First person: Jacqueline Kafuti
A church leader talks about her work to welcome displaced people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Jacqueline Kafuti of Kikwit, DR Congo, is an elder in CEFMC. This interview was conducted by MCC's new coordinator Linda Espenshade.
They call me Makate, a name a child gave me, which means “mother of children” to my neighbors.
I was the first woman to receive displaced people in Kanzombi. (This is an area of the city of Kikwit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo). I did it because I am a Christian and an elder in the church. The Bible teaches us that we must have love for others.
Also, I am an orphan. My suffering motivated me to consider others’ situations as if they were my own.
Among the first displaced people I received were Germaine Kambundi and her five children. When we learned that her husband was killed — they’d cut off his head with a machete — it really affected us. I said to myself, “Leaving this woman without help would be a sin for me.”
In the beginning, some people in the community were laughing at me, saying I was moneyless and asking how I would take care of all these people. I told them that God would act.
Some people came with their families. Others came one by one. As more people came, there was no way of keeping all of them in my house. So, we opened the clinic and then the church. Since the beginning we received 3,000 people. We were incapable of feeding the displaced people.
And I said to myself, “I am a child of CEFMC (Communauté des Eglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo, or, in English, the Community of Mennonite Brethren Churches in Congo). I have to tell the general secretary, Antoine Kimbila.” He sent a message to MCC. (CEFMC and other Mennonite denominations asked MCC and other Mennonite organizations for assistance.)
Until MCC came, I worked with other groups to get food, toilets and school supplies. God works one way or another.
Then MCC came to fund our work and train us as leaders. MCC provided us with education, health care, clean water and fields to farm.
We received trauma training. We ourselves were traumatized. When I heard this woman talking about her husband being killed, how they stole all her goods, I realized that this was something that could happen here as well.
During the training everyone wrote their own problems and then we burned them. The lesson was that once a problem happened, we couldn’t go back.
This is what I tell the four orphan children that my husband and I adopted: “Don’t think about the past. Be present now, here. Be positive. Follow all my advice so that tomorrow you will be responsible.”
I tell them I was an orphan. My father passed away before I was born. All my 11 brothers and sisters also died. My mother fed me with the help of a missionary. They trained and hired my mother to work at the clinic, even though she did not attend school. They paid my school fees up to form 4 (grade 11).
Even so, I felt somehow abandoned. I was only with my mother. We didn’t have even an uncle who could advise us. It affected me, to see other children maybe kissing their fathers, hugging their fathers.
My mother advised, “Don’t look for problems, don’t fight. Don’t get pregnant because there is no one who is going to help you. So, study. Get your diploma so you can take charge of yourself.”
I got my diploma, and I got married. Really my husband has become my father, my uncle, a friend with whom I am sharing life. We have five children of our own. My husband is the one who saw the orphan children sitting beside the clinic and had pity on them. He asked me to talk with them.
But when the orphans came to live with us, they brought an imbalance to the family. Our children were not happy to live with them. They fought from time to time.
It’s thanks to training on trauma that I tried to bring peace among them. I understand they have lived through tragic events. They have lost their parents, their things, the mode of life. They have lost all that, but I couldn’t help them forget.
At an MCC conflict resolution training, we were taught a story of a farmer who feeds his pigeons seeds. All the pigeons eat at the same time, at the same place, without any discrimination. I tell my children, “It is the same with you. You are all my children. You all need food and should eat together, like those pigeons. You are asked to love one another. Don’t fight again.”
"I no longer feel alone and abandoned. Now, when I have a problem, all the displaced people come near me."
I love our adopted children. I’m always near them. I buy them the same clothes as my own children. It is in this way that I try to treat their emotional situation. I advise them that God remains the master of all who live on Earth. That they should go to church to follow the message of God since he is the solution to all problems. These days, they are living in peace.
My faith has been growing since my childhood. My position with God is good. Death comes suddenly. If I die today, I will go to see God. This is what is pushing me to do good things.
I no longer feel alone and abandoned. Now, when I have a problem, all the displaced people come near me. When I have laundry, they tell me, “Madam, you have to stop. Let us wash your clothes.” When they go to the fields, they say, “We have to start by farming the field of the mother. Then we will do ours.”
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