It has been an interesting week with the IDP camp, organizing supplies and seeing what is most important day by day. MAF Disaster Response had given us funds to continue helping. Although we can’t do everything that is needed, we can make a significant difference in the lives of many.
This week Ashley Petersen and my niece Megan went with me to the camp. Ashley is a good photographer and was able to capture many of the needs of people there. We quickly found out what the local Christian volunteers who are cooking and distributing food lacked. They were out of rice and were in desperate need of a larger cooking pot as the size of the one they had required cooking many times and pouring the contents into buckets for distribution, again and again.
Ashley interviewed ladies who were in need of many things, including a tarp to keep them out of the rain while they slept. We visited with people as we walked through the camp, shaking hands and greeting, asking names and making them welcome after their long ordeal. Many had walked for 4-5 days to get to the camp on little or no food. We also visited the tent for the wounded. It was harsh, hot and humid. Not a healthy place at all. People of all ages had machete wounds in various places; their backs, sides, arms, or heads. One 8 or 9 year old girl had a deep wound on her neck, and a little 1 year old had machete wounds across her face and head. Some said they had not eaten for 4 days. I felt we had to get some things for them straight away.
We headed off to the market in town and got 30 bags of rice and a huge 300 liter pot for the cooking team. Then we got plates and cups for the wounded, little local cooking stoves, pots, and some tarps so they could have their own tents.
As we unloaded the rice and pot at the supply tent a whoop went up and they started drumming on the pot and dancing. I went in to join the celebration. People were holding bags of rice over their heads and dancing, while the cooking ladies drummed on the pot and people were shouting “MAF, MAF, MAF”. It was pretty cool. We really did spread some joy and it was fun to see the first smiles out of wounded people when they received their gifts…in the name of Jesus. What a privilege to be here for a time like this.
Ashley took tarps to the ladies she had talked to and it made their day.
In spite of all the suffering, people found joy in small things. We were encouraged, which might seem strange. Leaving many people without basic needs, it would be easy to be frustrated. But we did change some lives.
I came home very thankful for the many blessings I so easily take for granted. A good hot meal, a warm shower, a warm dry bed. It rained during the night and I couldn’t help thinking of all the people getting wet at the camp. But then I remembered that there were at least 10 more families that were sleeping dry under tarps. It was good.
If you want to help, MAF has a fund you can give to: https://www.maf.org/donate?fid=Ee2WbLNojFo%3d&fdesc=uKeV1c8DiYtfwi%2bHQ870QpFpmHseKHRS0O252ZCh%2b1c%3d
Two days later, a provincial government minister and his retinue went to visit the camp. The people were very frustrated and didn’t respond well to his speech. Stones were thrown, police weapons were shot into the air, children were trampled, and one was burned when tear gas was fired. Sadly, a policeman was killed when struck on the forehead by a rock.