MCC: Strength Amidst Struggle in a Rwandan Refugee Camp

MCC: Strength Amidst Struggle in a Rwandan Refugee Camp

NGARA DISTRICT, Tanzania -- When we got to Benaco refugee camp, some Rwandan refugees were also arriving, struggling along rocky, twisting roads carrying all their worldly possessions.

One woman balanced a tall load of household goods on her head. A toddler was riding astride her shoulders and a baby was tied to her back. Three or four other small children walked with her, each with age appropriate loads on their heads, except for the smallest boy. As he stumbled along, his mother grasped his shirt collar to support and encourage him to keep walking.

As we watched the family pass, Jessica Mkuchu, a Tanzanian colleague, looked at me and said, "Umph! Mama Ruthie, and now what will you tell the Christians in North America when you return home?"

The plight of the homeless woman and her children overwhelmed me. I wondered where her husband was and if he had been killed.

"What can I possibly say?" I finally asked Mkuchu, shaking my head.

"You will tell them," she replied, "that the women of Africa are strong and that the future of the people in these camps will be built on the strength of women such as her."

This Rwandan woman became my icon for all the women I later counseled in the refugee camps. Their theology is not written and articulated. Their theology is lived and practiced everyday. Even in the privations of a refugee camp they begin again to build, to nurture, to maintain life for the survival of their communities.

And they do it with such grace -- carrying heavy burdens, fetching water, caring for and encouraging their children, preparing food. The Christian women do so with an awareness that Jesus is the one who enables them to carry on. More than once women told us, sometimes as a preface and sometimes as a conclusion to their stories of trauma, "Jesus is my helper, my strength, my comforter. He shares with me in my troubles. He teaches me."

-30- Ruth Weaver, short-term MCC trauma counselor, Tanzania

Ruth Weaver of Ephrata, Pa., a member of Ephrata Mennonite Church, recently returned from a six-week MCC assignment counseling Rwandan refugees in Nairobi, Kenya, and Ngara District, Tanzania.

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                     Mennonite Central Committee
                  21 South 12th Street, PO Box 500
                       Akron, PA  17501-0500
              This press release may be redistributed,
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Message-Id: <>
Date:Thu, 3 Nov 1994 00:56:05 -0800
From: "Arthur R. McGee" 

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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