Dem. Republic of Congo (MNN) — Hundreds of thousands of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been left homeless and abused by rebel soldiers. The attacks have been common, leaving women beaten, raped and abused.
The Baptist Union of East Congo consists of 90 churches with 12,000 members, and together with the International Mission Board, they developed a strategy to reach the rebel soldiers.
The goal? Go into their camps and witness to them.
"Later … we did training with seven pastors using [Bible] storying," says IMB Missionary Rusty Pugh. The pastors went into the camps for two weeks at a time, sharing Christ through a series of Bible stories that explain man's separation from God because of sin and the salvation offered in Jesus Christ.
Congolese pastor Pascal Ndiho coordinates this dangerous ministry. "Without the permission of the commanders, we are not allowed to go and reach the rebel soldiers," Ndiho says. "We must identify ourselves as servants of God and that we are there to share the wonderful news of Jesus Christ.
"We show them the advantages of being in Christ."
Their efforts have been striking.
"They have started small groups among the rebels," Pugh reports, "and because the rebels are always moving, new groups have been formed by the rebels that were trained by the Goma pastors … so the groups are multiplying."
To date, more than 500 rebels have been baptized. Eight of these men gather in a small compound to tell their stories. At first their tales are sketchy, almost rehearsed. "I did bad things," one says. A second echoes the same line. They are quiet, then they begin to open up.
One nervously fidgets with his automatic weapon. "I murdered people and I raped women," he says, "and I enjoyed it." "I have even killed children," another says.
Their faces bear evidence to the seriousness of what they have done. Their piercing gazes instill fear. "I really didn't think about what I was doing," one says. "I was just doing what I thought I should do."
The eight soldiers accepted Christ through the IMB and local efforts. Their faces soften when they talk about the change in their lives. "We try not to think about what we did — to remember — but it is hard," one confesses. "We know that we have hurt many people and have a lot of sin. But it is very different now."
"The difference is that before, I did not know God," another says. "What I did, I did for me. Now I know that I committed so many sins, and I feel very guilty. But the pastor said that God can forgive me … now I know I can be forgiven because of Jesus. It was the happiest day of my life."
Pray that God will do a work in many more of the rebel soldiers' lives. Pray also that their victims will be able to forgive and turn their hearts to Christ.