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Friday, July 25, 2014

Sensational Seniors

This year Mercy Ships had the privilege of working with the maturer generation of Pointe Noire at a senior community centre as one of their Mercy Ministries.  Here's an account written by crew that participated in this ministry.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
II Corinthians 4:7-9
 I have never witnessed such an example of these verses as I see each time we visit the Senior Community Centre with Mercy Ministries. These are extraordinary people that it is our absolute joy to be able to call our friends.

Congo is one of the few countries in Africa that actually has programs to meet the needs of their senior citizens. Unfortunately, that need is enormous. Many older people have been abandoned by their families, blamed for ‘bad luck’ caused by witchcraft and curses. Some have actually had their homes sold by their children, been chased away and have to fend for themselves at an age where finding and being able to work is extremely difficult.
These people are “struck down, but not destroyed.” They come together at their local Community Center each Wednesday for a time of encouraging each other, dancing, singing, storytelling and exercise. Mercy Ministries partner organization AMI Missionnaire, working under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Affairs provides use of the center, medical care, food and some housing. Currently the organization is renting housing for approximately 20 seniors, but they are in the process of finishing the first of several houses on property that they own in the area of Ngoyo. When finished there will be free, secure housing for these men and women, with more to come as the organization can raise the money to continue building.  Every other Wednesday afternoon is our opportunity to join them. We are learning so much about their culture and history. We’re listening to genuine Congolese folk tales and learning African games and songs. We’re even dancing the ‘Hokey Pokey’! The Kituuba name “Baluuka” sounds much more melodious... (“You put your left foot in; you take your left foot out...”).  They’re competitive too!  You should see how fast they can run while playing ‘duck, duck, goose.’ And the men against the women in relay races... they are serious!!!
Last week Congo celebrated National Senior Day and Mercy Ministries were invited. There were about 300 seniors there, plus a crowd of government dignitaries, including the local mayor.  We ate fantastic local food and our team was presented with a gift of t-shirts commemorating the event.  Our Senior group performed a drama about a man who had been chased away from his family. He was traveling alone, tired, hungry and needing a place to rest.  He came to a village of older people where he was taken in.  One villager was jealous because food was given to the stranger instead of him.  The other villagers taught him a rather harsh lesson in hospitality... Our Mercy Ministries team was invited to dance the Baluuka with them... we may have started a national trend!
Mercy Ships Eye Team has visited the Senior Community Center as well. They’ve scheduled 23 surgeries for cataract removal and will visit them again to provide much needed reading glasses. Yesterday, one of the gentlemen told us that, “sometimes people come and just bring smoke;  Mercy Ships people came and brought the fire.”

But, they share with us so much more than we could possibly give them...

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