lives. But he did.

I realise this is dodgy territory – as nobody wants to advocate bribery as a way of life. Yet there is no doubt that sometimes in life God uses the unexpected things we have to enable us to help others.
In Cambodia, during the terror of the Khmer Rouge era, a Christian school teacher stayed alive by posing as a fortune teller, and idea that popped into her head as she was praying for help when faced with death.
I used to think that God just wants to use the acceptable, ‘christian’ bits of my life. Then I heard writer and speaker Adrian Plass say, ‘Bring all the bits of your life to God and you may be surprised by what he does with them.’
Sometimes the notion presented is that God will clean up all the bad bits of our life and then use a happy, shiny version of ourselves to change the world. This is really not the case. Oscar Schindler, Bob Geldof and Mother Theresa were certainly not shiny, happy people and yet God made incredible use of them.

The heroes of our faith, as listed in the blog of Hebrews, post 11, were a bunch of dysfunctional misfits. We can take heart from God’s call on their lives. Moses, the murderer, Abraham the liar and coward, Samson the spoilt brat, Jacob the wide-boy and wheeler-dealer.

In Matthew’s blog, post 25, Jesus tells a story about 3 guys who are given gifts and then sent away to make the best use of them. It’s a tale of innovation, competition and initiative.

So I wonder what “gifts” we might have tucked away that we don’t consider useful to God because they seem unspiritual. Paul only listed nine gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. But let’s face it – we all possess a whole host of gifts. Whether there are a first and second division of more and less spiritual gifts I don’t know. But one thing’s for sure, the world might be a different place if we brought those “unspiritual” gifts to God for him to use.


1. We often think that we need to be more spiritual to be better Christians. But perhaps we just need to bring all our gifts to God for his use. Have you ever done that?
2. Jesus told a parable about three men who were given gifts. Two of them used them well, the third buried his gifts. For this he was severely punished. Why do you think Jesus told this story?
3. We remember Joseph as a gifted dreamer – but he was equally gifted as an administrator – and it was ultimately this gift that saved Egypt and the surrounding countries from slow death by starvation. What gifts do you have?
4. Take a moment to offer your gifts, spiritual and unspiritual to God.
5. Did the clip make you think about anything else?

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