Torrential rains and strong winds have damaged or destroyed at least a dozen United Methodist churches, hospitals and schools in eastern Congo.
Two people died during the most recent storms, and some United Methodist church members lost their homes.
The rain caused the destruction of two United Methodist schools in the Kindu-Sud Ecclesiastical District and carried off the roof of another. Two United Methodist churches also were destroyed by rain in the Kindu North District.
According to the Rev. Mulamba Diowo, Kindu North District superintendent, when disasters strike, church members often mobilize to build temporary places for worship while they await help from the episcopal office. However, he said, repeated storms have hampered their efforts.
“Rains accompanied by strong winds destroy the efforts of the faithful to rebuild our churches,” he said.
In January, rain and wind washed away the roofs of the Lufungula Institute, a United Methodist school in Kindu.
“I lack the words to describe the situation,” said Albert Kambilo, head of the school. “The natural disaster took away a whole building. More than five classrooms remained without a roof. It’s really bad.
“With over 350 students, I’m afraid we will not be able to finish this school year, because it will be harder for us to continue to study (in the) open air (with) children exposed to all forms of bad weather,” he said.
While they wait for a long-term solution, he said, the students’ parents have agreed to contribute funds to begin rebuilding the school.
Natural disasters also have caused damage in the Kibombo District. The Rev. Alembo Putchu, district superintendent, reports that storms destroyed Kibombo United Methodist Church.
“Violent winds have also washed away the roof and destroyed the maternal walls of the (United Methodist) Tunda General Hospital,” he said.
In the Isangi District in the Oriental and Equator Conference, three United Methodist schools were destroyed following the rain. The district superintendent said efforts have been made locally to enable students to continue their education.
The eastern part of Congo has experienced several erosion-related disasters in the past year, including in Uvira, Fizi, Bukavu, Goma and Beni.
The Rev. Issanda Walubula, Uvira District superintendent, said five primary schools were destroyed by floods in the district in 2018, including United Methodist schools.
“Following these floods, the center for United Methodist Women and four pastors’ houses have been destroyed,” he said.
Walubula said two United Methodists died during flooding in 2018.
In Goma, the pastor of Amani United Methodist Church and the district superintendent, the Rev. Omole Owandjakoy, lost their homes to flooding last year.
“These floods have caused (us) to seek a place of refuge, which has penalized the activities of the church,” Owandjakoy said.
He said it is up to the government to fight against floods in its habitat management policy, however, “the faithful of The United Methodist Church also have responsibilities to secure their plots against floods,” he said.
“That’s why we’re calling for emergency projects to be implemented … to protect the church's infrastructure,” Owandjakoy said, adding that help is needed from partners including the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
In Fizi, two United Methodist churches were washed away by rainwater, said Mathieu Bahindula, deputy lay leader of the Kivu Conference. The storm “stalled Sunday worship for three weeks,” he said.
In Beni, which has been hit hard by the recent Ebola epidemic, about 40 United Methodist homes were destroyed by torrential rains in late 2018.
The Rev. Kombi Ramazani said after disasters like these, the faithful come together to contribute money to rehabilitate or console the families experiencing hardship. However, he said, sometimes their means are insignificant. He said he hopes that in the future, there will be a mobilization of all United Methodists to help.
Londe is a communicator for the East Congo Conference. Philippe Kituka Lolonga, a communicator for the Kivu Conference, contributed to this report.