Some years ago, the territory of Dimbelenge was under the stain and fire of occupation by the Congolese rebels and their Rwandese allies.
At that time, the warlords had seized the rectory of the Katende parish and made it their headquarters. They traumatized the people and confined priests and religious while they continued their terror in the region they controlled.
When an agreement was signed between the government and the Rwandese pro-rebel militia, the latter withdrew from Katende parish, leaving behind thousands of people to recover from the trauma.
It is in this desperate situation that Missionhurst began a journey helping people to rebuild their lives and regain their hopes for a better future.
In October 2014, the Katende parish commemorated its Centennial Jubilee, which gathered nearly 3,000 people and was a time of reconciliation and encouragement.
On this occasion, Missionhurst priests from other parts of the world were invited for a “missionary animation week” in various pastoral centers and communities. The brief and unique experience of journeying, listening, sharing and celebrating with the local people from different social categories and backgrounds enriched all who came.
Due to the lack of roads and infrastructure, reaching some of the communities was rather challenging.
Rebuilding is not an easy dream to realize due to the complete lack of basic facilities: schools, hospitals, shops and stores, and medical care. People here must walk upwards of fifty miles to buy food, salt, and other manufactured products in the nearest town. Most can only get there by making the trip on foot- that’s about a two-day walk.
Villagers typically take small products from their gardens or other labors to sell in the town, and they return with purchased goods. Usually, their heavy bundles are carried upon the head. It is commonplaces to see women carrying loads up to 70% of their body weight, balanced on top of their heads.
I’ve been told, “Father, we do not have a choice. If we do not do this, how can we feed our children?”
In the different villages I toured for missionary animation, I was able to gather the people and discuss the pressing issues of each place. Common to all the locations I visited was the urgent need for schools and hospitals.
It’s obvious that there simply are not the resources needed for sweeping infrastructure improvements. We cannot look away from the serious consequences for the children whose futures are crippled by a lack of education.
Many villagers feel helpless regarding the future for their children who lack schooling.
Before the war, the children of one village used to walk nine miles to attend their school- eighteen miles per day. But this became too risky as the rebel armies began to abduct and make soldiers of children.
A chance meeting with the Congolese Minister of Education led me to speak with him about this bleak situation for children in Congo. He pointed out that the number of children not attending school is on the increase, and the estimates currently range from 3.5 to 5 million or more.
The ravages of civil war linger especially in rural areas. Schools and teachers’ homes were used as shelters for militia leaders from all sides. Classrooms were systematically looted and vandalized, and unpaid teachers abandoned their posts.
The government response to this situation is painfully slow, but the children cannot wait.
At the end of the missionary animation tour I was moved to tears when the representative of the Dimbelenge community declared that Missionhurst missionaries are their heroes! I was told, “With you, our hope for a better future for our children is restored.
What we need above all is schools, because we understand we will never flourish if we do not cultivate our boys and girls through education.”
Children in the villages surrounding Katende parish are waiting for their chance to study. Their hopes for a building will be impossible to realize without assistance. Missionhurst missionaries are engaged, but need financial resources to realize this dream.
If the situation for these children touches your heart, know that any support of our Missionhurst missionaries will bolster our opportunity to respond. May their faith and hope continue to be restored and realized.
Interested in learning about partnering with Missionhurst as a monthly sponsor? Check out our Sponsor's Handbook!