Features

Snapshots of chaos

"Snapshots of chaos" Continued...

Issue: "Down Syndrome = Death Sentence?," Jan. 18, 1997

The persistent manpower means better reconnaissance than military surveys can provide. International efforts attempted a census of refugees up to 100 miles inside Zaire's eastern border, while MAF pilots were regularly dropping food to refugees 200 miles into the country. They located 50,000 refugees near Katshungu at a time when international sources were reporting 40,000 refugees left in all of eastern Zaire. At Lubutu, 100 miles west of Bukavu and inaccessible to media and other observers, MAF pilots saw 100,000 people--presumably Hutus who fled other refugee camps--encamped.

This yeoman's service has not been without loss. At Nyankunde, MAF's primary base, money and a vehicle were stolen from a hangar at gunpoint--not by rebels but by the local Zairian militia. No one was hurt, but MAF workers learned that a list of their homes had been distributed to the military. Fifteen homes were later looted.

&quotFor some reason, they have the impression that Americans are not against the rebel activity," said spokesman John Lewis. Anyone providing aid, he pointed out, can be seen as taking sides by one group or another. &quotThe people who are starving," he said, &quotare caught between their agendas."

Workers at Berean Mission's station at Katshungu report that the refugees they've counted don't match the numbers reported in the international press. Missionary Jim Lindquist said 250,000 Hutus took refuge in the forests of Shabunda. He also reported giving up the rest of his milk supply and most of his mission's rice to 230 Hutu orphans being escorted by a dozen adults. The orphans had walked for more than three days from Bukavu and had begun as a group of 300.

Refugees, Mr. Lindquist says, are &quotsurviving by trading their worldly possessions for food." One woman offered her youngest child to a workman at the mission for enough manioc flour to feed the rest of her family for a week. &quotShe said she had six children and couldn't feed the youngest anymore," reported Mr. Lindquist.

Children of missionaries fared much better but were not spared all the traumas of fighting. Tom and Kathy Lindquist with the Berean Mission were separated from three of their four children when fighting broke out just as they left Bukavu for a field conference. Seventeen-year-old Rebecca, who stayed with a MAF family in order to babysit, reported that she and her host family spent a sweltering night behind mattresses moved out into a hallway to avoid nearby shelling.

&quotThe noise was terrible; it sounded like the whole battle was being fought in the front yard," she said. &quotThe gunfire was bad enough, but the mortar was much worse. The [mortar rounds] were shot in the general direction of the city, with no real aim. Miraculously there were very few people hurt, and one person killed as far as we knew. Sitting in the dark, you have a lot of time to think. First of all, I kept wishing my family were there, and I also remember thinking, 'I hope I never feel this helpless again.'"

It was nearly a month before the family was completely reunited in Nairobi. Tom has made one trip back to Bukavu in order to make radio contact with his brother Jim, who remains at Berean's forest mission.

Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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