During this COVID-19 lock-down in Congo, a number of barriers have been put in place that restrict what I love to do: church services have stopped, programs for street and vulnerable children have been temporarily closed, women’s groups cannot get together, and even the borders have been closed making it impossible to travel home to the U.S. One thing I can do, however, is to leave our home and visit others. COVID-19, in a way, has taken me out of familiar surroundings and into the community.
Recently I visited the home of Nyiramwiza, one of the members of our women’s group, Fungua Maisha (Swahili for ‘Open Life’). Nyiramwiza is a proud lady and was a little hesitant when I asked to visit her home. She lives with her 21-year-old son, Emmanuel, in a crude hut made of leftover pieces of plywood with one open window and a dirt-lava floor. Emmanuel sleeps on the only bed and his mother on the floor. Their only possessions are a few pots, a plastic chair and a small wooden bench. They did welcome me into their home, and Emmanuel was especially happy to have a visitor. He is a delightful young man, full of faith and hope.
They used to live in a neighboring town in a decent home with land for a small garden. As happens frequently in this area, rebel soldiers came to their village to rape and pillage. The first time, his father was shot and killed; the second time, Emmanuel’s only sibling, a younger brother, was killed while Emmanuel, eleven years old at the time, was shot in the back and paralyzed from the neck down.
He spent nearly a year in a local hospital, but there was little they could do. His mother moved him to Goma for more intensive rehabilitation. After several years of therapy, he gained use of his arms, but will never walk. The only time that Emmanuel, now 21, gets out of their home is when his mother carries him on her back, which is becoming more and more difficult. I knew this lady, but she never shared the tragedy of their lives until I was able to visit her and her son where they lived.
Even though Emmanuel will never walk, Bill and I knew of a place that makes hand-propelled bicycles, and we knew of many in the US who would generously give to purchase one for him. “Emmanuel,” I told him a few days later “we can’t do anything for your legs, but I think we can get you out of that bed and out and about without your mother.” A bike was built and fit especially for him and delivered to his house.
Last week I was in my second-floor office at the (now) empty school and social ministries center… missing all the children and worrying about how they are faring during these difficult times … when I heard the squeaking of what sounded like a bicycle chain. Charging up the ramp, maneuvering a 180-degree turn with a wide and proud smile on his face, was Emmanuel on his new bike saying, “Mama Ann, look at me, I came here all by myself to visit you!”
COVID-19 may have closed doors to some ministries for a time, but God is still at work and provides opportunities to serve Him and bring blessings to others.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Ephesians 3:20