Your outpouring of love and support for the ICC children in the DR Congo is amazing, and the results are fantastic. Sharon and I were able to see this first-hand over New Year during our recent visit to the Patmos Children’s Village on Idjwi Island. Over the next few issues I plan to share experiences and pictures that demonstrate that what you are doing for the children has a life-changing impact. 

We arrived in Kigali, Rwanda safely – but sadly, our luggage didn’t travel all the way with us. This delayed us a bit in continuing our journey to Idjwi Island. 

We are so thankful that there is an additional immigration office, which allowed us to travel to the little town of Kibuye, Rwanda, which is on the shores of lake Kivu. From there we took our ICC “speed boat” across the lake. Well, that was the plan –  to take a quick trip of about 35 minutes to the island. However, when we were far from either shore, the boat stalled and quit. 

Lake Kivu is notorious for being dangerous. Storms often sweep across the waters and there are many boats that capsize. A few years ago, one of our ICC boys, Samuel, drowned in the lake when the boat he was riding in capsized during a storm.

This boat is one that we sent in a container to Congo many years ago. Congolese soldiers had confiscated it for their use for a while during skirmishes with rebels. The added wear and age of the boat creates challenges.

Désiré, our director, said we shouldn’t worry because the boat captain was “a very good mechanic!” The captain started taking things apart and putting them back together. The motor worked for about 30 seconds and quit again. I wasn’t worried. I feel that, as missionaries, our lives are in God’s hands and we can depend upon Him in all circumstances.

More time went by. Still the motor didn’t work. At that point, I received a notification on my mobile phone. It was my “verse-a-day” Bible text. It wasn’t normally scheduled to send a notification at that time, but there it was. John 16:33 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

This seemed awesomely appropriate! We were safe in God’s hands right here at the start of our trip, even though we were having trouble. We knew we could rely on God’s care. 

The boat captain started removing the spark plugs and gave an indication that this was the problem. I remembered that I had brought with me a Leatherman multi-tool that I had received as a Christmas gift. I took it out and handed it to the boat captain. He smiled, took out the file tool and started working on a spark plug. Soon he reinserted the spark plug, cranked the motor, and we were on our way again.

I loved this text, and later I shared it with the children during a worship service. Every child there experienced so much trouble and trauma in their lives. I encouraged them that they have a Heavenly Father who is looking after them. They can trust Him!

We were met on the shore by the smiles and singing of our ICC children. They wore paper hats that they had made. On the hats was written the word, “Welcome.” I wish you could have been with us! You, too, would have received a warm and heartfelt Welcome. The children truly do appreciate the opportunity to experience the love and belonging that you have helped to provide.

On Désiré’s agenda for the day, it said there would be a wedding. I wondered a bit that there was not anything else on the agenda for that day. I found out as the day unfolded! The wedding started at 10:30 in the morning and when I looked at my watch as we were heading to our guestroom, it said, 5:30 p.m. What an eventful day, and what a blessing to be able to attend and participate in three marriage ceremonies for four of our children! Two of our children where marrying each other!

The ceremony began when the grooms entered and stood with the pastor at the front. Then the procession started with the attendants marching in rhythmic dance, moving forward and then retreating before continuing down the aisle. It was beautiful. 

Then the brides appeared and walked down the aisle with their escorts. The grooms came down, one by one to meet each bride, and then they sat across from one another until it was their turn to approach the minister who conducted their unique ceremony. When the weddings were over, we all went to the school and spent the remainder of the day celebrating the marriages of these young people. 

As you might expect, there was food in abundance at the reception along with singing and people sharing personal thoughts and wishes for the couples. When it was time for gift giving, two attendants joined each couple, and they held a large cloth between themselves like a hammock. People came forward and placed gifts inside the cloth. For those gifts that wouldn’t fit, like goats for the couples, they were brought forward on a leash. In the case where a cow was given, a piece of rope that would lead a cow was given as a token of the gift.

Désiré announced that ICC and sponsors who had supported the children had also given gifts for the couples. These were not obvious but included the reception meal as well as special items, such as furniture, for their homes. 

How fitting that on our first day, we were able to attend a culminating event in the lives of our kids. The “finishing touch” completed, they were now embarking in lives independent from our care. 

What a blessing you have been to them as you have helped them to reach this important milestone. Through your support, they have received the love and nurturing care of a family. And now, they are pledging themselves to their spouses and are starting homes of their own. From an orphan child all alone to a dearly beloved spouse. On their behalf I want to say thank you for helping to make this miracle of transformation possible!

As I reflect on this special occasion in the lives of not only the happy couples but all our ICC family in Congo, I’m am very pleased with the success God is providing for this project and the children. Many are becoming successfully independent. This is so different from what may be expected in the general population of young people in Congo. This is especially true for our girls. They have an education or a trade or skill that they can use to help provide for themselves and their families when they are established. 

This experience gives me courage that we must continue our mission for the children in Congo! And we cannot continue this mission without your ongoing care and commitment and generosity. Several new children arrived literally at our doorstep during our visit. I will be sharing their stories with you next month, but in the meantime, won’t you please consider giving a special gift this month to help this mission for children? Thanks so very much for what you do for “His kids!”