Lisa Samson On The Power Of Fear

With her new novel, Resurrection In May, author Lisa Samson challenges readers to face their fears. Samson explains why she chose to write about an American female missionary's experiences living through the genocide in Rwanda during 1994 and shares the story of the single real-life American missionary who did the same.

Improbable? Maybe. Impossible? Definitely not. In Resurrection In May, May Seymour, living at a mission in Rwanda, hears the invective on the radio against the Tutsi. And still she loves. She hears the gunshots coming closer. And still she loves. She realizes the monstrous forces bent on destruction are just outside the door. And still she loves? Really? Is it likely an American would have stayed in Rwanda during the genocide that took almost a million lives in 1994?

Actually, no. In truth, only one American remained in Rwanda during those brutal three months, beginning in April of 1994. An Adventist missionary named Carl Wilkins put his wife and children on a convoy out of Rwanda, rolled up his sleeves, set his jaw in the face of horror, and took chance after chance to do what was right, even saving an entire orphanage. Only one American. Well, for the sake of the book, there were two. Only May wasn't so heroic. She merely survived, alone, for three months after the decimation of her village. Her story seemed quite small compared to Mr. Wilkins.

And yet, even so, why would a person choose to stay, choose to risk amputation, rape and death? Is love really the answer? Perhaps it was for Carl Wilkins, but for May, perhaps fear was really the reason. How could fear motivate someone to put her very life in the twisting grip of fate? A long time ago, someone once told me that we'll move forward into something we have feared when we become more frightened of the status quo. For May, going back to the States, to a silly life of clubbing, tanning booths, and tight, booze-stained jeans, losing herself, the true being she was able to be, was more frightening than being attacked by the Interahamwe. For many of us, we stand on the brink of decision at various points in our lives and realize that to go back to our old ways, our self-centered decisions, our vacuous activities, is a death of sorts. Better to take a chance and live large, and maybe a bit dangerous, to put ourselves in harm's way, than not to really have ever lived at all.

Perhaps you're standing at a crossroads wondering if you can move forward into something new. Should you remain in the same old life, one that might be unfulfilling, or step out? How can you not?

Maybe May, as crazy as it sounds, had the right idea.

- Lisa Samson

Want to know more about May's story? Resurrection In May is on bookstore shelves now.