"From a purely human perspective, the situation in Congo appears hopeless. But to us who are involved in the lives of hundreds of children, we see, in the middle of chaos, God at work -- to mold and rebuild that country, to repair the shattered lives. We see hope. We see endless possibilities." --Kpadyu Boko Thebi
Without downplaying the tragedy of what is happening in the Congo -- without forgetting the thousands of formerly sponsored children who are readjusting to life without Compassion -- it is appropriate to remind ourselves that the DRC is a place with hope. That, as Morompi Ole-Ronkei affirmed, Compassion Congo has been a success.
Mulanda agrees, "The foundation of my faith is never shaken. … [Compassion] has built that foundation for me. Your support has made me grow spiritually … and has provided me with basic education. It has given me hope where there was no hope."
In the 22 years Compassion ministered in the Congo, over 22,700 children were impacted as they went through the child development program. Even though many were not able to complete the program due to the conflict, those working in the DRC believe that the children's participation for any length of time planted seeds that will bear fruit in years to come.
Mulanda's life proves the validity of their belief. He writes, "This year … I registered at the University of Natal [in South Africa] to study conflict resolution. … I believe there will be no development without peace in Africa and … we have to work hard to bring about peace through the practice of non-violence."
Unity through adversity
It is often observed that challenges show the true measure of character. Never was this more strikingly illustrated than through the behavior of the Compassion Congo children and project workers throughout the time of conflict.
The children's loyalty toward their student centers was beautifully demonstrated through a story that came to light after a particularly chaotic time of fighting. With no authorities to enforce laws or offer protection, many people struggled to protect property from being looted or defaced. Kpadyu was informed that four Compassion-assisted children at Rwampara School (CD-212) protected their project by standing guard together throughout the time of danger. Kpadyu later learned that 18 other student centers had been protected in similar manners during that time.
Compassion project staff showed the same faithfulness. "It reached a point where Compassion was practically the only international organization still operating in eastern Congo," says Ole-Ronkei, "because our people said, 'No matter what it takes, we will get to the children. If we have to walk, we'll walk. … We'll take bicycles, we'll do whatever it takes to reach the children.'
"They opted to continue whenever possible, even in the midst of the conflict. … When you look at the ministry, we were still trying to do exactly what we set out to do. Were it not for outside forces beyond our control, we would still be marching on."
Moving forward on common ground
Even as Compassion Congo's doors closed, our former church partners were already talking about continuing to help the children of their communities. Coming from numerous backgrounds, they found common ground in their two decades of ministry through Compassion.
Recognizing their unity of purpose, these churches formed a group that continues to discuss the future. According to Ole-Ronkei, this group is "looking for ways to use the human resources they have in terms of former Compassion employees. They are asking themselves, 'What will we do with the training we have received? The passion we have for working with children?'
"In my opinion," Ole-Ronkei concludes, "a lot has come out of Compassion's work. And I think you will see a lot more in the years to come. In fact, I think you will be quite surprised with what you see even in the months to come."