Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Congo

July 11, 2012

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your
God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my
victorious right hand." Isaiah 41:10

The Congo.

When I first realized that my call to Africa would include a week in DR Congo I gave the trip heavy consideration. My only impressions of Congo were those formed by the hands of overly-enthusiastic Hollywood movie directors, and let's just say that those impressions weren't pretty. I knew Congo presented great risk but over time I felt that God made it adamantly clear it was His will for us to enter the war-torn country.

Fighting in Congo began to escalate about six weeks before our trip. Over 10 active militias continue to reek havoc throughout the country, slaughtering families, attacking women and forcing children into fighting. For a short time it seemed as if our entrance into Congo would prove too big of a safety risk. However, just one week--ONE WEEK--before our arrival into Congo the government declared a cease to the fighting. Though the militias remain in-tact they prove less active when not pursued by the government. Our ministry partners in Congo said, "Its obvious your people are praying."

Some time ago My husband placed a quote on our refrigerator by Edmund Burke which reads, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Though fighting had descended the risk for Congo still proved great. I considered allowing fear to keep me from entering the country--but then evil would have won. The risk was high but God had allowed a small window of opportunity for us to enter Congo. We decided to trust His lead.

While in Congo our team ministered to a group of 22 widows from the jungle area and 30 former child soldiers.  On the first day the expressions on the women's faces communicated their shame and grief. As I began to share with these widows my own experience with grief, their hard faces began to soften. I overtly confessed my realization that my circumstances prove VERY different than their own. But I asked them to consider if our circumstances hadn't caused us to share similar questions about God.

God, are You there?

God, how could You allow this to happen?

God, are you mad at me?

God, don't you love me?

God, how will I ever recover from this tragedy?

I led them through Scripture to demonstrate God's care and concern for them. My ministry partner revealed to them the need for forgiveness and reconciliation--not for the sake of their offenders but for the sake of their own hearts. And by the second day--yes, over a matter of two days--the widow's faces began to glow. The women explained, "No one ever comes to Congo. Most mzungu's (that's Swahili for white person) are too afraid. But because God sent you, now we know He hasn't forgotten us. Now we know God still cares for us."

Please hear me when I say I take NO credit for this. Nothing within me could offer hope to women who have endured such crimes against them. No. Our team witnessed the power of God at its best.

When light shines in a bright room the effect of the light goes unnoticed. But when light shines in a dark room the power of the light appears magnified. The same theory holds true in Congo. Compared to a place like Congo I'd say America shines brightly. But sadly, God's glory and power often go unnoticed in our country. In a place like Congo, however, the light of God bursts forth like the sun rising over a mountaintop. Only the power of God could have renewed the hope of these women. Only God can offer forgiveness for the types of crimes the former soldiers chose to commit, or as in most cases were forced to commit.

The people of Congo endure so much. The least I can do is offer myself as a vessel for God a few weeks of the year to go and remind them of the Good News (Romans 10:14).

Our team crossed the Congo border back in to Rwanda last Thursday afternoon. My heart broke to hear that apparently the government resumed fighting the next day. Over the weekend the militias captured three towns within 24 miles of Goma, the city in which we held our conference. The capturing of towns means more attacks, more lives lost, more children enslaved. Before our time in Congo, more fighting simply meant more fighting; according to Hollywood it's what they do in Congo. But now I have faces to go along with the fighting.

Jeannie, who danced in elation when she
discovered we shared the same name and who lives as a widow with a
bullet in her shoulder because she has no money for an operation.

A faithful grandmother who selflessly
cares for her grandson because she lost the rest of her
family--including her daughter--to the war.

Martin, the father of six and our host pastor who risks his life daily to intercept child soldiers and war-torn widows with the hope and love of God.

Johnson, the UN helicopter pilot who
served as my driver one Sunday morning. A young family man, he flies
rescue missions through the Congo jungles from 9AM-5PM. We heard
helicopters such as his flying hourly over our conference location in
Congo.  The woman who had 4 sets of twins--4 sets--but who lost all 8
children in the war. Samuel, one of our translators from Congo.
John-Paul, a pastor desperate for our team to visit the his beloved
church outside of Goma.

I do not share these stories to dramatize the events in Congo. I share them to ask for prayer.

Congo is a dangerous place. But God loves Congo, and the people of Congo so much He used His strong right hand to cause a cease in the fighting for one week; enough time to allow His message to be proclaimed through His servants.

Would you join me in praying for this war-torn country? Pray that those fighting would lay down their weapons, that the victims of war would be reminded of God's love and provisions, that the people of Congo would turn their faces back toward God so that they may be restored.

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