"I have never seen such desperation," remarked Dr Ngose, a Congolese doctor, trained in one of our American Baptist affiliated residency programs and now serving as the medical director of a mission hospital in rebel-held Equator province.Dr Ngose was relating the story of a family who came for care at their hospital and subsequently offered to sell their 11-year-old daughter to raise money for medical bills.The father, sole provider for the family, became ill with fever and cough during the planting season in Congo.Rather than seek medical attention, he remained in his village to cultivate his small field of manioc and corn, necessary to feed his family for the coming year. In the end, too weak to complete this work, he was brought to the hospital by family members where he was diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis.The family was forced to sell all they owned (cooking pots, garden tools, clothing) in order to buy medicine necessary to treat his disease.Despite these efforts, the husband died, leaving his wife and children with no resources, a missed planting season, and medical bills they could never pay.
In desperation, following the death of her husband the mother solicited the sale of her 11-year-old daughter, as a domestic worker, in order to raise money to feed the rest of her children. Nurses intervened before the child was sold away.
I wonder how often such events, such as the attempted sale of a child, happen today, in war torn Congo?How can our churches back home comprehend such a situation if we do not relate the stories; heart wrenching as they are.We acknowledge that all are precious in His sight.He will not forsake nor forget the plight of such children. What then is our lot, who have heard the stories, seen the suffering, and turn away?My prayer is that God will bring peace to war-torn Congo, relief to its people, and compassion, conviction and action to those of us who have heard such stories and are able to respond.
William C. Clemmer, MD