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Saturday, June 07, 2014

Mwana in Pointe Noire

It's amazing that just 10 months ago we were sailing into Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo.  We were still remembering the pain of saying goodbye to dear friends in Guinea and now we were suddenly in the throws of having to make new friends whilst remembering those we left behind.

A few of us who had been working together at the God is Love Orphanage in Guinea last year were eager to work together again this year.  That is a good sign as we all get on so well and form a great team with many skills.  Of course a lot had left the ship so our team had reduced to about 5 of us but we looked forward to see who God would bring along.  Also this year the deck department were looking for a project and so we hoped there would be something that could work together.  Meanwhile we were coming to a new country, a country where Mercy Ships hadn't been to before, and we wondered what we would do.  This time for some reason Sharon started looking up orphanages in Pointe Noire on the internet.  She had never felt the urge to do this before and doesn't even for the next field of service, to be honest if there was an orphanage out there with a website they are probably doing pretty good.  But somehow it seemed right.

She came across a ministry called Mwana Villages (Mwana means Child) and as the team learnt more about the charity we couldn't shake it off.  We were enthralled by their life story. It was described as creating a village and housing orphaned kids with families or widows etc.  They had bought the land in Hinda but that was all they seemed to have done.  We even got offered a Mercy Ministry from the ship but somehow all our hearts had been touched by the work of Mwana and we decided to pursue it.

So we wrote to them and this was the start of a great friendship.  Mwana is run by Cheryl (from Canada) and her husband Lambert (from Congo) and her family of 6 kids.  
When we wrote she was still in Canada after having had twins and wouldn't be back until the October.  We were already thinking that's 2 months we've missed but still felt that was the way to go.  Meanwhile on the other side of the world in Canada, Cheryl was thinking who on earth is Mercy Ships and why are they contacting me (?!) and why are they interested in my little ministry.  She replied and arranged to meet us on her return and show us Hinda.

October came and we met for the first time and went out with her to visit a school near the village.  Now at this time Cheryl was still getting use to the demands of twins and she was soon realising that things were going to have to be very different with these 2 little girls around.  A task that would normally take about 1 hour took 4 because of the little hungry mouths that needed constantly feeding.  We felt bad as we had to leave her there in the end as we had reached the limit on our car use and we came away wondering what had we got into and probably Cheryl thought the same about us.

Over the coming months we got to know them better and how we could best serve them.  It was nice for them to have somebody else who believed in their project and it wasn't just some crazy idea they had.  It helped them process where they wanted to go because believe me this amazing woman had some great visions!

We started with a flood, Maman Cynthia had been flooded out of her shack and had taken refuge in a neighbouring shack.  
A flooded home
New home

So we got in there to assess whether the old shack was liveable, it wasn't.  Cheryl was able to find out whether the new shack was available and the deck crew got to work making it a home for her.  There was also some animosity between the neighbours and so we had a team out there every other week to work with the kids and the Maman's.  From there we were able to provide them with cooking utensils, charcoal etc and we pray that the time spent with them, teaching them about the love of Jesus, brought them together more as a community.
at Christmas we gave them gifts along with teddies that had been knitted by the ladies from Roundswell Church, Barnstaple. 
(they loved them!)
Following that, we discovered Cheryl's friend and fellow worker in Mwana, Maman Rebecca, lived in even worse conditions so the Deckie team went about fixing up a new home for her, which unfortunately got flooded out and so they fixed up another new home for her.  She was so overjoyed.
Maman Rebecca's home-a tiny room with 3 boys.
Here, her new home with painted walls and new beds.
During the flood

You can read Maman Rebecca's story here: "Maman Rebecca's Story

Gradually over the months more and more needs came and the deckies and the team stepped in painting houses, getting new beds, setting up new "Maman" businesses and gradually more and more were being touched with the love of Jesus.  A lot questioned the fact that usually it was them doing all the hard work for the "white" expat community and they couldn't get their heads round that we were doing it for them.  Locals even came up to Maman Rebecca and said they wanted to go to her church as her God listens to her there, what an opportunity for Maman Rebecca to share the gospel.  We are learning more and more that the gospel speaks volumes through relationships, especially in a relational region like Africa.  Yes there is a place for people to proclaim the word, but it's the relationships that get under peoples skins and deep into their hearts.

We now see Gods plan and timing for us to be there, at a time when Cheryl and Lambert would have been pushed to do it alone.  

A few weeks before we left we were able to help with the opening of a new baby rescue house.  Along with all of Cheryl's contacts of help, our amazing carpenter built cribs out of pallets, even his family came for a holiday and took time out to help.  Before we left Tenerife one team member and been given a donation of a load of baby equipment to take with him, he graciously took it not really knowing what to do with it but God knew and had already planted the need in others before we knew it - everything just fell into place.  The house will be run by widows so they can earn some income.
What about the Hinda Village land you ask?  Well since paying off the land a oil refinery bought the land adjacent to theirs, not so good to live by, but they also got approached by them and were offered much more than what they payed for it.  They agreed and sold it to the refinery and they can now buy better land somewhere else as their ministry grows.

Now we have left, with more painful goodbyes and another piece of our heart remains in another country, The Republic of Congo.

Since leaving Cheryl has met with Madam le President, the children's Judge, and she said that she is happy to send children to them because she could see that they will be well taken care of and in a good environment.  

Yesterday it happened, they took their first new baby in, abandoned on the street a few days earlier still with the umbilical cord attached.  Cheryl has given her the name Grace Elikia.  Elikia means hope in the local language, Lingala
Please pray for Cheryl and Lambert as they embark on their new adventure.  At the moment you can follow their news at www.congomwananews.blogspot.com, eventually we will be switching that over to www.mwana.ca - you will also see their website in the side bar of our blog page if you ever want to go back.

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