January 2, 2104

As you may have been aware we had some recent immigrants from the Congo worshipping with us in October and November. While they were most comfortable speaking French, they were deeply moved by the welcome they received at LABC. Through an interpreter, Melissa Creasy, they answered some questions I had written. What follows is their response; it is a reminder of the importance of being mindful of the plight of others and extending hospitality wherever possible.

Dear Jim,

The women answered your questions today, and it seemed as though they experienced some relief when they did. They told me their story, which is heart breaking. They said that they left Congo- Brazzaville because after the Prime Minister fled the country, there was no more security. Because of this insecurity, bandits ran around killing, raping, attacking people and that’s what happened to them. The husband of Therese, Pulcherie’s and Christelle’s father, was murdered right in front of them and they were subsequently raped. Their uncle was also killed during this time, and their brother (Therese’s son) escaped to South Africa. After these terrible events, the women walked for months to Gabon, carrying the 2 babies (Mercia and Laurentine). They had no food and it rained constantly. When they arrived at the camp, they said that the relief workers cried when they saw what a toll the journey had taken on the family. Therese became very sick, and her joints swelled due to this arduous journey. She still has this pain.

They miss their brother terribly, and Christelle misses her husband who is in Congo still. They hope that they will be able to come to the U.S somehow. They don’t want to return to Congo-Brazzaville because of what happened to them there and because most of their family was either killed or had to flee. They feel that they have been given a new start here and that slowly things will get better for them. They are very eager to learn English and to get jobs and to learn how to drive. They also said that the relief workers in Gabon were wonderful. They often say that Americans are very nice.

That was the response they gave, and they were happy to answer the questions. If you have more I’ll pass them on to them.

It’s so hard to imagine enduring these events, and when I think of this family I think of very strong and deeply spiritual people. I thank God that I know them, and I pray that they will find any support they need.

-Melissa

The family moved to Buffalo, New York in late November to be nearer relatives there. We pray for them grace and peace, opportunity and security. I thank Hallie Randel and Melissa Creasy for doing so much to extend the hand of fellowship to them. I am sure there will be other such opportunities to welcome the stranger in the year ahead. I am sure we will rise to the occasion.

Peace,

Jim H.