The Faces I've Seen in Congo
In October of 2009 my friend, Christine Anderson, and I traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with World Relief to learn more about the tragic, ongoing civil war in which over 5,000,000 people had died, hundreds of thousands had been displaced from their homes, and brutal rape was used as a weapon of war. (According to educated estimates a woman is raped every minute in the DRC.)
After that trip I started a fundraising campaign called Ten for Congo, challenging American women to donate just $10 to support programs of healing for Congolese women.
In June 2012, Christine and I returned to the DRC with five additional American women, plus three women who couldn’t travel with us but supported our trip with prayer, blogging and raising funds. With that trip, Ten for Congo morphed from ten dollars for Congo to ten women for Congo. My Congo Journal, which starts here tells the recent story of Ten for Congo, and contains lots of accessible information about the DRC. If you feel any nudge from God’s spirit to stand in solidarity with the dear people of Congo, please read the series of blog posts.
Our trip to Congo last June was almost cancelled because of escalating violence in the Rutshuru region we were planning to visit. We left home anyway, praying we’d be able to enter Congo, and we did! We spent 4 days in Ruthshuru, hearing the stories of women who had been violently brutalized, but were finding hope and healing through compassion committees in their local churches. We met with pastors and church volunteers who had build homes for widows and were helping to mediate local conflicts in their communities. We were devastated by what we saw and heard in Ruthshuru, but also exhilarated by hope that can blossom in the most desperate situations when followers of Jesus live out their calling as healers and peacemakers.
Sadly, just days after we left Rutshuru, the region was taken over by the same, vicious M23 rebels who are now fighting in the streets of Goma, threatening to take control of that town of 700,000 people.
The situation in Congo today is grave—worse than it’s been in years. Many of the people suffering there today have faces I recognize. If you read my Congo Journal, you too will have faces to put on the faceless conflict in Congo. Those faces will haunt you, but I guarantee you will learn what I have learned: that it is an unspeakable privilege to carry in our heart and mind the face of a child of God who is suffering. It is life lived on the edge of the unseen.
The World Relief staff in Goma is gathered behind closed doors, forced there by the fighting raging in the streets even as I write. But they are strategizing, praying, and preparing to respond to the emergency crisis they will face when the doors open. Please pray for them and give generously to support their work at http://worldrelief.org/Page.aspx?pid=2986.
For more information about Ten for Congo, please visit our Facebook page.
PS A month ago I spoke at a retreat for forty Palestinian Christian women in Bethlehem, West Bank. The woman who invited me to speak asked me to tell the Palestinian women about the women in Congo. I hesitated to do it, because I knew these Palestinian women lived very difficult lives and I didn’t want to add another burden for them to carry. But my friend insisted, so I told the stories of Congo. In a spontaneous offering, these 40 women donated $1000 for their sisters in Congo. You can read about that amazing experience here.