God's Stories From BuniaRich Stigall
By Rose Kanyunyuzi, Facilitator for Local Church Partnerships, GO Africa
In December 2015 while visiting the Father’s House in Bunia, the Father’s House management committee and I organized a mini camp for the children.
The camp activities included a running competition, jumping rope, football, singing, mamas telling stories, Bible verse memorization, and the list goes on. One particular activity stood out to me one evening, in which each child was requested to tell one or two things they were thankful for.
Without fail, all of the children mentioned the three meals they have every day, being given the opportunity to go to school, being treated at a clinic when they fall sick, having a clean bed and a blanket of their own, being in a clean uniform every school day, being baptized, and being a member of the Sunday school choir. Most of them also boasted of their being part of the Bishop’s home where they feel welcomed at any time!
As the children continued listing things, I became lost in my own thoughts as I pictured my own childhood, where I experienced abundance and could not even vaguely recall the time I lacked food. I then remembered how my dad would take me to school on his “huge” motorcycle before he could head to his business, and I also remembered how both my parents would embrace me before and after I would go for my Sunday school activities. Then I wondered how, at 14 years old, could these children be excited to be baptized and a part of the Sunday school choir when I was baptized as a baby and any sensible parent would not leave their child behind when they go to church? I had to remind myself that these were children at the end of the line who had no adult to fend for them. I realized that all of the things that some lucky children take for granted were not available – let alone a right – to many children across the globe.
A 5-year-old girl awoke me from my thoughts as she listed the things that she was thankful for at the Father’s House. I could not connect her baby voice to what she was saying. The Father’s House was the only place where she, Susie, ever felt like a child. I prompted her to elaborate about her statement. Smiling, she simply said, “Here at the Father’s House, I play a lot with my sisters. When my clothes get dirty, my mom washes them for me without beating me or asking me to fetch water to wash them for myself.” More stories followed that made Susie feel that she was loved and cared for and could feel like a child at the Father’s House in Bunia.
11-year-old Jeremie had said that the Father’s House reminded him of the Garden of Eden because there is a fence that assures that there is security for him and the other children. There are also many types of fruits – mangoes, guavas, and avocados – that they enjoy eating without being restricted. He is also grateful for the love that is shared among the children and mama, as well as food, bathing, and nice beds and blankets!
The Bishop and Mama Irene visit the Father’s House every day to greet the children. A bishop is a very big figure in Africa, and under normal circumstances those types of people do not visit children. This makes Jeremie and the other children feel very important!
Then another request was made of the children – to describe who they wanted to be when they grew up and why.
The list went from being a tailor or a hotel manager to a medical doctor or Minister of Education. But when it came to 10-year-old boys Israel and Jules, they chose common professions for uncommon reasons! Israel said that he wanted to become a National Police Commander so that he can stop insecurity in Congo and ensure that children’s parents are not killed as his father and grandfather were during war. Jules wanted to become a
Bishop and Coordinator of the Father’s House so that he could bring all diocesan visitors to greet the children. As bishop, Jules said he wishes to love children who are not loved at home because they do not have a home. As a coordinator he wants to teach the Father’s House children good manners so that they become good people.
I still do not know how Israel will get to that rank of National Police Commander or how Jules will become both the Bishop and the Coordinator, but one thing remains clear: their current choice of profession tells the story of the life they experienced prior to coming to the Father’s House. These children look through the lens of their own lives to understand how other children may be impacted. They hope that other children neither suffer nor experience the lack of love they felt when their parents passed. How does such compassion emerge?