Africa Day 12: A Dangerous Place to Live

24 Feb

Whenever we take photos of Heaven’s Family beneficiaries in public places, we instantly draw a crowd of curious people who want to see the “muzungus” up close. That happened this morning once again, so I decided to surprise the surrounding crowd by rapidly shooting many of them with my camera. I got this guy at point-blank range!

This morning we rose before dawn for a quick visit to another beneficiary of Heaven’s Family’s Micro-Loan Fund. Chantal Maluba is a widow whose extended family kicked her out of the family home because she refused to marry a non-Christian man. She trusted God. He has not failed her.

With a $300 loan, Chantal started two small businesses. In the mornings she cooks corn porridge which she sells as breakfast to workers, and the rest of the day she sells beans and flour. (She also leads a house church and is making disciples.) From her business, Chantal is able to support herself and send her only daughter to school.

I’m loving these micro-loans. They are a huge blessing to everyone who has received one. And once they are repaid, others are blessed. Thanks to all who have given to the Micro-Loan Fund.

Chantal Maluba

We landed in Kigali, Rwanda, mid-morning, to be met by two friends, Rwandan pastor Justin Nkundabagenzi, and Congolese church-planter Simeon Muhunga. I gave pastor Justin sixteen Sawyer water filters on behalf of Chuck King (Director of our Safe Water Fund), and Justin drove all of us to the bus station in Kigali.

I had heard that Kigali had experienced an amazing renewal since the end of Rwanda’s genocidal civil war, but I was amazed to see it for myself. It is, by far and away, the nicest African city I’ve ever visited. Most folks here attribute it to good governance, something which is unfortunately in short supply in Africa. I asked pastor Justin if he was Hutu or Tutsi (who were slaughtering each other a few years ago), and he laughed and replied, “I am a Rwandan.” He went on to explain that it is now against the law in Rwanda to discuss the tribe from which you originate.

We said goodbye to Justin at the bus station, and Simeon paid our five-dollar tickets for the three-hour ride to the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Our journey took us up and over a beautiful mountain range where the famous gorillas live, and past some volcanos as well. I had a possibly providential conversation with a young pastor along the way.

When we crossed the border from Rwanda into the DR Congo, the contrast was stark. It was like crossing into a war zone. Most Westerners don’t realize that there have been two major wars here in recent years. The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 fueled the First and Second Congo Wars. The second war, which began in 1998, involved seven foreign armies, and it directly or indirectly resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people. That makes it the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II. How many people outside of Africa know that? (Yet we know when Brad Pitt sneezes.)

Goma, the border town where we now are, has become the home to thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs), many of whom are traumatized widows and orphans. Beyond that, Goma, which sits on the shores of the beautiful lake Kivu, also sits near the base of the active Nyiragongo Volcano, which erupted in 2002. It sent streams of lava through Goma that flowed at 40 miles per hour, destroying 40% of the city, leaving 120,000 people homeless, and extending the Lake Kivu shoreline 500 feet into the lake, so that shorefront properties were no longer on the shorefront.

The evidence of the war and the 2002 eruption are very evident when you drive through Goma. We hope to bear some fruit here over the next couple of days on your behalf.

After a dinner gathering at Simeon’s house where we met a number of fine men and women of God, we checked into our hotel and rejoiced that it had hot water and a mosquito net over the bed. Becky and I are looking forward to a good night’s rest. — David

P.S.: Four other interesting facts about the Democratic Republic of Congo:

(1) There is another country adjacent to this one called the “Republic of Congo.” (I suppose they didn’t want to call it the “Undemocratic Republic of Congo,” or the “Other Congo!”)

(2) More people speak French here than in France.

(3) A quote from Wikipedia: “Lake Kivu is one of three lakes in Africa identified as having huge quantities of dissolved gas held at pressure in its depths. One of the others, Lake Nyos, experienced a limnic eruption or ‘lake overturn,’ a catastrophic release of suffocating carbon dioxide probably triggered by landslides, which killed nearly two thousand people in the area around the lake. Kivu is 2,000 times bigger and also contains dissolved methane as an additional hazard. Nearly two million people including the population of Goma live in the vicinity of Lake Kivu and could be in danger from a limnic eruption triggered by one of the nearby volcanoes and the earthquakes associated with them.”

So if we hear the sound of a huge gas bubble bursting on Lake Kivu (which we aren’t too far away from at our hotel), should we hold our breath and run up the slopes of the Nyiragongo Volcano?

(4) The largest concentration of professing Christians following William Branham—an interesting American prophet from the 1950’s who taught some very strange doctrines—is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it is estimated that there are up to 2,000,000 followers. Following today in Branham’s footsteps are many American prosperity preachers who are pumping their spiritual sewage into the DRC via satellite television.

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