DR Congo (MNN) — A new wave of extreme violence in DR Congo is making a bad situation even worse. Ebola continues to spread in the nation at a frightening pace since the outbreak began in August. And as the UN and ministries try to stem the Ebola tide, there have been 130 attacks on health facilities this year alone. Additional attacks on villages have sent people flooding into internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.
Mission Aviation Fellowship has a base near an IDP camp in Bunia. Jon Cadd with MAF says the situation is desperate.
“A year ago, we had a huge influx of IDPs — internally displaced people — and refugees into the town close to us, Bunia. There were over 100,000 refugees in the camp [and with families in town] there, and then more camps opened up and there were more refugees. It was a really terrible situation.
“We were just getting ready this month [for] people who would be going back to their homes, and the government was trying to be helpful with transportation and stuff like that. Then all of a sudden, violence has erupted again and people are pouring back into the camp.”
In the last few weeks, Cadd reports Bunia’s IDP camp — whose capacity is already bursting at the seams — took in nearly 1,000 more people.
“They’re coming into the camp with nothing except for what they have walked with on their back…. The violence in their villages [is] people coming in and burning houses and shooting people and hacking them up with machetes. They just run for their lives and are hiding in the bush for a while. Then they walk all the way to Bunia to try to get to a safer place.”
Some of the new arrivals haven’t eaten in days. Many of them are children.
Cadd met one woman who walked four days with her five kids — one of whom is just an infant still breastfeeding — to escape certain death.
“Imagine you in America having to do something like that. You would be devastated with nothing, no place to live. And it’s the rainy season. It’s pouring down rain. So a lot of these people are just stuffed into one tent that’s about 10-by-20 feet and it’s just wall-to-wall people in there with pouring down rain outside.”
MAF is responding with food, tarps for shelter, and spiritual encouragement.
They show the “Jesus” film with the help of national pastors, and MAF’s chaplain, Pastor Bisoke initiated the start of a sewing class for rape survivors in the IDP camp.
“We just love being able to help [in Christ’s name] and be an extension of the Church in the States and around the world.”
But Cadd says there is more they want to do. “We have kind of exhausted all of the funds that we had for helping just as this was happening, so it’s been really a challenge. Through MAF’s Disaster Response Team, they gave us some money to get some tarps and things for helping with shelters and some money for food.
“We basically give about $4,000-worth of food a week. They kind of spread that out over 10,000-plus people. You wonder how they can live on that much, but it’s what we can provide…. Then the new people that are coming, we try to get a tarp for each one of them as a shelter.”
MAF’s Sheryl Strietzel also goes to the IDP camps to help where she can and be Christ’s encouragement. An 11-year-old girl in the camp named Grace left a lasting impression on her.
Grace had survived a horrific attack on her village. Her pregnant mother was killed. From the attack, Grace had a machete wound across the back of her neck deep enough to reveal bones, and part of her left forearm had been cut off.
“Her father and her other siblings, they seemed really traumatized to me,” says Strietzel. “Yet, there was Grace smiling, acting as if nothing had happened. To me, she was really a blessing and encouragement and a good example, because she was like a light in that camp…and so just really showed to me a reflection of God’s grace in those difficult circumstances.”
Strietzel says their goal in the IDP camp is so people like Grace and her family can know true comfort that only comes from Jesus Christ.
“I give them a little bit of Scripture, I share the Gospel message with them,…and I listen to them. Some of them just want to confess their sins so that I can reassure them of the forgiveness of sins that they have through Jesus. And then I pray specifically for those who are ill.
“One time when I went, mothers were there with their children. They came and they each told what they would like the Lord to do for them, where they were hurting, and what they needed. So I was able to pray for them, specifically. And then some of them have burdens. They just want to share a burden, so I can be there to listen and pray for them and just point them to Christ.”
To support MAF’s “EDRC IDP” fund as they provide relief, click here!
Your donations really do have a profound impact, Strietzel says. “The people are sending their thanks. They know that people from far away are remembering them and care about them. That’s what I hear from everyone who talks to me, including people who are not in the camp. They say that’s an amazing thing that we can talk to people in the States and that they’re remembering us and thinking about us to help us here in Congo. So I just wanted especially for you to know that.”
Header photo courtesy of MAF.