Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve here… In ministry we talk of spiritual battle; those involved in local church ministry experience a lot of this.
But what is it like to minister in a place where both spiritual battles and physical battles occur all around you?
Fellowship International missionaries Apollo and Lois Midigo (left) returned to the D.R. Congo in mid-April. Instead of returning to Kinshasa (western Congo) where they had been serving, they followed God’s calling to the city of Goma, on the eastern side of the country. Goma is a large city that borders on Rwanda and has known civil conflict for decades. Millions of Congolese people have been killed as a result of the civil unrest in Goma.
While I was visiting Congo last October, I met with some NGO representatives who were serving in Goma. The stories of hardship were staggering; rape is being used as a tool to demoralize the population. The Midigos have gone to Goma to serve with a missionary church planter named Esther, who serves with our Baptist Church Association partner. Apollo is a professionally-trained counselor/therapist and plans to minister to the thousands of people that have been affected by the war.
Thankfully, since October 2013 the United Nations and African Union have had troops in the region, and so the conflict has stopped; however, the atrocities continue. The Midigos shared in a recent email:
“Our first week in Goma has been shocking. In the first two days of our arrival on the outskirts of Goma city, 57 women were gang raped by men in uniform. These men could be Congolese soldiers or rebels. The men raped these girls who were coming from school, ages 13 to 14. One girl was raped by 7 men. The women were raped when they were in their gardens farming, each being raped by 4 or more men. Women have no security or protection we are told that in the villages women are sleeping in the forests because their homes are no longer safe. It is safer in the forest than it is in their homes.
“Goma has been safe since October 2013 and people are travelling at night. The city is occupied by United Nations, African Union and Congolese soldiers. Despite the security, people are advised to be in their homes by 8:00 pm. Robbery by Congolese soldiers is common after 8:00 pm, who are paid little salary and sometimes they can go for months without receiving their salary. Another thing we have to deal with is witchcraft, very common in churches. We also see displaced people walking in streets and homes begging for food. Although there are many NGOs working in Goma, the needs are overwhelming after many years of war.
“We have travelled by public transport which is safe but are saddened as men look down on women as objects through their comments and actions. We were horrified when a woman was robbed in daylight of her strawberries and no one did anything for fear of being attacked by the thugs.
“Since our arrival we have met several church leaders and are planning more meetings and seminars for church planting, missions and reconciliation. We are pleased with the location of the house which is next to the United Nations soldiers’ base and close to the border of Rwanda and DRC, which provides an escape root in an emergency situation.
“Praise and Prayer Requests:
• Praise for safe arrival and a place to call home,
• Praise God for the meetings with church leaders which have been fruitful,
• Pray for the safety of women in eastern DRC,
• Pray for us as we plan meetings with church leaders,
• Pray that we will find an office at a safe location with good rental price,
• Pray that we will get a good used four wheel drive vehicle,
• Pray for adjustments to a new culture in Goma,
• Pray for a Congolese team to work with,
• Pray for our children in Canada.”
Please pray for Apollo and Lois as they experience the ravages of war while waging spiritual battle in this devastated region. Thank you.
Have a blessed week,
P.S. Our Fellowship National Conference (November 10-12) is in Toronto, featuring special speakers Ed Stetzer and Dom Ruso. Check our website for more information.
Our 2014 Fellowship theme verse is:
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35 (NLT)