Archives for category: Africa

Alright folks, I’ve made you wait long enough and finally have photos posted! Please click the photograph below (which will take you to my website) in order to view many of the photographs I captured while in DR Congo & Rwanda. Be sure to scroll down through each group of photos. Thank you for taking the time to see a glimpse of what Taryn and I experienced…

Goma, DRC

Praying continuously for Goma, DRC, my friends, and precious orphans I got to spend time with there… right now they are under heavy attack by the M23 rebels, and it is a very unstable situation. Please take a half minute while you look at this photo and say a prayer…

 

People have been asking me, “How was your trip? Was it awesome?!” My response, “No, it was not awesome, but rather heartbreaking, disturbing, and heavy; a heaviness that is still weighing on all aspects of me.”

My silence has been a result of failed attempts at processing what I saw, heard, and learned while I was in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo. I’m not sure if it is possible to wrap my mind around the pure evil, darkness, and seemingly hopeless corruption that reigns in that land. This I know: with that much evil attack existing in one place, it couldn’t be more obvious that there is a God who owns all triumphant glory, light, and victory over this darkness. Taryn and I were commissioned as radiant light in that dark land to shine hope, uncover truths, and to be advocates of change, healing, and love.

In order to fully grasp and understand, I must unload some brief history about how the DRC has gotten to where it’s currently at. It started in Rwanda, when Belgium welcomed themselves to colonize the country and bring division between the people by labeling them as one tribe or another. There were two primary tribes; the Hutus and the Tutsis, and the Tutsi minority was given elite status to dominate over the Hutus.

Following independence from Belgium colonial rule in 1962, the Hutu majority took control, seized power, and acted out against the Tutsis through discrimination and acts of violence. On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying the Rwandan president was shot down, and the Tutsis were immediately blamed. This fueled Hutu extremists to immediately begin to exterminate all Tutsis, and anyone who was not a Hutu extremist. The genocide endured few months until July, and the number of people massacred totaled between 800,000 – 1,000,000.

Soldiers and militia who had participated in the genocide fled to the DR Congo, terrorizing and victimizing the local population there. In 1996 they sparked the first Congolese war, and then soon after the second, which ended in 2003. Although there is no official war currently taking place, Hutu rebel groups continue to exist and operate alongside Congolese militia and other armed groups targeting the civilian population. They use rape and murder as their biggest weapon to break apart families, instill fear amongst the people, and keep the country in a state of hopelessness and corruption.

Taryn and I always felt safe with our amazing Congolese ALARM (African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries) hosts in the city of Goma. They took great care of us, and taught us a lot about the people and country of DR Congo. Our mission there was to document 45 orphans that the ALARM base in DRC is supporting, with hopes of getting these orphans financially sponsored so that these children can continue their education and have their basic needs supplied. We were only able to talk with twenty-eight of them, because the others had gotten into some sort of trouble with their host families and were shipped off to further away villages.

With a shift of plans, our translator and the ALARM staff wanted us to visit and interview girls at the Dina Center in Goma. The Dina Center is an orphanage where girls, as young as two years old, go who have been victims of (repeated) rape, orphaned after witnessing their families murdered in front of them, and subject to unspeakable wickedness . The girls range in age from two to about fourteen. Currently there are 160 girls living there, and the numbers are increasing weekly. The vast majority of these girls have been tragically raped, and some with children of their own as a result of rape. Most of them have been to a non-profit hospital in Goma that Taryn and I visited, called Heal Africa, then they go to the Dina Center to receive education and counseling.

We were only able to sit down one-on-one with thirteen of the precious girls and listen to their unfathomable stories (below: photographs of each of these thirteen precious girls). Some of them were completely disconnected and blank, some couldn’t hold back their tears and broke down, and within all of them hopelessness and desolation manifested in their innocent souls. Taryn and I needed more time, a lot more time, to give each of these girls a voice. How do you pick and choose who gets to be heard? Our translator, Janet (pronounced jshuh•net), who goes to visit these girls and counsel them twice a week, chose for us.

