Counseling team providing biblical hope in Congolese IDP camps

By March 31, 2022

East DRC (MNN) — Survivors of violence continue to flood internally displaced people (IDP) camps in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The violence is a mix of tribal conflict and militant groups.

The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office reported almost 7,000 human rights violations and abuses in the DRC in 2021. Violence against humanitarian workers have increased as well as attacks on the edges of IDP camps.

(Photo courtesy of MAF)

Sheryl Strietzel with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) in East DRC says several families in the IDP camps are separated from loved ones. “Many times, the husband has to go back to the village if he can to continue trying to raise food and to keep the home that they have there.”

Tangible Hope

MAF has a base in Bunia, DRC where they provide aviation services reaching remote areas with physical aid and the Gospel. The ministry funds a team of 12 counselors to provide biblical support in three of the local IDP camps.

Pastor Balikenga Bisoke Bernard, a chaplain with MAF says, “We are there trying to give hope to those people who are really vulnerable.”

The counselors spend five days a week in the IDP camps listening to people, praying with them, working on goals, and giving biblical encouragement. Several nurses can also provide necessary medicine.

Pastor Bisoke says, “Even though we are helping them to release their trauma, to ease their trauma, we are trying to…also to bring the Gospel to them.

“It’s really amazing to see some of those people. They are suffering, they lost everything, they lost even their loved ones, but they are coming to Jesus. You can’t even imagine, but God is doing a big work among those people!”

Left to right: Mama Neema (one of the nurse counselors), Papa Mambo and his wife Mama Celestine, and Sheryl Strietzel. (Photo courtesy of MAF)

Strietzel has met several survivors in the camps with incredible stories.

She shares the story of Mama Celestine, a mother of six who “had lost part of her left arm in the attack about two and a half years ago on their village. She was left among the dead until someone realized that she was still breathing.

“Today, I look at her and I don’t really consider her as a handicapped person because she can accomplish all of her work with great speed, including wrapping her baby on her back as the Congolese women carry their children. She is smiling and thankful and praises God for His grace.”

Holistic Care

In addition to biblical support for violence and trauma survivors, the counselors help identify specific needs in the IDP camps. Strietzel says their one of their visions is for MAF to hire three literacy teachers — one for each camp they work in — to teach women to read.

They also want to see activities provided for children as healthy alternatives to spending time on the streets, where these vulnerable kids are often introduced to drugs and alcohol.

Finally, the counselors see malnutrition as a major problem, especially for young children, pregnant women, and those vulnerable to illness. Strietzel says, “About 70% of the children are suffering to some degree of malnutrition. Also, the malnutrition is affecting pregnant women and some are dying during childbirth. So that’s really an important place to be able to concentrate our efforts as well.”

Prayer Requests from the Counselors

Strietzel passes along four specific prayer requests from the counselor team. Pray for:

  • An end to tribal violence in the villages and the outskirts of Bunia.
  • Necessary resources to reach displaced people who need them.
  • Survivors to hold onto hope of returning to their homes.
  • Displaced people to not lose faith that God loves them and He hears their prayers.

Sheryl Strietzel with Congolese children in the IDP camp. (Photo courtesy of MAF)

“If anyone has the gift of giving also, you can be encouraged to give something towards these ministries that we mentioned today for the women to learn how to read, to have activities for the children, and to have a bit more food for the children,” Strietzel says.

Click here to give to MAF’s ministry in East DRC! Select “search for a different fund” then enter 4039 in the fund box to direct the donation to IDP work.

Strietzel shares, “We’ve come to work amongst these people, but we are also very blessed because we’re understanding more and more the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, that there is strength in that. We see the communities growing closer and they’re reaching out to God for help. The very breath that they’re taking next, they’re depending on the Lord to supply that.”






Header photo depicts counselors Pastor Ezra & Mama Neema along with MAF chaplain, Pastor Bisoke; courtesy of MAF.