Your Congolese brothers and sisters send their blessings!
It’s been extremely difficult (that’s an understatement) to send information and get you updates of this incredible week as the city of Goma is virtually cut off from the outside. The community and church leaders here have tremendous stamina and supernatural wisdom, power, and joy. Katavo described yesterday that, “everything is dead in Congo except for the church.” We can testify to the fact that the church in Congo is ALIVE with an intense focus on the things that matter and galvanized to equip and train herself in order to meet the needs of this vast, beautiful country. There is not the luxury of time to waste on theological debates and creative dialogue. The pastors describe “death music” in the “City of Hell”. And yet the church thrives and is eager to be trained and resourced in sustainable and holistic healing models for the problems that plague their cities: prostitution, sexual violence, hunger, and death.
Goma is in flames and the Christian leaders here are committed to doing what they can to address the desperate needs created by 18 years of upheaval and conflict, sexual violence and exploitation. Men and women work together to strategize and move forward—the leaders that we’re training represent vast networks of denominations, organizations and churches. We are humbled and privileged to serve them.
The political climate changes on a daily basis and things have stabilized in the last few days. Yesterday a taxi-cab driver was shot in the streets during a riot initiated by the local militia as a result of growing anger at the exploitation of the people here. The streets are lined with UN trucks and thousands of “peace keepers” are in the streets and yet there is no peace. We’ve been told repeatedly that the fact that we’ve come to Goma (and have been coming to the Congo since 2007) means so much to them. They’re not alone. We stand with them and by them. They experience our presence as encouragement that God has not forgotten them. The leaders tell stories of visions about our coming and have been praying for these trainings for years. It’s so right that we’re here. In many ways Steve and I believe that the last eight years have been preparing the way (and models) for today. To God be the glory!
There’s so much more to share but will send another update as soon as we are able.
Goma, Congo MTS Prostituted Women’s Conference
July 18-19, 2013
The large red-brick church was packed with 378 prostituted women, caregivers, and pastors that came to the first survivors conference held in Goma, Congo. Currently, there are 7,600 registered prostitutes in Goma, a city of 1 million people including the internally displaced people living in the camps 500 kilometers from Goma. Sadly, there are over 23,000 registered prostitutes in North Kivu, including Goma, Beni, and Butembo. It was painful to have to limit the number of women who could come, as news spread throughout North Kivu, within days—thousands of women pushed to come. Our Congolese ministry partners worked alongside of us to contextualize and translate Princess Lost, Princess Found, and Caring for the Vulnerable Child. Each one will be given the book printed at the highest quality in their own language. They are DESPERATE FOR HELP. Throughout the conference we listened to their helpless plight. Their stories are horrific tales of vulnerabilities, exploitation, and sexual violence, most of which was perpetrated by teens and adults they knew and trusted. They resonated with Princess Lost as each one experienced sexual abuse as a child which began the satanic cascade of deepened vulnerability and ongoing exploitation and abuse. Nora Poling wove her story throughout the teaching and the details in Princess Lost dove-tailed perfectly with both the details of her story and the survivors here. Nora did a masterful job of creating safety by the gentle way that she shared her layers of loss and experiences of abuse. Then, through her story we trained on the pathway of healing towards forgiveness.
Last night 90 women came to saving faith in Christ and were paired with caregivers (one for one) that Daphrose and her team have been training. Seeds were planted in 2007 during our first caregivers training in Congo and now the trees are bearing fruit. “Healing for free! Healing for free!” We are now partnering together to support these leaders in training the PL mentors as they care for these prostituted women.
As we debriefed last night Isaac said, “You are african Celestia. Princess Lost is an african story.” God’s been weaving the details together since 2005 when Dr. Kasali first invited Steve and I to Beni, Congo. Daphrose, Katavo, and Issac came to our first MTS training in the summer of 2007 in Beni, Congo. They take the drops of water that we give them and turn it into rivers!
Thank you for standing with us and investing in these anointed and gifted leaders!
Stephen and Annie DeVries have come with us and have been a tremendous part of our team. They are such an incredible gift to us all and the pictures we’ll be sending are a result of their sweet gift to us! We’ll send their pictures soon and also of our team…
To God be the Glory!
“He has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted.” (Isaiah 61:1)