The 'salt' in a modern-day Jericho

For five days, we listened as the women of the Congo shared with us the unspeakable horrors they had experienced -- personal stories of abduction, rape, and mayhem at the hands of men who use violence against women as a weapon of war.

But harder still for me to hear were their accounts of a second round of abuse at the hands of those from whom they should have expected comfort and compassion -- parents who rejected their own daughters after they had been impregnated in violent attacks by local militias; in-laws who laid claim to land and possessions from widows forced to watch as their husbands were killed in front of them. More than a decade of fear and devastation has ripped apart the very fabric of life for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Renee Stearns listens to the story of a survivor of sexual assault. ©2011 Jon Warren/World Vision

The American Journal of Public Health has determined that more than 1,000 women are raped every day in the Congo. One woman told us that the simple act of walking to her field or fetching water makes her a target of warring militias, keen to harm those they see as enemy sympathizers.

Who’s the enemy? It’s hard to tell -- or, at the very least, it depends on who you ask. Ever since the Rwandan conflict spilled over the Congolese border, various factions have been using rape and violence to brutalize women and their families.

Day after day, we listened to the stories of ordinary women caught up in the conflict, weeping for lives lost or ruined. How do I come back and tell their story? How do I make sense of what I’ve seen and heard? How do we bring hope to the hopeless? I have to admit that I was beyond discouraged. But then, on our very last day there, we met with World Vision's national director in the Congo, Bob Kisyula, who shared with us the story found in 2 Kings 2 of Elisha and the city of Jericho.

The men of the city said to Elisha, “Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.”

“Bring me a new bowl,” [Elisha] said, “and put salt in it.”

So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the Lord says: I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.”

The Congo, Bob assured us, is a country well situated, brimming with natural resources (gold, copper, cobalt, and col-tan, which is essential to the manufacturing of computers and cell phones), strategically located at a crossroads right in the heart of Africa. But like the waters of Jericho, it needs salt. It needs men and women of God who are willing to work for peace and restoration in that war-torn nation.

The staff members of World Vision are the "salt," working tirelessly in a place of great pain and suffering to bring about God’s intended healing. Join me in praying for them, and for the people of the Congo.

Reneé Stearns recently traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo with Women of Vision to determine how the group could assist women who have suffered under the ongoing conflict in that country. Reneé is the mother of five grown children, wife of Rich Stearns -- who is president of World Vision U.S. -- and grandmother of one adorable grandson.



    Wow, what eye opening story of what is going on in the Congo. My dad sponsors a child who lives in the Congo. Will make us pray more fervantly for what suffering is going on. Thanks WV for being salt and light!! Kirk and Mary

    It is heartbreaking to hear what our sisters go calls to mind the saying..'there but for the Grace of God go I'...I know that God is ever faithful and the God of Peace and Restoration! Thank you for sharing tragic as the news is..with information we can help..we can pray..we can encourage..

    Thank you for being salt and light!

    I listened to Carl Wilkins (the only American to remain in Rwanda during the genocide) speak about Rwanda, but also the mostly greed-motivated conflicts in Africa.

    Those of us in the "western" world can all push for "blood-less" technology with the computer, laptop, cell phone, etc. manufacturers in our areas. Keeping the general population in chaos helps local "warlords/businessmen" profit from mining the natural resources that are critical to the manufacture of our insatiable technology hunger. (Think Blood Diamonds but instead its resources like col-tan).

    Oh God, As one of your children, I asking, in the name of Your Holy Child, Jesus, that you bring a deliverance to these people of the Congo. I'm asking Father that you pour out Your Oil and Wine on them. I asking for an awakening to righteousness in the Congo. Father, you have told us that if two or three agree together as touching anything it would be done for them. Father, I know there are more than 2 or 3 Christian who will add their amen to this prayer. So, Father, I thank you for the awakening that you are bringing now to the Congo. I say again - Thank You Lord. Amen!

    Amen, Barbara. Let's pray also so that decision makers outside (and inside Congo) decide for peace in my country. I'm from Eastern Region and have seen women and children suffering and die for nothing. This have to stop.In Jesus Name.Amen

    This is terrible Renee...I will be praying for these people/women!
    Thank you for going and giving these women hope!

    Hello, I have been a World Vision sponsor for many years. I also happen to know of a young woman who lives in Congo, and by the grace of God - she was given an education at Africa University, and is now back in Congo and looking for employment. I keep feeling that World Vision is the place for her. She grew up in Congo. She was displaced from her family, but recently reunited. She (by the grace of God) was taken out of a refugee camp and placed into Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. She has earned a degree, speaks three languages, and I can't help but feel that somehow I need to get her connected with Mr. Bob Kisyula. If it is God's will, this will happen. Please let me know how I can get her in touch with Mr. Kisyula. Her name is Mwakana Mujinga. My name is Julie Hjelvik (I live in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, USA). I met Mwakana through a pastor who spoke at a Rotary meeting years ago, and have corresponded with her for years. Prayed with her, inspired her (and she has inspired ME)... Hoping, praying to hear from you!!

    Dear Julie, After reading your comment, I consulted the job board for World Vision Africa. At this time, it doesn't look as if there are any open positions with World Vision in the Congo. But you and your friend are welcome to check the job board yourselves anytime at . Like you, I'm believing that if it is God's will, Mwakana will meet World Vision in her country, possibly through an employment opportunity or a divine encounter. Mwakana's story now inspires us, too.

    I dont really know where Mwakana leaves here in Congo but she is free to visit wv officesin Goma, Beni, Bukavu, Katanga,Kinshasa, Kasangulu, mbanza ngugngu. And also check for local vacacncies advertizement trhough

    Oh, Renee! It was good to read this report from you. It really touches my heart. How I wish you (or others who work with women who have been abused) could benefit from the materials Open Hearts Ministry have developed. As you know, this is the ministry that I'm also involved in here in Germany. The best to you and also to Rich!

    The atrocities in the Congo are senseless. I lift up your ministry and pray for these people, especially the women who are targets for the lost souls perpetrating these crimes. I also pray for the women who feel the double rejection from family members. Shame on them for not comforting these girls, I pray that they would repent of such a sin and comfort their loved ones and restore what has been stolen from them. in Jesus name, Amen.

    Les femmes qui vivent à l"Est vivent dans une situation difficile seule Dieu peut les aider. Les entreprises multinationales sont à la base de cet enfer. Nous prions pour que Dieu nous delivre de ce chaos. Que les hommes de bien intercede en faveur de notre pays pour que jamais cette horrible souffrance ne soit infligée à nos femmes et filles.

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