The city of Goma on the Congo-Rwanda border where Bill and I live has seen its share of crises over the past five years: a new outbreak of Ebola (Congo’s largest and deadliest in history), a volcanic eruption causing loss of homes and the evacuation of over 400,000 persons, and ongoing attacks by armed militia groups outside the city. The latest crisis, intense fighting between government forces and a large coalition of rebel militia on several fronts around us, has caused the influx of over 180,000 refugees into town.
With every crisis, God has worked through others to provide relief, love, and care. The city of Goma is inadequately prepared to provide shelter, let alone feed and care for tens of thousands of refugees. Some of these families have found shelter with relatives or friends, but most are living outside; in school yards, church grounds, and every open area they can find. Fungua Maisha (Open Life) is a group of women (mostly widows) in our church who have stepped up in a personal way to meet these needs. The group was initially started to support abandoned women and children. Their goal is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus by caring for others.
Many members of this women’s group live in poor areas on the outer edges of town or at the base of the volcano, where a large number of the refugees have settled into makeshift cardboard-type shelters on the hardened and jagged volcanic rock. The Fungua Maisha women have reached out and taken in a total of 212 refugees to date, some as many as 15-20 persons into their humble 1-2 room homes. Nyiramwiza, whom you may remember as the woman whose village was attacked years ago leaving her widowed with a sole surviving wheelchair-bound son, is one of these women now hosting refugees. One young woman she took in last week gave birth to twins shortly after arriving. Many of these dear widows struggle just to feed their own families yet have welcomed and are caring for these who have fled the fighting.
Your gifts and the unconventional generosity of these dear widows who have opened their very homes to strangers, reminds us of Matthew Chapter 24:
“When Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink … when did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?” And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.”
(main image photo by Voice of America/Africa)