In 2016 and 2017, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kasai region 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 5,000 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 sought after. They play an essential role in the survival of the population, with the support of Mennonite Central Committee.
Adolphine Tshiama is one sister in Christ engaged in helping her compatriots.
Tshiama is principal of an elementary school with 1,400 students and a staff of 22.
Between 2004 and 2007 her church went through an intense conflict, and she became a leader. She organized prayer groups so women of the church could pray for an end to the conflict.
Tshiama believes prayer is a believer’s most important activity.
She 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 her brother and wife, along with their son, his wife and their children, had all been massacred by a rival ethnic group. Distraught, she sent word to her friends asking them to pray for her.
The following month, MCC asked the church in Tshikapa to evaluate the needs of displaced people who had inundated the city. Though suffering from her own loss, Tshiama was called to serve others.
She found the strength to do it. She sat and cried with many displaced people, listening to their stories of horror and 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 a Kasai recovery project, supported by the development arm of the French Mennonite Church. These funds provided food and school supplies as well as start-up money for income projects of numerous displaced families.
One day, Tshiama 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 more than 100 miles east of where her brother and nephew had been assassinated. For Tshiama, this was like a resurrection.
Rescuing an orphan
Somehow, Tshiama had eyes to see one young boy among 5,000 people displaced people in Tshikapa. The boy, Kanku Ngalamulume, had seen 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.
Tshiama offered to take him into her home. Today Ngalamulume is going to school, eating well and smiling because God gave him a new mother.
Tshiama is serving her church by fighting against the darkness of evil and taking care of victims. God’s love shines through her.