"I was a stranger and you invited me in…...I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I needed clothes and you clothed me." Matthew 25:35
Visiting With Survivors Of The Nyankunde Massacre:One Year After
Descending from lush mountainous terrain our single engine MAF plane approached Oicha, a Christian mission station on the outer edge of Congo's Rift Valley.One year ago over 1500 persons arrived here on foot after escaping a massacre at Nyankunde Mission Hospital, a hundred and fifty miles away. The refugees, carrying only a few articles of clothing, left behind the bodies of over a thousand victims; family, friends, and co-workers who had been brutally massacred in an ethnic motivated slaughter at the Christian mission hospital.
When I first arrived in Oicha a year ago in response to an urgent request for assistance, I listened to the horrific stories recounted by the refugees as they arrived. Most were weakened and malnourished after the seven-day trek through dense tropical forests; many were still in shock or grieving over past events.In the ensuing months the response by faith based organizations to their plight has been significant; American Baptists through "One Great Hour of Sharing and individual gifts provided the means to secure critically needed food, blankets, garden tools and medical supplies to the hundreds who arrived in those first few weeks. Interchurch Medical Assistance provided logistics and support for this effort.Samaritan's Purse built camps to house hundreds of persons, World Vision provided material for clean water and sanitation structures, Church World Services provided funds for more durable structures.
A year later, 200 of the original 1500 displaced persons have found permanent homes with family or friends in nearby regions…..but in that same period over 800 new arrivals have sought refuge at Oicha Hospital following renewed episodes of genocide in the nearby city of Bunia as seen on international news reports.The numbers have taxed the resources and capacity of the mission station…but never the less, those who arrive almost daily are welcomed with open arms.
Last week the refugees and staff at Oicha Hospital held a memorial service to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Nyankunde massacre and to remember those who were killed; men, women and children.The service was an occasion to not only remember past events but a time to take note of God's provisions. Although their living conditions for the past year have been sparse (families of 6 to 8 persons live in a 4'x 6' foot partitioned vinyl tent, their diet consists of manioc or rice, there are no schools for the children or jobs for the adults); still they We are alive" one said "and are mindful of how worse things could have been.""Look at what we have," said another, "security and shelter and food to eat."But the overall sentiment was shared by this statement…"God is with us…and has not forgotten us!"
To all who responded to these needs…even if we forget you…God surely will not.
Blessings from Congo,
William Clemmer, MD
American Baptist Missionary
Oicha, Democratic Republic of Congo