Africa Day 13: A Sixty-Widow Surprise

Widow Maria Tondo
Photo courtesy of Becky Photography

Our day started with an email from a Canadian friend who had read in this blog about our Burundian friend Bienvenu, who sold his refrigerator in order to pay for the surgery of one of his regional leaders. She wanted to provide him with a new fridge! Bienvenu was overjoyed when he received her email with the news.

After breakfast we visited a tiny medical clinic, Centre Medical vis la Gloire, the vision of Dr. John Musabao and his wife, Dr. Neema Kavugho (wives don’t take their husbands’ surnames in Congo), and a pastor friend, Isaac Mwanaume. The clinic buildings sit right behind pastor Isaac’s church. Operating on a budget of about $600 per month (given by the poor saints at pastor Isaac’s church), doctors John and Neema provide medical services to the poorest of the poor, such as war widows and orphans (of which there are thousands in Goma) and those living in the local refugee camps.

Dr. John Musabao, his wife, Dr. Neema Kavugho, and their nurse staff, standing in front of the clinic

Dr. John gave us the quick tour of the six rooms of his clinic. I couldn’t imagine undergoing surgery in Dr. John’s operating room until he showed me what was the original O.R. The old one was so dark that they sometimes performed surgeries by the light of cell-phones (electricity is not consistent in Goma). The new O.R., which is a concrete-block room, has a corrugated tin roof with one panel that is clear plastic directly over the operating table, allowing plenty of light into the room.

Dr. John’s microscope was broken and unusable, his pharmacy was sparsely stocked, and his surgical instruments were very limited.

In one of the patient rooms we met a woman who had her appendix removed a few days earlier. Her little son was staying with her. Dr. John told me that everyone who comes through their doors hears the gospel, and many respond.

I pray there is someone reading this who is connected with the medical world who might receive a burden to help doctors John and Neema, who could be enjoying a very comfortable life using their talents elsewhere, but who have chosen to devote themselves to the poor in the name of Christ. I am thankful that we were able to make a $500 contribution from the Critical Medical Needs Fund before leaving Goma, but much more help is needed.

In the early afternoon, we made our way to the home of our host, Simeon Muhunga, where we expected to meet with five Christian widows to talk about helping them start small business with assistance from our Widows & Abandoned Women Fund. When we arrived, sixty widows were waiting for us, as word had gotten around the some muzungus were coming to help widows! (They were only a small sampling of Goma’s war widows.) Becky and I ducked inside Simeon’s house and discussed what we should do. Learning the most of the widows lived on $10 to $25 per month, we decided to give each one $10 in exchange for a smiling portrait, and Simeon would later select a few to receive micro-loans for starting small businesses. At least we could make a start at serving them and trust God to help more.

Just after I took the photo below of the thirty-five widows who milled around afterwards, they started singing and dancing for joy because of the small gifts they had received. Eastern African women often make shrill, vibrato yelps to express joy in worship, and heaven hears them for sure!

Oh happy day! Our hope is to provide all these Congolese Christian widows with micro-loans to help them start sustainable small businesses.

Below are some portraits that Becky took of a few of the individual Christian widows. Feel good as you enjoy their smiles, and remember their faces, as they’ll be thanking you in heaven.

— David

Malira Butaitirwa. The scar down the middle of her forehead and nose is a tribal means to enhance beauty.

Nyota Byaombe. All her children were killed in the war, and she is caring for her grandchildren.

Ponga Rehema. Her husband died of AIDS, leaving her to raise five children.

Therese Kahindo

Azama Mazambi. She had already received a small business loan from HF, and sells charcoal.

Jeanne Apoba, age 22

Maene Mukanorwa

Mukene Lukowae, a tiny little woman


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