The crisis unfolding on MAF’s doorstep in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has seen violence escalating in Djugu, tens of thousands of IDPs (Internally Displaced People) arriving in Bunia, and a rapidly growing refugee camp that has sparked MAF into action.
Jon Cadd, MAF Pilot and Eastern DRC Country Director, has seen the refugee crisis first hand.
‘We walked through the camp, greeting people in the African way – shaking hands, asking names, enquiring after their family, finding out where they came from and if they are well. Many had walked for four or five days to get to the camp on little or no food.’
An immediate response
Picking his way through the sea of makeshift tents, Jon surveyed the colossal need. In one of the largest countries in the world, 100,000 people were huddled – in small shelters – just inches from their neighbours on either side.
‘We were able to bring food to them within a few days,’ he said, ‘having found out what the local Christian volunteers lacked. They were out of rice and in desperate need of a larger cooking pot.’
A 300-litre pot was duly purchased along with cups, plates, and large quantity of firewood and rice. ‘It was so big that when they were trying to get it out of the van the door popped off!’ smiles Jon’s wife Cher.
There were shouts and whistles of joy when the huge pot was finally delivered and the cooks began drumming on it, dancing and raising the sacks of rice in the air, chanting, ‘MAF! MAF! MAF!’
In the following weeks, many more bags of rice were purchased and distributed – through the Church – to half-starved men, women and children. The ministry of cooking, conducted by a handful of Congolese Christian women on behalf of thousands of refugees, continued to inspire our team as the weeks turned into months.
Comfort and care
Walking through the camp, Jon and MAF's Ashley Petersen were encouraging and praying for families when they met Juliet. Juliet and her three children were living in a flimsy, grass-frame structure without even a tarpaulin (tarp) to keep them dry.
Later that day, Ashley returned with tarps for Juliet and two other women who shared her plight.
‘The smiles on their faces was priceless,’ she explains. ‘There is still so much need at the camp and with the people there, but we are making strives as a program to do what we can during this time of crisis.’
A little further on lay the tent housing the wounded, many of whom were suffering from machete wounds.’
'That group hadn’t eaten in four days,' Ashley recalls. 'So we headed to the local market and, when we returned with the supplies, I saw the first smiles on the faces of the wounded. They would be able to eat that day and sleep under a tarp instead of in the rain.’
'When we returned with the supplies, I saw the first smiles on the faces of the wounded.’ Ashley Petersen
At the end of a long day, Jon came home, ‘thankful for the many blessings I so easily take for granted – a hot meal, a warm shower, a dry bed and the opportunity to help.’ Now the size of a large town, this refugee settlement remains uppermost in his thoughts.
‘It rained that night and I couldn’t help thinking of all the people getting wet at the camp. But then I remembered there were at least ten more families that were sleeping dry under tarps.
‘That, at least, was good.’