From my Congo journal, July 17:
Today (we) went to visit Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. We got to spend about half an hour talking with and listening to Dr. Denis Mukwege, the head gynecologist/surgeon for women needing medical care due to sexual violence. He was very direct and clear as he explained his opinions of the change that needs to take place in Congo.
He said the financial assistance, food, medicine, etc. that is poured into Congo is causing more long term problems than it is solving. He feels the Congolese people have become dependent upon it and are not standing up for themselves. What Congo needs is peace. He said the Congolese women are very strong and very resourceful. If they had peace and an end to violence, they could solve the remaining problems on their own. He said the Congolese church especially needs to speak out and support the Congolese people, to stand up against all that is wrong.
A break from the journal entry, some thoughts from today:
Dr. Mukwege acknowledged that if the aide from other countries was removed, lots of people would die initially. But even now lots of people are dying due to the lack of peace in Congo, it has been that way for many years and will continue unless dramatic change happens. This was important, yet hard for me to hear. This is a man who cares deeply for the people of Congo. He is from Congo. He has dedicated his life's work to serving the people of his country. He is well-educated. With my head, I understand what he is saying. My heart does not like it! I think of all the innocent children who would die if all external aide was actually withdrawn from Congo. Dr. Mukwege is certainly right about at least one thing... They are dying now. I had to interrupt him and ask... "So what can we do to help Congo without further adding to Congo's problems?" His response... Congo needs prayer and for people to speak up for them. We need to encourage politicians to adopt policies that help put an end to the violence.
I must admit, I am not completely satisfied with that answer. That can't really be all we can do! It doesn't help the children who are dying as I type, or as you read this blog. Prayer helps of course, but we are also to be Jesus' hands and feet in a hurting world. So where do we find a balance in this? I keep praying and asking for guidance in answering this question.
How do we help the children who are currently orphaned? Yes they need food, shelter, and medicine; mostly they need loving families. We traveled across the world to shower a few with love for a couple days. Would my time have been better spent encouraging and training people in the village to regularly volunteer their time with the kids? Would I spend time volunteering in an orphanage if it was in my town? Would I do it if I didn't know how or if I would be able to feed my own children that day? Am I called to adopt? Are you?
What can we do to keep more children from becoming orphaned? Check out "Run for Congo Women." Have any of you sponsored a child from another country? Month after month, year after year, you send money that you hope helps one child and his or her family to some extent. Ever wondered if it really makes a difference? I know I have. I like the idea of this organization (Run for Congo Women) because the sponsorship helps train and get a woman started in her own business in just a year. So while I've sponsored one child for the last 15 years, I could have helped 15 different women (each likely to have many children)! And you can develop a relationship through letters. Okay, I'll be quiet about it now... Just something to think about.
And now, back to that journal entry from July 17:
At Panzi Hospital, we were able to briefly meet some of the women who have experienced sexual violence. Some were recovering from surgery and some were awaiting surgery. It was so touching to look into their eyes and shake their hands. One woman handed Cammie her baby to hold. Behind the hospital there is a small forest area where some of the women rested, some were washing their clothing or preparing food. (The hospital has no running water and does not provide food for the patients). Many of the women had small children with them. These women are strong, beautiful, and forgotten or rejected by many of their own family and country. I wanted both to smile with them because of their strength and beauty, and to cry with them because of their pain.