Rwandan speaker to share inspiring story of healing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 7, 2009

NATCHEZ — A speaker on faith and healing will be in Natchez Jan. 16 and 17.

Immaculee Ilibagiza survived the Rwandan Holocaust by sharing the space of a cramped bathroom with seven other women for 91 days.

In her journey of survival, she also found herself on a journey of discovering God.

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And now she is coming to Natchez to speak at Evangelization 2009.

The conference is hosted by the Natchez Council for Arts and Culture, and president Hedy Boelte said having Ilibagiza as a speaker is a major event.

“She is tremendous,” Boelte said.

Not only has Ilibagiza written the New York Times Bestselling book “Left to Tell,” she’s also been honored with the Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace in 2007 and appeared on CNN, 60 Minutes and other shows.

Tourism Director Connie Taunton has been working closely with Boelte to advertise Evangelization 2009.

“I really don’t think locally that people realize what an accomplishment it is for us to have a speaker of her magnitude coming and speaking in Natchez,” Taunton said.

Boelte began orchestrating for Ilibagiza to come speak in Natchez a year ago.

To fill out the program, she’s selected other guests to come speak.

“I have the most beautiful conference,” she said.

Visionary Ivan Dragicevic, of Medjugorje, will speak of his visions of the Virgin Mary that he has had every day for 26 years.

“It’s the longest running visionary in the history of time,” Boelte said.

Cancer survivor Artie Boyle will speak on his healing after his pilgrimage to Medjugorje.

Inspirational speaker Kitty Cleveland and musician Kara Klein are also part of the two-day program.

The conference will be at St. Mary Basilica and all proceeds will benefit Holy Family Catholic Church.

“I felt it was important to help Holy Family in any way we could,” she said.

In addition to the program, Boelte said she is hosting a private dinner at 8 p.m. Jan. 16 at Monmouth.

It’s $150 per person for a five-course meal in which the guest speakers attend.

Registration for the event is being handled through the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Right now Taunton said 350 people have registered, and Boelte said capacity is 500 at the church.