In many respects, Celestia and I mark our lives by the year 2007, the year we first went to Africa, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to conduct a series of trauma trainings for Mending the Soul. What we experienced in the Congo was so life transforming that we often refer to events in our lives as BC or AC—before Congo; after Congo. Though we had already been deeply engaged in trauma ministry for many years, that first trip to the Congo revolutionized how we viewed the world. We simply had never seen the prevalence and extremes of human trauma and the scarcity of resources. We couldn’t get our heads around the mas atrocities, the chronic slaughter of entire villages, and the ubiquitous rape of women. Nor had we ever witnessed such bold and sacrificial service by Christian leaders. We sensed on that first trip that we would continue to serve and partner with Congolese leaders for years to come. And that is exactly what we’ve been blessed to do. We now have trusted partnerships with hundreds of Congolese leaders—pastors, chaplains, and ministry directors. They in turn have trained thousands of Christian leaders in trauma care.
In 2007, while the county had experienced tremendous levels of violence, the region of Beni, the large commercial city where we served, had been largely spared. But that was then and this is now. In the last few years Beni and the region around it have become ground zero for militia perpetrated kidnappings and murder. Hundreds of civilians have been murdered in the past two years. Over a million people in this providence of North Kivu have been displaced. But the worse it gets, the bolder our partners get. Many of our partners are now serving double or triple the number of abused people they were are few years ago. So we will continue to support them in every way we can.
Hence, I want to tell you about an immediate need. Just when it seemed that Beni town surely was saturated with as much pain as a city could hold, a new enemy has arisen. A few weeks ago people began dying of Ebola. This is one of the world’s most deadly and communicable diseases, with a 90% mortality rate. Entire villages can be wiped out in a matter of days, almost as quickly and efficiently as if a militia army had launched its assassins. According to an article in today’s Wallstreet Journal (8/26) health officials believe this may prove to be the worst Ebola outbreak in years because of ongoing violence and instability in the region, preventing containment of the virus.
And, as we had expected, our partners have sprung into action, serving the vulnerable and the families of the sick. Some have asked Mending the Soul if we could assist them in buying needed sanitation supplies to prevent the spread of the disease. I expect this is just the tip of the iceberg of what will be needed in the coming weeks.
How can you help?
- Please be praying for the people of the Congo, our partners serving the affected families, and for the local health care workers. Pray that the violence would end. Pray that people would turn to Jesus in this time of crisis. Our African brothers and sisters constantly tell me the greatest thing they want and need from us is our prayers.
- Make a contribution to Mending the Soul, earmarked “Africa benevolent fund.” These funds will allow us to assist those with particularly pressing material needs.
- Consider making a contribution to Mending the Soul, earmarked “Africa trauma workbook project.” Currently we do not have a comprehensive written trauma resource for lay people in Africa. This Ebola crisis highlights the immediate needs for such a resource. Celestia plans to start writing this book this fall even though we currently lack project funding. Our goal is to raise $50,000 to create, translate, and print this much needed resource.
We are grateful for your prayers and support.
Steve and Celestia
“The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:2-3
“But whoever takes upon himself his neighbor’s burden, whoever wishes to benefit another who is worse off in something in which he is better off, whoever provides to those in need things that he has received from God, and thus becomes a god to those who receive them, this one is an imitator of God.”
The Epistle to Diognetus, second century AD
8/27 update: We just received a message from Mordecai, one of our primary Congolese partners and the main artist for our forthcoming trauma workbook. He lives in Beni town and told us his uncle, who is a doctor, was just diagnosed with Ebola along with his baby daughter. Furthermore, most of Mordecai’s family had visited the uncle thinking he was sick with malaria. Now they have all been exposed to Ebola. Please pray for Mordecai’s family.