The joy and pain of Congo…

Last month I travelled to the DRC with a team from Liverpool. As the elections draw nearer in the capital city of Kinshasa, the instability in the North East of the country has grown progressively worse. The pressure of this has been felt specifically in the border town of Kasindi where there are now over 6,000 displaced families who have fled their homes to escape the rebels and the constant threat they pose.

The arrival of these Internally Displaced People (IDP’s) has put increasing pressure on the town in terms of it’s infrastructure but also on the people who live there, many of whom exist on around $2 per day. Whilst the town is home to a number of wealthy individuals, the majority are living hand to mouth, in extremely challenging situations.

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When we visited in April 2016, we began to make plans for a health centre that would serve this displaced community who have made Kasindi their temporary home. In 2017 I had the privilege of seeing the shell of the building coming together as work progressed slowly. Last month I was overwhelmed with emotion as we cut the ribbon to officially open the health centre. It has become a focal point in the community and has already created 9 jobs. It feels in many ways that though it is only a building, it resembles partnership, love and most of all it represents hope, a new hope.

One of the highlights for me was visiting a piece of land 6kms out of the town that we are renting for displaced people to grow crops. The land is about 3 hectares and provides an allotment sized space for 89 families. Not only was it an encouragement to see how this was giving them a crop and a means to sustain themselves but we were amazed how they had pooled their land together in order to produce a greater yield and a more effective outcome for everyone. It summarises the culture that is so often apparent in developing countries that ‘together we are stronger’. It’s not a slogan on a t shirt or a campaign message, it’s a way of life and often (sadly) a necessity.

The hardest moment, as always with these trips, was being confronted by extreme poverty and suffering at it’s worst. We entered a house shared by 3 families, or what was left of those families. One lady in the house had fled to Kasindi after her husband and 3 children were murdered by rebels. We listened, speechless, to her story and held back tears as she explained how she had been left with nothing but she thanked God for the little help we had provided. As we left one of our team embraced her in a long and emotional hug, it was a picture I chose not to take on my camera but it will remain with me for a long time. In many ways that moment sums up why we spend hundreds of pounds on air fares and hours travelling overland, simply to embrace those who are dealing with the effects of humanity’s worst and to tell them they are not forgotten.

We cannot change the situation overnight in the Congo, rebels will continue to kill and rape, politicians will continue to turn a blind eye and all the while innocent civilians will suffer. However, I’m driven by the fact the little we can do is making a huge difference to those we encountered and spent time with. So on their behalf… Thank You! Thank you for your generosity, support, prayers and kind words. God bless you, James