“Surprise! I’m still alive!”
That’s not necessarily a phrase that anybody would plan on having to say—especially at their own funeral. But by the grace of God, such was the case for Noela Rukundo.
Just five days prior, the Australian woman was back in her homeland of Burundi attending her stepmother’s funeral. Little did she know, a few days later she’d be attending her own, after her husband, Balenga Kalala, plotted her murder.
Kalala thought she had been cheating on him, but it’s a claim that Rukundo denies.
While his wife was on a trip to her native country, the jealous husband back in Melbourne hired a couple of hitmen to kill her outside of her hotel room.
According to a report by BBC, Kalala called while she was in her hotel room telling her to “go outside for fresh air.”
That’s when a group of masked man attacked her and told her that her husband had ordered them to kill her.
“I knew he was a violent man,” said Rukundo. “But I didn’t believe he can kill me.”
She thought they must be joking. Rukundo couldn’t possibly believe that the man she loved would order her death…until she heard her husband’s voice echo from one of the hitmen’s cell phones.
“Kill her,” he demanded. “I heard his voice. I heard him. I felt like my head was going to blow up,” said Rukundo.
Her life and the eight children she would leave behind flashed before her eyes.
“I said to myself, I was already dead. Nothing I can do can save me,” she told BBC.
However, in an unexplainable display of mercy, the gang members decided not to go through with the murder. They said that they didn’t believe in killing women and children. By chance, they also happened to know her brother.
Since her husband had already paid them $7,000 in Australian money up front, they decided instead to just go back and tell him she was dead.
“We just want you to go back, to tell other stupid women like you what happened,” they warned her.
Two days later, they let her go on the side of the road and equipped her with a cell phone, records of conversations with Kalala, and a receipt for the $7,000 payment, as reported by Australia newspaper The Age.
“We give you 80 hours to leave this country,” the gang told her. “Your husband is serious. Maybe we can spare your life, but other people, they’re not going to do the same thing. If God helps you, you’ll get to Australia.'”
Well, God did just that.
Incredibly shaken, but still alive, Rukundo contacted the Kenyan and Belgian embassies for help. She also called the pastor of her church in Melbourne to alert him of the dire situation.
Three days later, her pastor helped her get safely home to Melbourne without making any mention to her husband.
In the meantime, Kalala had made everyone believe his wife died in some tragic accident.
As Rukundo watched grieving friends and family file out of her own funeral, she came out to confront the man who tried to kill her saying, “Surprise! I’m still alive!”
“Is it my eyes?” he responded in shock. “Is it a ghost?!”
At that moment, Kalala began to profusely apologize, saying, “Sometimes the Devil can come into someone, to do something, but after they do it they start thinking, ‘Why I did that thing?’ later.”
Devil or not, the damage had already been done.
“Had Ms. Rukundo’s kidnappers completed the job, eight children would have lost their mother,” Chief Justice Marilyn Warren said according to ABC. “It was premeditated and motivated by unfounded jealousy, anger and a desire to punish Ms. Rukundo.”
As her husband faces his nine-year prison sentence, Rukundo remains traumatized by the haunting voice she heard echo through the phone. But despite that, she is grateful for God’s mighty, protective hand that undoubtedly spared her that day.
“I felt like somebody who had risen again,” she remarked.
“I will stand up like a strong woman. My situation, my past life? That is gone. I’m starting a new life now.”