Members of “Miracle of God Singers” have a reason to sing. They survived the 2004 Gatumba Massacre and now are safely residing in the US.
One DR Congo refugee said recently, “In the Congo we (the Banyamulenge Tribe) were not considered citizens of DR Congo even though our people had been in the Congo for 500 hundred years. Yet in the United States of America we can become citizens in 5 years.”
Two years ago the Meridian United Methodist Church in Meridian, Idaho welcomed 4 Banyamulenge Congolese families (4 months ago a 5th family) to the USA and into our congregation. The Collister (Boise) UMC also has 2 families in their congregation. They are looking forward to becoming US citizens. They will finally know what it feels like to ‘belong’ in a country.
As the Refugee and Immigration Coordinator (RIMcor) for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference, I committed to co-sponsor a widowed, disabled father and 10 children that were coming to Boise, ID. Within 2 weeks we learned that his older brother, his wife, 3 children and a grandchild were also coming, along with his oldest son, his wife and 4 children. Then there were 4 orphaned teenagers from the same village (now living with a family in our congregation).
They all wanted to join our church right away because they had been UMC members in the DRC and Burundi (while they lived in the refugee camp). I taught an ELL SS class for several months, until the kids understood English well enough to follow directions in the regular classrooms.
All 30 were survivors of the Gatumba Massacre (August 13, 2004). When a Rebel Army from the Congo crossed the border into Burundi and entered the refugee camp singing Christian songs then pulled out their machine guns & knives. Our families lost many family members (wife, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, aunts, and many more relatives) that dark night. Many of them still suffer from injuries acquired during the massacre – bullet fragment in the brain, severe limp, loss of fingers on one hand, etc..
The 5th family (relatives of the first 3 families) consists of a father, mother and 2 beautiful daughters. Kiza (mom) lost the use of her right arm and they lost a son & daughter in the massacre.
We have been so blessed by having these families in our congregation. Shortly after they came we helped them form a gospel choir. Everyone can feel the spirit and their love of God when they sing. They chose to name the choir the “Miracle of God Singers” (they feel that it was a miracle of God that they survived the horrendous massacre).
We now have 32 of these delightful & grateful people in our congregation.
I wish that all UM Churches could experience the joy & love that we have felt during the process of helping these families get accustomed to our customs, laws, busy life style, language, driving a car, organizing all the “stuff” we give them, etc. This can happen by contacting the closest Refugee Resettlement Agency (Church World Service, SOAR, Agency for New Americans, etc.)
by Mary Lynne Ball, Refugee and Immigration Coordinator (RIMcor) for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference