VBS 2018:… Awesome, AWEsome, AWESOME
This is our THIRD and last installment detailing a two-week VBS in July-August. You have to grasp the importance of teaching basic Biblical principles to Congolese children. Yes, HOPE starts here!
One may accuse me of hyperbole in saying this VBS field trip was “UNPRECEDENTED”, but please read on.
This truly was like no VBS our American supporters have experienced. Each VBS emphasizes spiritual and community leadership. That is enough, anywhere, but this year’s field trip REALLY touched lives.
Blessings, Stephen Butler
PART THREE: VBS Field Trip Day
We decided a collective goal for this VBS: We wanted to visit the military families at the camp near Kavumu – Nyamunyunyi, close to the area we went to for our field trip last year. Every one of us looked for something from our closets to give away so that we could take some small gifts to these families—food, clothing, and other valuable things. Last year we went there and were able to share our cooked food with some needy children from the area. This year we wanted to show God’s love to a very destitute and much maligned group in the DRC—military families.
I have many active duty or retired military friends in America and Europe. And I can say that these military members inspire respect and dignity. However, when you see a DRC soldier, he inspires pity and often fear.
A central VBS theme this year was “Do I seek to fight for oppressed people?”
Soldiers and their families here are one of the most disregarded people. Because of rampant corruption, soldiers’ salaries are a pittance (like that of teachers in the DRC, except teachers here have children’s parents to add a little more to their salary). Soldiers are basically treated like animals, often sheltered in tents (with families). Thus, the extortion committed by some of them. These people need their dignity back. We wanted to teach the VBS children these families are just like us, people surviving a very difficult situation. It is about sharing love, education, knowledge, and treating them with respect. We pray a new government will improve the treatment of these people. (Note: DRC elections are scheduled for December 2018).
Papa Albert Cigorombo (Kanega Center’s Operations Manager) made inquiries to seek permission to enter the military installation on the last Friday of VBS to offer the military families a piece of love. Some of our staff were fearful of this new engagement, but when Papa Albert and pastor Emmanuel met with Colonel Paluku, the Colonel enthusiastically facilitated our interaction with the military families.
After an hour ride to the base, our buses went directly to a soccer field where a shelter had been prepared. We were shocked at the number of families waiting for us, and knew our planned program had to be altered…quickly. The schedule was reduced to a soccer game of 30 minutes each for boys and girls’ teams. I (Bintu) gave a speech to the families and our children gave some small packages to the children we had on a list – 100 packages were prepared for the neediest. The packages contained a kilo of sugar, a kilo of soy milk powder, and five soap bars. We had also collected lots of clothes and other items that we gave to the officers.
It was so humbling to see how these families were eager to get a package. There were malnourished children who could not walk. Most of the children were filthy. We taught the VBS children to hug the military children when they gave the gifts. Our youth were shocked to see there were teenage mothers there with babies of their own. We thank GOD for what HE provides for us, enough to share with others. Sometimes, it takes a trip like that to appreciate what you have.
Our children still had not eaten, so we left the base to go to a nearby nunnery to be able to eat. We could not eat our food in front of so many who did not have food of their own to eat.
We then went 13 kilometers (not easy in the DRC) to give the children their annual opportunity to play on a playground (they do not have playgrounds available for playing in Bukavu).
We returned to the Center at 8 p.m.; it had been a long and emotional day, but one that will have a lasting impact not only on our VBS children and staff, but on the military families. And this is just the beginning. FHA sees this as a great opening to a new ministry of assisting soldiers’ families.
On Sunday evening we showed the parents some of what their children learned during the 10 days of VBS. The parents were proud, and they realize how important this type of opportunity is to their children. I was emotional looking at a successful, but often difficult, materialization of something that once was a simple idea!
I hope you agree that this VBS was amazing, and yes – UNPRECEDENTED – certainly in the DRC, if not for the whole of Africa.
We are thankful to GOD for His assistance and provision and for all we were able to accomplish. We thank YOU for your prayers, your contributions and for your love. And I thank GOD for the team here!
For His Grace and Glory,
I’m so excited to be planning a trip to the U.S. in early 2019 (Feb – April). I would love to see you and share with you all of the things God is doing in Bukavu and in my life.
I’d be honored if you invited me to come stay with you and speak at your church or other group about all the wonderful things that are happening here.
My trip is coming up quickly and my schedule will fill up fast so please contact Steve Butler (firstname.lastname@example.org) to reserve some time with me.