Many of you have written to ask about our well-being and safety during Bill’s temporary assignment in South Sudan as civil war has broken out in neighboring Sudan, while here in Goma, the M23 rebels who had surrounded the city are still active. First and foremost, we are well and so appreciate your prayers and concern!
Bill is far removed from the fighting. He wrote last night from Juba (South Sudan) “our greater burdens are from mosquitos (malaria) and microbes (disease) that continue to claim many lives… though in recent days thousands of refugees have started to pour over the border from Sudan with significant needs.” Likewise in Goma (Congo), with over 15,000 UN troops and hundreds of soldiers from the East African community protecting the periphery, there are tens of thousands of refugees who have fled to the city with mere belongings on their backs lacking sufficient shelter and support. The number of children who come to our doors every day continues to increase, many in need of food, clothing, protection or just love.
The response from our churches and friends has been overwhelming. To date we have received gifts to purchase and distribute over four tons of food, hundreds of maternity kits for pregnant women in refugee settings, and ongoing support for the full time children’s ministries. Over 1,500 children came to Sunday School at Easter where each received a boiled egg of their own, a real treat. Thanks to a generous gift from a church on Cape Cod, we are renovating a large building to provide emergency overnight shelter for vulnerable homeless boys and girls…some as young as five years old. We rejoice in the outpouring of love!
During a recent weekday service, one of our Congolese pastors made this remark about the perils within our midst, “I will not die when the volcano erupts. I will not die from the M23 (rebels). I will not die from thieves who attack our homes. I will not die from Ebola. I will not die from lack of food. I will die when my mission is complete, and God calls me home.” While we do not tempt fate and are secure in our current environment, we are encouraged by continued opportunities to serve. Even now in our later years, the call to service continues and you have been very much a part of that discernment of ‘awareness, understanding and action’.
I think of the words of Mordecai when he sent this message to Esther, “If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive from someplace else… who knows, maybe you were made Queen for just such a time as this.” Bill and I certainly are not ‘kings and queens’ but in many ways have been placed in various settings for times such as this: Congo’s civil war, famine in Yemen, floods in South Sudan, outbreak of Ebola, volcanoes, and refugee needs in Goma. Each time the Lord has opened the hearts and prayers of our churches, friends, and families across the globe…. enabling your gifts to pass through our hands as we witness to God’s bountiful love and undeserved grace.
We are all called to touch lives wherever God places us. Whether it be in the middle of Africa or in our own neighborhoods, God uses people as a beacon of His light and a blessing to a hurting world.