From mid-2016 to mid-2017 the region of the Kasai was devastated by an armed conflict. Rebel militias gathered around a traditional chief, Kamuina Nsapu, to fight against the central government. They attacked posts where security forces were located and sometimes attacked schools, churches, and hospitals.
An estimated 5000 people were killed and 1.5 million were displaced by the violence.
In this context, the church in general – and Mennonite churches in particular – are present and sought after. They play an essential role in the survival of the population with the support of MCC.
Here is a portrait of one sister in Christ who is very engaged in helping her compatriots.
A strong woman
Adolphine Tshiama is a strong woman. Her strength comes from within.
At first sight, Adolphine is friendly and in no hurry, taking time to greet people. But very quickly you will notice her eyes sparkle like diamonds and sense the degree of her perseverance and determination.
She is currently the principal of an elementary school with 1400 students and supervises a staff of 22 persons.
Between 2004 and 2007 her church went through an intense conflict and Adolphine became a leader. She regularly organized informal prayer groups so that the women of the church could pray for an end to the conflict.
This is a woman with a profound faith and she doesn’t hesitate to say that prayer is the most important activity for a believer.
Adolphine has also been touched by grief. She lost her husband in 2011 after 33 years of marriage. In May of 2017, in the context of the violence, she learned that her brother and wife along with their son, his wife, and their children had all been massacred by a rival ethnic group. Completely distraught, she sent word to her friends asking them to pray for her.
Welcoming displaced persons
The following month, MCC asked that the church in Tshikapa evaluate the needs of the large number of displaced persons that had inundated the city in order to escape the violence. Adolphine, who was suffering deeply from her own loss, was called to serve others.
She found the strength to do the impossible. She sat and cried with many displaced persons, listening to their stories of horror and unbelievable suffering. She was able to say to them: “Yes, I know, I believe you, I understand your pain… I am also suffering, because that has happened to me.”
The evaluation gave rise to the project of recovery of the Kasai in which the Emergency Fund (Caisse de Secours) participated. These funds provided food and school supplies as well as start-up money for income projects of numerous displaced families.
One day, Adolphine received a phone call that turned her life upside down. The wife of her brother as well as the wife of her nephew and their two children had been found alive in a town a few hundred kilometers to the east of the place where her brother and nephew had been assassinated. For Adolphine, this was like a resurrection. She was filled with joy.
Making the love of God shine
Somehow, Adolphine had eyes to see one young boy among 5,000 people. Kanku Ngalamulume saw his parents and siblings beheaded by rebels, then fled to Tshikapa following other groups of people. Temporarily housed with a family, he kept losing weight.
It was then that Adolphine proposed: “I will take him into my home.” Today Kanku is going to school, eating well, and smiling because the Lord gave him a new mother, a new family.
Adolphine is serving her church by fighting against the deep darkness of evil, by taking care of the victims. The love of God shines through her, because she shares hope with vulnerable and displaced persons.
—A Mennonite World Conference release by Rod Hollinger Janzen, executive coordinator of Africa Inter Mennonite Mission (AIMM)
This article is published in the framework of the Francophone Mennonite Network (Réseau mennonite francophone, RMF) and also appears in Le Lien (Quebec) as well as on the website of Mennonite World Conference (mwc-cmm.org). Coordination of the publication of articles: Jean-Paul Pelsy.