In Eastern DR Congo, MCC supports ECC MERU North Kivu (Church of Christ in Congo Ministry for Refugees and Disasters, North Kivu Province) in their work with internally displaced people in camps and villages. In January 2020 MCC Area Directors for Central/West Africa, Bruce and Betsy Headrick McCrae, joined partners and MCC staff on a visit to this area. The following is a reflection that Betsy wrote following this visit.
Eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) is stunningly beautiful. Deep green mountains, lakes, hills and valleys. Beautiful valleys. Troubled valleys. Valleys where folks who have been displaced by never-ending violence in the forests and hills come to escape. On our visit to Eastern DRC earlier this month, Psalm 23 kept running through my mind. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”
Being in the Eastern DRC is being in the valley of the shadow of death. The violent conflicts which began in the 1990s continue with no end in sight. The brutal militias that wreak havoc appear to be in the service of various political leaders. This ongoing conflict, which includes the stripping of natural resources, benefits folks at the top as it destroys the lives and livelihoods of those on the bottom, the very least of these. There is no political will for peace.
We like progress. We like to know we’re making a difference, working toward a better future, solving problems. However, as we (MCC DRC) support our partners who work with displaced and traumatized people in the eastern DRC, not a lot of “progress” is being made on the big scale. There’s very little hope for peace in the near future. People don’t expect to return to their homes any time soon.
But still, there is hope. We heard it expressed. There is hope in the little things, the changes step-by-step, the healing, the mutual support, the opportunities to learn, the fact that someone cares. MCC partners provide food, agriculture supplies and training in conservation agriculture, education for kids and basic health care, trauma awareness and mechanisms for community healing. These are small things in the big picture but so very important to folks who need to know that though they are displaced and vulnerable, they are not forgotten and that things can change.
They are reminded that there is a future. Partner Fidele Kyanza reminded folks in the Mubimbi camp for internally displaced persons that what they are learning now will be useful to them when they eventually return home. He reminded them that even there in the camp, they are part of the future. You never know, he said. These kids who are going to school now, with help from MCC, may be our future doctors and nurses, agronomists and teachers.
Living and working in this situation is not easy. The never-ending conflict and its repercussions weigh heavily on everyone. But it is important to keep supporting partners who provide opportunities for change and growth even in these bleak circumstances. Maybe those whose lives are being touched and transformed in small ways will be the ones who together find a new way to peace.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:4-6)
May it be so for the people of eastern DRC. Oh Lord, may it be so.