In early February I traveled to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). The purpose of this trip was to learn more about the STEP Children of Peace (COP) projects in these countries and lead a conflict transformation training for Congolese and Burundian peace activists.
I arrived in Bujumbura on a rainy Thursday morning. To my surprise all the airplane passengers were transported under umbrellas to the terminal by the airport staff. It was such a humble gesture. Bujumbura is a small city and one of the quietest African cities I have ever visited. The following day I traveled into the DR Congo with Sango Shila. This trip is only twenty minutes; the road goes through Gatumba village on the western side of Burundi into the Congo side. As one enters the DR Congo one can’t help but see a sharp contrast in the road infrastructure. In Bujumbura the road is well paved, but as you enter the DR Congo it’s unpaved and there are many potholes. We drove for about one more hour to the Uvira village (Uvira is located at the extreme north end of the beautiful Lake Tanganyika).
Our final destination was Fizi, a 126 km journey from Uvira. As we traveled further out into the most rural village areas, the dusty unpaved roads became almost impassable.
From here our mode of transport was the motorbike (also known as boda boda in most parts of East Africa). We don’t have this mode of transport in Zimbabwe and I was a little petrified to be a passenger without a safety helmet. The trip was long, bumpy, and strenuous but I soldiered on. This area is a high security zone and after few kilometres there were military checkpoints. Sometimes the soldiers at these checkpoints will ask to see your identification documents.
It was a privilege to see how difficult it is to reach the Fizi, and to meet these children who have been orphaned because of the war. We visited a community school where you (through International Ministries) are supporting these students with school fees and school uniforms. The whole community is eager to see a bright future for the children. Resources have been mobilized by the community to build two classrooms. It is our prayer to see this project through to its completion. This village is very remote and deep in the jungle, but the souls of the people here are made of steel. The land is rich with water and vegetation, and one old man joked to me saying¸ “Brother Lance, this land is God’s bedroom! He sleeps here in Fizi every night, because it’s beautiful!”
I returned to Bujumbura with a heavy heart. I saw hard working people with nothing to show for their labor, but in everything I saw hope.
Lance and Christina Muteyo