The van’s suspension groaned as it leaned heavily to one side then quickly shifted to the other while we navigated the heavily rutted road on our way to the pygmy village in the jungle of DR Congo. Entering the village people no bigger than five feet tall began to run wildly in excitement. Some carrying bows with metal tipped arrows protectively ran to see who we were. As we entered the village we were tenuously greeted and ushered under the roof of the chief’s sitting area.
The Pygmy people are a forest people, hunters, part of a larger group known as the Bantu. These people are forest dwellers. Knowing the forest, its plants and animals intimately they normally live by hunting animals such as antelopes, pigs and monkeys, fishing, and gathering honey, wild yams, berries and other plants but due to forced migration, deforestation, routine deprivation of their rights by governments who do not see these forest-dwellers as equal citizens, and loss of control of the forest and its resources Pygmy’s are reduced to very severe poverty and isolation.
As we sat the chief’s wife angrily came running banging her small cooking pot on the ground and yelling. This got our attention and some of the team became nervous. Our interpreter told us that she is tired of the exploitation. She cries, “We need so many things, larger cooking pots, help with agriculture, and help in the development of new food resources. The government tells us they will help us but the forget us. Will you forget us too?”
You look around the village and you see the people, swollen bellies filled with worms, a few pigs, a few small mud buildings, and a grouping of logs standing straight up in a square outline – no roof – this is the start of a church. You see potential but it will take purposeful and deliberate involvement over time.
As we spoke further they asked us to help them understand what happened yesterday when the moon eclipsed the sun. They ran and hid because they thought the moon was falling from the sky. They spent the day in hiding not working in their small fields or hunting in the shrinking forest. Though Christianity has been introduced to this group they still need help to understand that the many spirits that they believe roam the forest and control the weather are subject to the Lord of the universe.
We leave the gift of salt we brought and after some surveying which included a new pond to raise fish, the chiefs small hut, we climb back into the van for our departure. I quietly pray that as I help Congo initiative to develop the first Christian Bilingual University of Congo that new community service programming that is being developed will reach into villages like these so that Christian discipleship and holistic community development transform these lives for God’s glory.
This is your investment. This is your joy.