DR Congo (MNN/MAF) — As the refugee crisis drags on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), it is making fewer and fewer headlines. However, the crisis is far from over.
Hundreds of thousands of people in the DRC are displaced because of terrible violence in the east. Some of it is tribal, some of it is political, but either way, the outcome is the same.
In the city of Bunia, thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) live in tarp tents with little to go home to. Most have lost their homes, livelihoods, and even loved ones in the fighting.
Jon Cadd, program manager with Christian organization Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) in eastern DRC, says, “There was a lot of violence between a couple of tribal groups to the north of us about 50 miles. Really, really violent things. People had their arms cut off and hacked with machetes across the back of the neck and across the face. Numerous people [were] killed and it just sparked a refugee crisis. Everybody… ran out of that area and thousands of people ended up in Bunia in various refugee camps.”
MAF provides aviation services to ministries and organizations in remote and isolated areas. According to Cadd, providing food, tarps, and relief supplies to refugees isn’t necessarily in the direct scope of what MAF does as an aviation ministry in the DRC. But they had to do something.
“This is in our backyard and we just can’t let it go. People are really hungry and have been without shelter. So over the last couple of months, we’ve given tarps for makeshift tents to keep them out of the rain and sun and [have] been supplying food, rice, beans, soap for cleanliness and just all kinds of supplies for keeping the people alive there.”
Cadd says when he visits the refugee camp, “I’ve got a trail of kids following me when I walk through there. I try to go weekly and see what the real, most necessary items are that we can try to help with. Generally, it’s food items, but sometimes it’s blankets and material for shelter, that kind of thing.”
A local pastor who serves as a chaplain with MAF goes to the refugee camp and finds opportunities to share the Gospel. He even recently showed the JESUS film in the camp.
“I ask him questions like, ‘Okay, how many people went there this last night?’ and he said, ‘Ah, it’s hard to count. The entire camp came!’”
The MAF team also recently gave out 150 Swahili Bibles. According to Cadd, “It was a very wonderful time of praying that the Word of God would go into people’s hearts and that He would reveal Himself to them through His word.” When MAF staff visited the camp later on August 20, they saw people reading those very Bibles!
“It’s amazing the response that we’re getting from that and people giving their life to the Lord,” Cadd shares. “Also, in conjunction with that, people are telling their stories about what has happened to them. We’re finding a lot of rape victims there, a bunch of girls telling the story of what happened to them.”
The chaplain asked MAF if there was something that could be done to help these girls and women. They ended up bringing in some women who also worked at a local orphanage and who were willing to teach refugee women how to sew.
When the sewing group started to meet, 37 women and girls who were rape and violence victims attended. The group’s purpose was to minister to these ladies and help heal their wounds.
But they had no idea how much the group would grow. “We started the class…and within the first week there were 150 women there just really wanting to take part in that and really excited about what was going on.”
As MAF continues working in eastern DRC, their pilots and staff members seek to be the hands and feet of Christ to those they serve.
Cadd reflects, “We were just reading in our time with our national staff today when we were studying the Bible in the morning about Peter and John. After Jesus had died, they went into the temple and there was a guy who was lame from birth. They said, ‘We don’t have any money, but what we have, we will give to you. In the name of Jesus, stand up and walk.’… They took a lot of flak from the religious leaders but they stood up boldly to them.
“At the end of that, [Acts 4:13] said, ‘When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.’
“You just see people’s lives changed radically when they encounter Christ. So we’re really trying to be like that and let them see Christ in us and hopefully make changes like that as well. It’s not us. It’s Christ in us.”
The refugee crisis in the DRC may seem far removed to those of us who are outside the country or maybe even on the other side of the ocean. But, as the Body of Christ, we have an opportunity to come alongside fellow believers with MAF and extend God’s love to suffering Congolese people.
First, we can pray. “Prayer is a powerful thing and we want to be part of what Christ is doing in all of this and pray for healing.”
We can also give financially. Cadd says, “If people want to give to the DR (Disaster Response) Fund through MAF and we can direct some of that to help people, we’re really happy to do that.”
To give, click here to visit MAF’s donation page, click “search for a different fund”, and you can give to the fund titled 4039-EDRC IDP Refugee Response.
(Header photo courtesy of Mission Aviation Fellowship)