”Did you see Nightline on Thursday night?” Chrissy sat across the table from me last Saturday afternoon helping count out 25,000 adult multivitamins into packets of 30 for an upcoming mission trip.
I shook my head and glanced at her to let her know that I was listening as I tried not to lose count.
“I thought about you because I know you’ve been to Congo a couple times….”
After my first two mission trips (Mexico and Honduras) I really believed that my mission work would be solely in Latin America because I speak fluent Spanish. But when I got home from Honduras, it seemed like everywhere I turned, I was hearing about the need in Africa. Our team leader received a plea from a bishop in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo and within a few months, I was on a plane on my way there.
My nurse friend, Jerri said, “I would see the commercials on TV for different charities and I’d think that they’d just gone and found the most pitiful, wretched creatures they could find. But no, they are real children and they are everywhere.”
One morning as I sat dispensing medicines in the pharmacy, Jerri (a seventy-something retired RN) came running across the clinic.
“Sarah, bring water and liquid infant Tylenol!” She didn’t wait for my response before she raced back to her station. Clumsily grabbing a bottle of water and a bottle of liquid infant Tylenol, I followed her. When I reached her station, I froze as I watched her try to resuscitate a dying infant. I watched the naked little chest, willing him to breathe. I saw Jerri’s lips move and instinctively knew that she was praying.
“What can I do?” I managed the only four words that came to my mind.
Still working on the infant, Jerri responded: “Nothing.”
And never have truer words been spoken. I looked up at the hundreds of faces waiting in the line that day and knew that there was absolutely nothing that I could do for them.
My heart broke a little.
The story that Chrissy had seen on Nightline was more horrific than I was prepared for. I have given you the link for it here, but I warn you that it isn’t for those with faint hearts or tender stomachs.
A cruel practice has sprung up in the Congo. Some pastors in the Congo have begun branding children “witches.” When a child is “diagnosed” as a witch, the pastor will then, for a sum of money, “exorcise” the “demons” from the child by physically abusing the child. The child may be starved, beaten, cut with razor blades, bitten, or have hot wax poured on them–with the parents’ blessings. Some have even been killed—and the pastors are doing it all “in Jesus’ name.” Once the child has been exorcised, the families usually turn the child out into the street so that their “demons” won’t come back and harass the family. Humanitarian agencies estimate that as much as 70% of the tens of thousands of street children in Kinshasa have been abused in this way.
It makes me physically sick to think of it. At the same time, I feel like I have a responsibility to share the truth with everyone that I can so that this kind of abuse can stop.
Indian missionary Biju Thampy feeds starving children who live in the garbage dumps of Mumbai. When asked about how difficult his work must be, he answered: “I used to ask God why people suffer like this. Finally I came to the place where I stopped asking questions and started being the answer.”
My Dad went on my second trip to Congo and so he was with me at the Storehouse Foundation Orphanage as no less than a dozen children clambered to sit in my lap. The ones that couldn’t fit in my lap settled for sitting on my feet or the arm of my chair, or standing behind my chair with their hands and arms draped over my shoulders. I represented hope to them and they just wanted to touch any part of hope that they could. As I held and rocked the children, my Dad warned, “Sarah, you can’t take them home with you.”
I knew I couldn’t take them home, but wasn’t there something I could do? As I looked around, I couldn’t help but notice that so many of these children had no light, no hope, no life in their eyes. And so, I smiled, I hugged, I rocked, and I prayed.
We take them glasses, but the glasses may get lost or broken. We take them medicine, but the pills only last so long. We take them Jesus, and He is eternal.