Not all who wander are lost

Over a month back in Congo! Officially. And what an incredible gift every day has been. Except for maybe last night when I violently threw up for almost 5 hours…

Thank God for rock star roommates who cleaned up my puke bucket every 20 minutes with the little bit of water we had left over. They make my life wonderful!

We just got back from an AMAZING trip to a village called Beni. If you see my previous post, I talk about the attacks and the slaughter happening in this region.

We’ve never worked there before, but Justice Rising is constantly seeking out the hardest places, with the worst war and greatest conflict.

So when we heard about the injustice last year, we started monitoring it and asking questions. Now as the raids still occur with no real let up to the killings (some even 3 nights before we arrived) we felt like it just made sense to respond.

During our time we sat with seven appointed leaders who will be our point people and mentors to our new projects. Our team has known them and trusts them with our lives. Those seven then went out and gathered some of the worst cases they knew and our team had the incredible privilege to sit with and do “Story telling” (see projects) with over a dozen individuals.

Our first story was a mama. Now, it’s been a while since I was fully in “counseling” mode and I think I was taken off guard. She had the most beautiful baby girl and as I looked into their eyes, immediately noticed severe signs of malnutrition.

As she started talking she spoke of her husband and how they use to live in a small house with a large piece of land that they would farm. They had one child and were pregnant with their second. As the rebels started to invade their village they fled, but as they were running realized that they had no food and if they were hiding in the jungle for a while, they would need provisions. She ducked down in the grass and her husband returned from some supplies. Unfortunately, it was then that he was captured and the nightmare unfolded.

She went on about his death and how they tied him up. She heard each time the machete chopped at his body and recounted his cry and how she’ll never forget the screams he made has he was hacked to death.

I was anything but professional as her story went on.

Eight months pregnant she and her toddler ran delirious for four hours to the main road.

Images of the blood that soaked her husbands body still imprinted in her mind.

The more I tried to talk, the more tears rolled down my cheeks.

I kept hearing the scripture “pure religion is this… take care of the orphan and the widow”

I imagined my husband and how I couldn’t begin to think what I would do if something happened to him.

She went on to say how she settled in the city but had no money to care for her kids.

Every week she waits outside of a shop that grinds palm oil seeds. As the machine grinds the seeds into oil, she collects the loose seeds from the ground and saves them. She says at the end of the week if she collects enough to mash into oil, she sells it herself for about $3 and buys whatever food she can.

I tried to encourage her. I tried to tell her that her husband would be so proud of how she delivered that baby by herself in a strange town and how beautiful he would think his new little girl was.

I wanted to say how amazing it was that she walked 4 hours to safety after such a horrific death.

To tell her what an amazing mother she was to work so hard to feed her girls.

The fact that she wakes up everyday and gets out of bed with sun and simply carrys on, is amazing enough.

But I couldn’t. I just gave a weak smile and told her how sorry I was she had to go through that. Tears rolling down my cheeks I bit my lip hard so I wouldn’t break out into a blubbering sob.

They say you shouldn’t cry (or in my case weep) during sessions or people won’t feel like you’re strong enough to handle their stories. You want to make them feel safe and like they can be free to open up without having to worry if they need to be comforting you.

I bit my lip harder and whispered out a prayer.

The next story I did a little better, as was the story after. After a while I was nervous I would bit right through that lower lip of mine but I felt like I was at least of better use to the women and girls that sat before us.

Yes, girls. I lost it again as we chatted with a young orphan that had to identify the chopped up bodies of both of her parents.

The entire time my heart felt like it was being ripped in pieces. I understand why God tried to emphasize “PURE RELIGION guys! This is it!!” He sees every mama who runs from the machete. Every wife who watched her husband be killed. Every child who walked mile after mile all alone.

What a stunning father to highlight them and say “These ones to me, are where it’s at. To care for these ones is what sums up the gospel”

I could go on forever but this is getting long.  I’ll share more later about the job opportunities that we’ve created and how that side of life is planning on growing.

Just know, the next post ends well. Really well.


The Whisper of Silence

I sat with a woman yesterday who due to the trauma of rape, was nearly mute.

She’d reply quietly when I asked her basic things but mostly, her lips remained tightly sealed as we sat on the edge of a plastic covered bed at a hospital here in Congo.

I leaned forward to grab her hand and as the mattress crinkled below me, the woman next to her whispered that the girl was from Beni.

Unfortunately, that makes sense.

Beni is an area just north from where we are in Eastern Congo. A trader’s city parallel to Uganda.

There was very little I could understand from her. She was raped. How, where, when, I don’t really know. Her fistula was torn, a tear that only occurs during violent sexual assault or traumatic prolonged labor. I know she comes from Beni, whether her family is alive, I don’t know. How she got down to Goma, I don’t know. Whether she wants to go back home… I don’t know.

Beni right now is a target of repeated conflict and violent attacks. They estimate roughly 30 people every week are being slaughtered, hacked to death by machetes.

The more I heard the stories the more everything stirred inside of me that we had to do something.

Arriving back in Congo, our Pastor was returning from two funerals up in the area and flew in the same day we did. The stories were fresh on his mind and my heart was eager to hear.

He uncovered layers to the conflict that helped me slightly comprehend the silence from our dear one in the hospital.

“I met many who were raped in Beni. A whole group of them meeting together. Rebels came to their family’s fields as they worked the farm. They killed their whole family with the blows of a machete. To the neck, to the chest. Not even babies less than a year old were spared. They killed everyone, except these women. The women, after witnessing the atrocities, were then raped. Just when they thought the nightmare was almost over, the soldier would ask for a drink, and then dinner. Through the pain, through the horror, the women were forced to prepare a meal for the rebels to eat.”

My heart aches.

I sit in the dark with my computer on my lap, my housemates in bed and I breathe in the breath of my papa God.

A week back in Africa and we’ve had a mini roller coaster ride of emotions. We’ve heard so many war stories on so many levels. The group of women that our head Congolese director met are still meeting but are in need of something more. Counseling? Jobs?

I think of the eyes of the woman in the hospital. I think of the crackling plastic and how it was the loudest noise that she made.

I was born into such privilege. I am a woman, yet I have a voice. I have rights.

My brain has been on overdrive with so many thoughts about the rapes and the beheadings I could go in so many directions at this stage but instead, for this post I’ll turn back to my papa. It feels like the stories have landed in my heart but not bruised it like they do so often.

It feels like I’m safely tucked in the heart of God as I go from injustice to injustice, feeling the pain but then giving it back to Jesus to bear. I try to use it as fuel for the future and my return to the west (end of July) rather than let it shift to anger or a hardened spirit.

Processing injustice is always a journey of “passing through the valley” but never remaining there. May the women of Beni, those the direct target of such horrific violations, also pass through that valley and find Jesus and hope and laughter in the midst and on the other side.


Thank you for following my journey. We’re posting every Tuesday on our Justice Rising blog if you’re interested in different voices sharing with different topics from our work in war zones. It’s more project focused than emotions focused I’d say. ;)