Amongst Hopelessness, Hope
In February 2016 I was standing in the city of Goma In the North Kivu province, the very eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC is known as the ‘rape capital of the world’, where every week thousands of women are raped by militia and armed rebel groups using sexual violence as a weapon of war. Women who experience this brutality are often left with physical ailments, pregnancies and life changing diseases.
It is estimated that there are over 30,000 child soldiers in the DRC, which is 10% of the world’s child soldiers. Rebel groups use children on the frontline of attack, counted only as the collateral damage of an invisible war. The city of Goma itself is built on the side of an active volcano that last erupted in 2002 leaving the landscape covered in black lava rock; it’s an oppressive environment, a tough, hostile place, which, like a dark cloud, has become hard to see hope through. I had the privilege to travel to the DRC via Rwanda to see the incredible work of Elim Missions’ partner organisation Comfort Congo, led by Dr Callum Henderson. Callum has been working in Rwanda and DRC for 17 years and has an incredible ministry, which has seen extensive investment into projects and people, bringing hope, peace and reconciliation to the troubled parts of central Africa. Callum is someone who, by osmosis, inspires those he is with to trust in God and to see the potential for change even in the most difficult situations.
We spent 4 days visiting programs set up to support and aid in the recovery of women aged anywhere between 14 and 70 who had experienced rape and sexual violence. Listening to the stories of the brutality and abominable acts committed to these women was heart breaking and incomprehensible. I had the opportunity to visit boys who had been abducted by rebels, most before their twelfth birthday, to fight as child soldiers in a horrendous war. Their childhoods stolen, their innocence destroyed, their lives completely changed as collateral damage of this hellish situation
. These boys had escaped and found themselves by God’s grace in projects and schools supported by Comfort Congo. It is here, amongst the chaos of the brokenness of the city and its people, that I experienced an inconceivable paradox.
In the midst of devastated surroundings and unprecedented human destruction, I found restoration.
In a place of anger, hatred and violence, I found peace.
In between the cracks of the wasteland of poverty, I found beauty.
Amongst the hopelessness, I found hope: the hope of change in the lives of the broken, the hope of a new day, an unquenchable hope in Jesus, in his grace, in his love, in his kingdom and in his healing.
I went with the expectation of bringing hope and support to the forgotten in our world and yet I left with an uncomfortable richness of hope found in the darkest of situations. We think of missions as something we go, do, take and experience but maybe God instead spends us, equips us, gives us and changes us at the same time. My experience of short-term mission across the world is that with open hands and a soft heart God can do many things through you but even greater things in you, even in a short period of time.
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Elim Missions BeFree Campaign and the work of Comfort Congo are bringing hope, peace and reconciliation in the midst of darkness.