I really want to shed light and more detail about the Dina Center, and the atrocity and injustice that we learned of, but at the moment Taryn and I are working vigilantly to create an action plan to help bring justice to these girls. It is my hope to provide an update in the near future. In the meantime please pray for the girls at the Dina Center, and for God to reveal His steps of action in light of the situation that is going on there.

It continues to be difficult to process the stories of these children, who have been through hell… leaving was heart wrenching. At the end of the week I had to look them in the eyes and say goodbye while hugging many of them, then bolt to the car to let my surging tears burst out.

As we are getting back into the swing of our privileged lives at home in America, I am currently going through and editing the thousands of photos and video I took, while Taryn is finessing the written stories she documented of all these children. Together we intend to host times to share more details, as well as many of the photos and video footage. Stay tuned for more posts and photos on the way!

Thank you for giving your time to read.

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Jambo! I have said this one single Swahili word (meaning ‘hello’) more times than I can count.

Taryn and I cannot even begin to describe our experiences and the heaviness of the past two days. Our hearts are anguished and shattered from the unfathomable stories we have heard. So we have decided to give you a glimpse of what we are taking in and documenting with one specific story.

This is Sifa Shukuru. When we met Sifa she entered the room with a grace that cannot be described. Her shy smile immediately warmed our hearts. She is a gentle and kind young girl who loves to sing and dance for fun. Often you can find her playing games with her friends, many of these involve dance. Sifa dreams of being the director of a school in hopes to help poor people, orphans, and those in need. This aspiration is extremely humbling after we heard her story, which was heartbreaking and unimaginable for such a young girl. Here is her story.

At the age of four she was working in the farming fields with her mom and younger brother, when a group of rebel Rwandan soldiers ambushed them. Her mother and brother ran away, and tragically she was left alone. Sifa was held captive and raped one by one by the ten rebel soldiers. Her mother returned to her after the soldiers had left. Because Sifa was so young and endured such a trauma as this, she was found unconscious. Sifa’s mom took her to the hospital, and they were able to do surgery to try and repair the damage. Her story was told to the director of the Dina Center for rape victims. After Sifa was released from the hospital, she was sent to the Dina Center for girls. Her parents are still alive and she is able to visit them only on holidays. She needs food, clothing, medicine, water, school supplies, and support for her studies, as well as prayer for emotional and physical healing.

Bonjour from Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo!

After a 21 hours en-route, Taryn & I safely arrived into Kigali, Rwanda yesterday evening. Twice while we waited for our bags, the electricity went out in the airport, but we were thankful our luggage made it. We were enthusiastically greeted by three of the leaders from ALARM, and taken to the base to eat dinner and sleep.

Taryn woke up this morning, ill, with painful stomach cramps and chills. Before we left for Goma, she thankfully started feeling a bit better. We ate breakfast, and were on our way to Goma mid-morning. The three hour drive was incredible, driving through lush green mountains, and observing a very different culture and way of life operate. It is surreal to be here.

Once we made it to the DRC, we were greeted by three new ALARM leaders. They brought us to the Bungwe Hotel, we ate a delicious lunch of roasted chicken, and all met to talk about our schedule. The remainder of the afternoon and evening we have had to rest and catch up on sleep.

Tomorrow the work begins. We are going to a girls graduation where they have learned how to tailor and sew clothing. Two of those girls that are graduating are orphans that Taryn and I will be getting their information, story, and photos for ALARM. After the graduation we will meet all of the other orphans that we will be documenting.

That is all for now… there is wifi in this hotel, so I will try to update daily if possible. Please continue to pray for our health, energy, grace, and that we would be a source of light to shine in this land.

Until next post, Salut!

I think it is interesting that, one day seven months ago, with much time on my hands, I devised the contour of Africa out of burnt almonds. My thought was, “Africa, oh how my heart longs to meet thee.” I had no idea that I’d be on my way there so soon.

Today, Taryn and I begin our trek: Portland, OR > Amsterdam, Netherlands > Kigali, Rwanda. It will take us a solid 24 hours to get there. The time difference from Oregon is nine hours ahead. If traveling goes smoothly, we will arrive there at 7:00pm on Saturday (Rwanda time). My desire is to communicate as much as possible for those who are following along with this journey, so keep checking for new posts.

Bon Voyage!