Congo refugees get help from Christians

By August 1, 2011

Uganda (MNN) — You've heard the stories: years of civil conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo killed many people, injured others, and forced many people from their homes. While the situation is becoming a bit more peaceful, there are still bands of rebels who continue to oppress people, forcing many from Congo and into Uganda.

President of Medical Teams International Bas Vanderzalm says their ministry has been responding to this need for some time. He describes the refugees' scenario: "Their homes are burned, people are killed, and they have no choice but to leave. And so, several hundred thousand Congolese have migrated to other parts of Africa, away from eastern Congo, and a good number of these refugees have moved into Uganda for safety."

According to Vanderzalm, Medical Teams International has established refugee camps. "The Ugandan authorities and the United Nations have asked us to provide medical care to these refugees."

Vanderzelm describes the condition of the refugees when they arrive. "They have had to walk for days. They have been able to carry nothing with them except what they can put in their arms. They're not only malnourished, but are often are sick. They haven't had water to drink, and so they're quite weak initially."

The objective of Medical Teams, says Vanderzalm, is to "provide them treatment early on and to help them stabilize themselves. Then, it's more of just maintaining the right level of health care for them while they're there."

Vanderzalm says the camp is a "good news" story. "In this camp, God is at work through the volunteers that we have there. We are seeing many refugees experiencing the Gospel in a real way for the first time."

It's more than just a one-time experience, though, says Vanderzalm. "We are seeing Bible studies begin throughout the area. Also, churches are involved in the community to try to promote health, so it has become a place of God's blessing and presence.

While Medical Teams International does receive help from the UN, "it's not enough for everything that we are doing. The work that we do with churches and so on we do with the support of people in [the United States]. So, if people would be willing to make a gift of $35 to us, that would help us touch the lives of one family with medicine." That would also provide opportunities for that family to hear the Gospel .

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