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Butoke update, August 31, and Sept. 3, 2010

30 August, 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This the beginning of the rainy season, season of planting and season of witches. The season was inaugurated yesterday about 5 pm with a powerful tornado type storm over Kamenga (West side of Tshikaji). It started with an overpowering whirlwind, heavy rain followed by big hail. It took maybe 20 min, in all, but it left us all breathless. In the following minutes, we heard the wailing of two mothers, the cracking of palm trees and thick branches. Many trees fell. I sent two men out to discover whether any wounded or people suspected dead needed help. They discovered two kids had died crushed by destroyed buildings, 21 people wounded, many houses destroyed. Night was falling. We invited families to join us as our buildings were untouched. We received, the first night, 20 people.

Today, by daylight, we counted 130 houses, 6 churches, 2 schools destroyed, 782 people homeless. We discovered that there were, in fact, 34 wounded, of which 6 had fractures. We have warned UNICEF.  MONUC was seen cruising to take in the reality. Maybe some help will be forth coming, but we will need to follow up also on the cultural side.

Almost all villagers believe there is a supernatural cause to this. The chief is to blame; he must have permitted a witch to live among us. The designated witch is a young woman who after a divorce for so-called sterility, remarried and has children. The major offence is that her new husband or her family did not repay the dowry, so the first husband would, with the help of a fetish, have destroyed the village. The whole tale has no sense, as her house is intact, and according to animistic logic, her house should have been the epicenter of the destruction.

It is hard to imagine how real these myths are in people’s heart and mind and how it can create psychedelic realty.

The damage by the storm itself is massive: 130 houses, out of a total of 740, is 18%. Whatever seeds people kept in the destroyed houses are destroyed with them. Many agricultural tools are broken or lost. It is our calling to help, but we can only if you feel the same calling.                                                                           

3 September, 2010

Yesterday, there was a first interagency meeting on Kamenga. Most agencies have next to nothing in stock. UNICEF has called from Lubumbashi 60 plastic covers for roofs, 60 blankets and about 100 jerry cans. FAO has not yet committed to any help.  Others will give some drugs to IMCK where the wounded are because the mayor has ordered all 34 admitted, but it is unsure she will ever pay for the care and the hospital no longer provides food to anyone. We want to help with food and for the six people with fractures. Hospitalization may take 3-4 months for some; others may be released after 3-4 weeks. Based on my pension we will be able to cover two weeks of need for food for all but we will run out of means for the long term.  Per day we need, for three  meals, $2 per person, $60 per month per person, $360 per month for six people, or about $1500.

The partial help is likely to be divisive. UNICEF wants the chief of Kamenga to be responsible for the distribution of the aid . The “help” may further destabilize the community as it will not cover all or even most needy, and is likely to be thought to be distributed based on alliances and family links. Sad and hard to counter, as need will persist for over half of those touched by the storm and for those most needy even before the storm.  Last night we housed more than 50 people and their meager belongings and we prayed for peace.

We feel that Butoke can be most useful by contributing to associations, regrouping both those with devastated houses and intact houses but poor. We feel the equivalent of 15kg of seeds (5 kg each of corn, beans and peanuts) per family and the basic tools would make a real difference. For the tools the cost would be $3000 and for the seeds, $4500. The total budget would be $7500 for a total of 300 families or the equivalent of $25 per family.

Just now, I read a message that tax exemption has not yet been granted to Friends of Butoke in America. That is too bad. Can’t we resort temporarily to the tax exempt status of Maryland Presbyterian Church or other churches, as Butoke is now firmly tax exempt here? People on our side live and die partly by the rhythm of our help. Do we all care? We here pray we all do.

In His love

Jean and Cecile.


How to help


Friends of Butoke, Inc. is now incorporated and application has been made for 501-c-3 status in the USA.  Until it is granted, contributions in the USA can be made payable to Maryland Presbyterian Church, 1105 Providence Rd., Baltimore, MD, 21286, USA, marked “for Butoke.”  These contributions may be tax deductible in the USA. 

For those not interested in a USA tax deduction, contributions can be made payable to H. Branch Warfield, 13801 York Rd., V-3, Cockeysville, MD. 21030, marked “for Butoke.”


Contributions to Butoke in Canada can be sent through World Hope Canada, Box 21082, RPO Ottawa South, Ottawa, ON K1S 5N1


Contributions in the United Kingdom can be sent through Paul Evans, 5 Westville Ave., Illkley, LS29 9AH, United Kingdom.