*Note: although this event occurred nearly four months ago, it has taken time for us to digest it and find a way to respectfully share it with others.
Our trips to Masisi are often some of the most intimate times with the local leaders and members of Global Outreach Foundation - Congo (GOF-C). We sleep in tents together (a complete culture shock for our Congolese comrades), we nestle near one another in sleeping bags, we cook together and literally dig our car out of the mud together. It makes for some great bonding time! Moses is a member of our team, who teaches guitar lessons at the Goma Community Center and is also the main worship leader for our ministry.
|Clementine's grave marker at Goma Cemetery.|
He has taken multiple trips to Masisi with us and has worked hard to get the Masisi Community Center up. But our last trip with Moses to Masisi, is one that I can never quite forget.
The informal topic and/or joke of the trip was “Mapenzi yangu,” which can be translated as “My lover, my friend.” The Congolese decided to talk profusely about how Andrew and I call each other ‘love’ and ‘dove.’
“This is a good practice, I’m going to start doing that with my wife too.” Said, Marcellin, the Leadership Coordinator who was on the trip with us.
The subject went deeper between the married men that night. They talked for more than an hour about marriage and family life. I remember contently falling asleep while listening to the guys in my tent giggle and gloat about how much they loved their wives.
“She’s my best friend. I can talk to her about anything.” Moses told Marcellin.
They lived in a humble part of town called Ndosho, an area where police invade homes with guns to steal from the local population and where walking past 7 p.m. is a guaranteed way of getting held up and hijacked at gunpoint. They had three children and one adopted orphan. Moses' wife, Clementine was in her third trimester, pregnant with their fourth child.
If you understood African culture, you would understand how beautiful it is to hear men say this to each other openly. It was a moment where all the projects in the world couldn’t fill my heart as much as this. Deep. Genuine. Love. Between a man and a woman in the midst of a country where war, hate and violence has torn apart so many families.
|Moses and members from the community at the burial.|
Moses came home to his wife’s delivery. It was late at night when she delivered and without proper transport and small means, they went to a small clinic down the street. Unfortunately, that clinic did not have the proper medical supplies. When she gave birth, she needed stitching. The clinic did not have the right equipment nor any IVs. So there they were, in a city of 1 million people unable to get to an adequate hospital. It took nearly two hours before they could find transport to a proper hospital—but by the time she arrived, it was too late. Clementine had already bled to death.
She left behind Moses, a beautiful baby girl and four other children.
Her last words to Moses were “go and do the work of the Lord,” when he called her earlier that day when she was having sporadic contractions.
“Should I come home and let someone else lead worship at church?” he asked.
He thought that she might need to be admitted to the hospital soon. “Go and do the work of the Lord.” She said.
|Moses (left) and Marcellin (right) the day|
Moses got his brand new guitar!
She had no idea why. When she told us about her idea, we suggested to bless Moses with her guitar. He was a wonderful guitar player and worship leader—but he owned no guitar. She brought him a guitar not knowing what would happen in the future. Not knowing it would become one of the only things that would keep him sane through the pain he would endure in the coming year.
Congolese Culture and Mourning
The tribe that Moses comes from mourns similarly to the Jews. They are outward, open and raw about it. They don’t eat, don’t change clothes and roll on the floor and wail.
When a woman dies giving birth to a child who survives—the culture removes the child from all funeral practices. The child does not receive a name and the child remains with a distant family member away from the mourning parent and siblings for one week until the mourning is culturally finished.
The community comes to the home of the mourner for one straight week: cooking, giving donations to the funeral, organizing, praying and just being present for the mourners. Everyone contributes to tragedies like these. Everyone: neighbors, co-workers, family members, church members, friends and even friends of friends. As leaders of GOF-C, an organization that hired him as a builder and also friends of his family, we were also required to contribute. Our entire team sacrificed up to 30 percent of their monthly income from GOF-C to help Moses and his family.
We cancelled all programs for the week in order to help arrange the funeral, offer our vehicle, babysit the children and mourn alongside Moses.
It was a time that really affected Andrew and other members of our team with wives. We knew that this death could have been prevented if Clementine had only gone to a better hospital. Andrew and I felt particularly guilty for not being in the city when she was giving birth.
We could have easily picked Clementine up at night and brought her to a better hospital. It is a practice that we regularly do for friends and members of the Community Center: driving people to the hospital at night.
Andrew fell on the ground and cried with Moses for more than an hour in his house.
“Why did this happen, Andrew? I loved my wife so, so, so much.” He would say. “God has left me. And she has left me.”
Moses has turned repeatedly to his guitar and to worship through his sufferings this year. We have seen an amazing depth come out of his worship that we have never seen before. He has put together a humble choir at the community center and they have written a number of songs.
Moses spends most of his time finding work and serving God through leading worship at church and serving at the GOF-C Community Center. He is the foreman of our building in Masisi and a faithful and trustworthy friend to us.
His story is not rare. And that’s a travesty. Families lose their mamas all over Goma and all over the country. But never before had a statistic come some close to us. Never before have we found ourselves saying ‘if only I would’ve…’
We learned a lot through this death, about God, about community, about family, about culture, about each other and about worship. Some things that I can talk about publicly on a blog… others that I will not talk about.
But what I do know is that as members of the community here in Goma, we will continue to stand with the Congolese through their suffering. Although we can’t take away their pain, we can use the resources that God has given us to help them when it is possible. And in the times when it is not possible we can at least cry with them.