It was 2:00 PM and I was about to depart for a two week trip to Africa. It has been a dream of mine for three decades to visit Africa as a missionary. Our schedule included trips to Kigali, Goma, Bunia, Dungu, Entebbe and Kampala which are cities in Rwanda, DRC and Uganda. My Church, Cornerstone Church of Easton PA, asked me to accompany Pastor Bagu with the goal of seeing if Cornerstone could partner with the churches in Dungu so we could help meet some of their critical needs. Cornerstone helps fund She’s My Sister, which is a part of the American Bible Society (ABS) and uses it’s resources to feed, counsel and finance projects that help capitalize small business development.
On April 2, 2013, we arrived at the beautiful Hotel des Mille Colines in Kigali, Rwanda at 8:30PM. That hotel reminded me of the ‘Sonar ITC’ in Kolkata, India. There was fast wifi which allowed me to Skype my Tech Services team in Somerset, NJ. I had to make sure the guys were surviving after a day without me! 🙂 That night, I met Peter Edman from the ABS Restoration Ministry in Washington, DC and learned a few words in Swahili.
The next morning we drove three hours to the border crossing into the DRC. On our way, we saw a mud slide that had closed off half the road, passed a Rwanda Refugee Detention Center and saw a UN facility. We headed to Cap Kivu, a hotel right on Lake Kivu in Goma. A good portion of that lake was lost due to volcanic activity and pollution, which caused the water quality to become toxic. Unfortunately, that is the only source of drinking water for the majority of the Goma population.
After checking into the hotel, we went to visit the Katoyi Baptist Church to view the ABS food distribution project and meet with She’s My Sister trauma facilitators. Currently, a total of 3,500 widows and 1,500 orphans in Goma are being cared for by the She’s My Sister program.
As we arrived to the church, around 75 to 100 women were standing outside singing a song of welcome. It was very emotional; I didn’t quite know how to respond but I appreciated their wonderful outpouring of love and respect. When we entered the church, about 880 Christians greeted us with more songs! Pastor Bagu introduced us and we began to distribute food. People had to register their fingerprint in order to receive food which consisted of a cup of salt, two large bowls of local beans and rice. That would feed their families for two or three days.
Later in the week, we went to a DOC’s facility and were introduced to two young girls who were the victims of gang rape by rebels that still roam the countryside. They both underwent multiple surgeries which were required as a result of the gang rapes. Fortunately, they are recovering and receiving counseling to cope with the trauma. We also heard from five women about the funds they had been given from the Development Project, funded by She’s My Sister which enabled them to start small businesses.
Our next stop was an orphanage in Goma run by Sister Alvera, a Carmelite nun. Currently, the orphanage meets the needs of 160 children ranging from 3 months to mid-teens. Some were abandoned and others lost their parents to the genocide or volcanoes. It costs $1 a day to feed one child, $80 a year to send one child to school and $200 a month to rent the facility we visited. All children sleep five to a bed in a shack that has corrugated roofing that leaks like a sieve.The memorable thing was that children sang songs to us and were thrilled when we took their pictures.
Sharing the rest of the days of my trip will mean I would have to write the longest blog ever published at LABVANTAGE! So, I will summarize it the best way I can. I had the honor to meet some of the most underprivileged people on the face of the earth…and yet they find a reason to get up every morning with a smile on their faces. I can’t wait to go back! If you are interested in seeing some more pictures, I will post them to my Shutterfly account later this week and make the link available to anyone who wants it!