Tag Archives: Congo
A few months ago, one of my photos from Congo was featured in Eye See Media’s Magazine woman’s issue. I was honored to have my photo featured as a full page spread. You can view more at their website.
“’Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,’ says the Lord. ‘I will protect them from those who malign them.’ And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in the furnace of clay, purified seven times.” (Psalm 12:5-6)
The promises of God to the poor and the oppressed are pure and flawless; they will never fail. Every promise that He gives will stand and remain no matter what it comes up against. Nothing can ever rob these promises or change the way in which He sees the poor and the oppressed. He will rise on their behalf and fight for them.
This is the truth that refugees ought to stand on; that in spite of the great injustices committed towards them, God sees, He cares, and He redeems. We can bank all of our lives and effort on this reality. God is present in these lives; we just need to find him and see what He is already doing.
This is what I want to do. I want to find God in the midst of human suffering and agony, and see what He is doing, how He is redeeming all things to mself, and how He is bringing beauty. We so often see these situations and are overwhelmed but I believe it is much more powerful to find the beauty within them and to be changed by it.
In every situation there is beauty to be discovered. I feel like this is an invaluable lesson that photography has taught me, time and time again. It has taught me to see and to search out beauty in every situation in life. While it might be personally easier to seek out beauty in places like Congo or the Middle East because I know that they hold beauty even if many do not expect to find it there, I am finding that beauty is just as powerful when I come across it in the every-day routine of life, that is when I least expect or look for it.
On this Thanksgiving, I invite you to see and appreciate those beautiful things that surround you.
This picture tells an interesting story, and tells that story very well, giving a unique glimpse into the complexities of the lives of refugees in Congo.
We spent a few days interviewing and listening to stories of refugees while we were in Mugunga. We heard the different horrors and the difficulties that each Refugee faced living in this camp. Each story provided a unique glimpse into what life was like in this Refugee Camp and the factors that brought each person to this camp.
These three children, pictured above, are actually not this woman’s children. They had belonged to her older sister who had died. Her mother was living in this camp taking care of these children. This is quite common, a grandmother living in the refugee camp trying to take care of their grand children. We interviewed a number of “Mama’s” who had taken responsibility for the children. These elderly women often don’t have the means to provide for the children and have also been under fear of Rebel’s attacking.
This woman’s mother had wanted to have a day off, so she asked her younger daughter (this woman pictured above), to take care of the children for a day. We interviewed this woman, who didn’t really care for these children. They were the children of a relative that had died, and she had a husband and children of her own in a neighboring village. It seemed as though these children were an obligation rather than human beings. Here the daughter is playing with a discarded knife blade. There were literally hundreds of children at any given time when we were in the camp that weren’t really cared for. While I understand why children are not cared for, I feel as though it is a grave in justice. After the interview I asked this woman if I could take a photo of her with these children, she agreed. The expression on her face tells this story powerfully. Her apathy and numbness is apparent, and the children’s malnutrition and fear can be seen in there eyes.
War makes you numb…I found the more interviews we listened to, the easier it was not to care or to lose sight of the gravity of the situation. We would hear about people being killed, Rebels attacking, or children starving…the list was never ending.
But it is an injustice for any child to grow up without love and nurturing. It is an injustice for a child to grow up suffering from malnutrition. Justice always involves great cost and great risk. It is so much easier not to care and to grow numb. Jennifer Toledo, one of my pastors and the director of the NGO that went to Congo with, has always says that, “The ultimate expression of justice is love.” I whole heartedly agree with that statement.
Just a small glimpse of life of a Refugee Camp in the DRC….
We met Batti, who is sixteen, while we were meeting with a NGO in a Refugee Camp in Eastern Congo. We were told that he had lost both of his parents when the Rebels attacked his village. He was separated from them when they were trying to escape the fighting and he had been trying to find them ever since. It had been two years, but had not found them yet…
So here he was alone, in a refugee camp of 20,000 without any means of supporting himself, and he was not getting enough food to feed himself (only enough for four days per month supply). He told us that he would like to work, but had no means of getting the tools that he needed to get a job. He had thought about cutting hair or possible farming but had neither of the tools needed for those jobs.
We asked him what he wanted most, he answered, “to be reunited with my parents.” What stood out to me the most about Batti, when we first met him was that he had no hope. He shared things about his life without a glimmer of hope. He was one of the most hopeless people I had ever met. He had nothing that he was living for and had no way of changing his life circumstances…He felt powerless, and as result was hopeless.
My heart broke for Batti, I wanted to see him to know the hope that was could be his. Before we left, one of my team members shared how God loved him and wanted to take care of him as a good father. While this was a reality, and something he needed to hear, it didn’t do anything to break the hopelessness in his life. It is in moments like this that I can feel powerless to do anything. But I realized at this moment that the hope of this truth needs to be fought for and invested in places like this refugee camp. It made me so hungry to invest my heart in life in a place like this and with people like Batti…
I found out a few weeks ago that this refugee camp where Batti lived was cleared out and everyone was “sent home.” The reality of the situation was that they were forced out of the camp by the government with force and everything was burned. I have no idea where Batti may be…
The life of a refugee is complex and the answer is more elusive than you might think. In Mugunga Refugee Camp in Goma, Congo while we were conducting interviews, we met this family. You could see how worn and weary they were from being driven off their land by Rebel fighting. They were from a village about one hundred kilometers away and had walked that distance when the rebel fighting began. That was quite a journey for this pastor, his wife, and six children.
When they arrived in this “safer” area surrounding Goma, which has only seen peace since December in the last 17 years, they found themselves in this Refugee Camp where we met them. Mugunga is the largest of six refugee camps surrounding Goma, with 20,000 living in it. Mugunga is not an easy place to live by any stretch, with there being very little food, a very rough terrain to build on (volcanic rock), extremely limited access to medical care and education, and a constant fear of rebels coming again. But here 20,000 people lived in these conditions.
While hope was present in this pastor, it felt like it was “just” holding on. He was the strength to his family and his six children, but he seemed weary and tired, and that he did not know what to do next. His family did not have enough food and he had no way of providing for them. We asked him why he couldn’t return to his village. He said that the rebels had moved onto his ancestral land and if they returned they would kill him.
It is hard to know what the “answer” is in a story like this. The rebels and fighting made this family leave there home. The government places them in a large refugee camp, where there is not enough food or jobs. The International NGO’s are not helping as much as they can with providing basic services like education. The problem is difficult and complex. You listen to there story, and it feels very easy to doubt the goodness and faithfulness of God. But in fact, that is the only hope that is present in Mugunga, and is far more present than you think. Jesus’ hope is the only thing powerful enough to shine in a place like this. I found the more I was in Mugunga, the more I saw hope and beauty. God hears every cry, and even in a place like Mugunga he sees and hears. That is the justice of God.
I just found out last week that the government has shut down this refugee camp, forcing the refugees that met either back to there home villages or to other refugee camps. The sad part about this is that the problem that caused there to be so many refugee’s in Eastern Congo has only been partly fixed. This pastor and his family can’t go home, because rebels have taken over there land and are living in there house. Who knows where this pastor and his family are now. What a glimpse into the life of a Refugee Pastor in the DRC.