RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Nearly three tons of rice and beans were distributed to more than 300 homeless families in the Congo by International Mission Board missionaries and church partners Nov. 11-14.
In recent weeks, 250,000 people in the African country have fled their homes, and many others have lost their lives in the wake of ongoing conflict. A total of more than 400,000 displaced people are believed to be living in and around the city of Goma on the country’s eastern border.
“The people are pretty frustrated … malnourished,” said missionary Rusty Pugh, who helped with the relief effort through the Southern Baptist World Hunger Funds, including a project in May when 100 families received food.
“There is food that is available to buy, but the people don’t have the money to buy [it] right now.”
As of Oct. 31, the World Hunger Fund had distributed $9.6 million this year to overseas relief projects.
Tensions in the Congo have continued to rise throughout the year since a peace agreement between the government and the rebel leader Laurant Nkunda fell through. In August, fighting broke out near a few of the displacement camps. Some relief efforts were temporarily disrupted.
“[When fighting] got within four kilometers of Goma, the U.N. was forced to quit feeding people in different camps,” Pugh said.
“The good news is things have calmed down [and] the U.N. is feeding again and able to get food back into those camps,” he added. “We were able to do something to carry some of them over until the U.N. came back in.”
Getting relief to the people has not been easy for Pugh and his wife Debbie. The Congo, which is a third the size of the United States, has less than 4,000 miles of paved roads. To get to Goma, the Pughs have to fly from the western edge of the country to the eastern edge.
Right now, the Pughs are the only IMB personnel in the country. Originally from Decatur, Ga., they minister among the Yamsi people in Kinshasa, the nation’s capital. They plan to return to Goma in December to work with pastors.
“These pastors have a dream of going into the mountains and evangelizing the rebels,” said Pugh, noting that there is a strong Muslim presence on the eastern side of the country.
“We’re going back for a week to do some training with these pastors to try to help them get prepared.”
Though the situation remains volatile, local pastors remain optimistic that lives will be changed for Christ as a result of the crisis.
“I’m asking these guys, ‘What do you all want to do about the project in December?'” said Pugh, adding that the question was met with strange looks.
“Aren’t you still coming?” they asked.
“These guys have real guns,” Pugh responded. “They’re using them right now.”
“Don’t they still need Jesus?” one pastor responded. Pugh agreed.
Pugh asks Southern Baptists to pray that God will call other missionaries to help with the more than 300 people groups in the county. With less than 2 percent of the people in these groups claiming to be evangelicals, the need is great, Pugh added.
Shawn Hendricks is a writer for the International Mission Board. Undesignated donations given through a local Southern Baptist church, a Baptist state convention or directly to the SBC Executive Committee, 901 Commerce Street, Nashville, TN 37203 (www.sbc.net), will be distributed 80 percent to international and 20 percent to domestic hunger relief projects. Alternately, gifts may be designated and contributed through the International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230 (www.imb.org), or donated via the North American Mission Board, 4200 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30022 (www.namb.net). Visit www.worldhungerfund.com to learn more about how you can help with world hunger relief initiatives.