Refugees flee LRA

By an Aim worker in DRC.

“Please, please, Mademoiselle, may I please have some food?”

He was just one of the Congolese refugees who had arrived in Zemio. So, as the others were waiting patiently in line to receive a bit of food, my reaction was to encourage him to join the others.

“I know that you are all hungry,” I said, “but you really need to get in line with all the others.”

“I spent ten days walking in the bush to get here and I have not had anything to eat for the last two days. Please, could you give me something to eat?”

It was then that I looked down from the pained expression on his face to realize that he was crippled in one leg and walked with it wrapped around a stick.

“But, Mademoiselle, I just arrived. I spent ten days walking in the bush to get here and I have not had anything to eat for the last two days. Please, could you give me something to eat?” he said, looking longingly down at the large pots of food.

“Please sit down, father. We will bring you some food,” I responded as tears blinded my eyes and choked my voice.
He sat down on a patch of grass, laid his walking stick down beside him and smiled up at me. I quickly asked the ladies dishing out the food to give him a double portion.

How does one deal with caring for over 2,300 refugees when there is no Best Western hotel to house them, no Giant Supermarket for purchasing food, and no RiteAid drugstore for medicines? First of all, one prays and then elicits the prayers of many others.

Then one informs local church and government officials that a large group of people from twelve different villages in DR Congo are fleeing the presence of LRA rebels in their area and heading towards Zemio.

After spending over a month hiding out in the bush, these people decided to make the trip of over 125kms by foot through the African bush to arrive at the Mbomou River, the border between DR Congo and Central African Republic. Mid-October they began arriving.

The local church put a committee in place with the primary objective of providing food for the refugees. The Christian relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse, was contacted and before the arrival of the last refugees, blankets and tarps were available to help them set up temporary shelters.

Since then, United Nations High Commission of Refugees’ staff along with members of the World Food Program (WFP) and the American Ambassador to Central African Republic made a visit to assess the situation.

Soon, WFP staff and trucks will arrive with supplies, food, clothing, and bedding for the refugees. Plots are being assigned to allow each family unit to set up their own household.

These have been demanding days for me and for the local church in CAR. We are busy organizing the cooking and distribution of food being provided by Aim and Samaritan’s Purse in conjunction with other local churches and organizations.

Local committees have been set up by the government and I’ve been asked to coordinate all of these relief efforts. We are all feeling very stretched and weary. The days are long and tiring but the Lord gives the strength and the encouragement.

Many of these refugees are faithful members of Aim’s partner church in Congo, CECA20. Many are good friends whom I’ve visited in their homes and churches many times.

One of the older pastors’ wives whom I know well greeted me after crossing over the river in a dugout canoe, carrying all that remained of her worldly possessions in a basket on her head. She reached out to hug me and said, “Hallelujah! God is truly alive!” Her smile and strong expression of faith made all of the efforts seem worthwhile.