Many Westerners know something about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, when 800,000 people were slaughtered during three months of ethnic cleansing. Very few, however, know that the Rwandan genocide fueled two major wars in the neighboring nation of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The second war, which began in 1998, involved seven foreign armies, and it directly and indirectly resulted in the deaths of 5.5 million people. That made it the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II, yet it has been largely ignored by the rest of the world, a hidden holocaust that is not over yet.
I spent most of my day today in the Congolese city of Goma, where several hundred thousand war refugees live in squalid neighborhoods of small, dirt-floored wooden shacks without water or sanitation. Heaven’s Family has been working in partnership with my friend Simeon Muhunga, a Congolese pastor, serving very poor Christian widows and Christian refugees through small-business loans made possible through our Widows Fund and Micro-Loan Fund. Today I visited 10 thankful women (of the current 28 borrowers) who are beneficiaries. One of them was Adela Kitsa, in the top photo.
Adela is the mother of nine children, ages 2 to 22. She and her husband, Kahero, had to flee from their village of Kichanga in 2005 due to the ongoing threat from rebel forces in their region. For two years they lived with their children in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Goma. In 2007, the Congolese government took measures to encourage Goma’s refugees to return to their home villages, even though rebel forces still held pockets of resistance. Kahero returned to Kichanga, only to find that his former home and two-acre farm had been sold by the rebels. When he tried to reclaim his property, the new owner tried to kill him.
So Adela and Kahero wait in Goma for a better day. Their family lives in a tiny, dirt-floor shack that would only be used to shelter animals in Western nations.
The bright side of their story is that while living in Goma, Kahero, who was formerly dedicated to sin, dedicated himself to the Lord through the ministry of our friend, Simeon. Adela had been praying for him for a long time. And through the Heaven’s Family micro-bank that is administrated by Simeon, Adela has received a loan by which she started a business selling dried fish. Our hope is that, once she proves her trustworthiness by fully repaying her loan, Simeon’s micro-bank will be able to offer her a second loan so that she can expand her business.