After spending 2004 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), carrying out humanitarian projects and sharing the message of God’s love in Jesus, escalating violence in the country’s ongoing civil war forced us out. Recently, four of us returned for six weeks. We spent part of our time helping Théophile, a pastor who runs a struggling orphanage in a poor section of Kinshasa. The situation has been so critical that in the past year 50 children at the orphanage died of malnutrition or disease.
Our first challenge was to stock the orphanage with as much food as we could buy with our limited funds. A morning of trudging through mud and filth at the central market netted about 500 kg (1,100 lb) of rice, beans, flour, tomato paste, oil, etc. Our next challenge was to get it all to the orphanage, as we had no vehicle. UN peacekeepers, whom we met hitchhiking, volunteered their two Jeeps for the trip to the orphanage, one to carry the supplies and one for the five of us—Esther, Angela, Kaylee, John, and Théophile.
“This way?” the UN captain asked in disbelief when we came to the flooded dirt road that led to the orphanage. It wasn’t long before the Bible adage “Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10) took on new meaning. When one Jeep got stuck in the mud, the other was able to pull it out.
We had a wonderful time at the orphanage, giving the children special attention, encouraging the staff, and presenting the Family-produced educational and inspirational materials we had brought for them—a Start Early poster set and Feed My Lambs booklets in French.
Next, we needed to find a way for the orphanage to become more self-sufficient, and Théophile agreed that an agricultural project would best meet that need. With financial and legal assistance from people we met as we followed an initial lead, we helped Théophile buy a two-hectare field outside of Kinshasa.
When we needed to deliver gardening tools and seeds to the site, the UN peacekeepers who had driven us to the orphanage volunteered again. (After we returned to South Africa, we received an email from Théophile saying that the UN peacekeepers had returned to the orphanage with another shipment of food and supplies that they had gathered themselves.)
We also donated two sewing machines so the older orphans could learn a trade and so they and some of the staff could earn money to help support the orphanage.
Perhaps most important, before we returned to South Africa, one of our contacts in Kinshasa donated medicine for all the orphans. We were especially thankful for the anti-malaria medicine.