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Butoke update, December 23, 2007

23 December, 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Hearty greetings from D.R of Congo.  I (Cecile) am writing this in the IMCK Hospital, trying to remember the Christmas times as I knew them in Belgium. It is difficult, I miss the silence of the snowy nights, the sprightly candle light, and, above all, the shared hope that we can know and accept love as the Lord of our world. This hope is alive among many, but not all, in Butoke. It is verbalized loudly in most of the Congolese churches, but one of our brothers, who has shown real sensitivity to the message, argued with me that Satan rules the world and one has to bow to him even as we ask God to forgive us. It left me speechless, as I realized that must be the unspoken rule of most lives here. It imprisons the person in a collective hell comparable to a collective hallucination. Words against this seem useless. Only the witness of who we are and what we do seems appropriate

Here we are at the peak of the rainy season. Weather is cool (18 degree Celsius, or 65 F), very wet and clammy, often raining the whole day with great noise on the tin roofs. At the hospital, loud music on a hectic rhythm is being played by a radio. People linger lazily, and in their hunger, it seems as thought they are being pounded by the music. They talk mostly to complain about the cold and the hunger and the lack of comfort. I find it hard to give any verbalized message of hope. Instead I seek to solve the small and big physical problems for as many as we can.

There are plenty problems to be solved for our center itself. The rain has stopped our regular supply of wood and spring water, so we wash and drink collected rainwater – yes, we do chlorinate the water for drinking.  We also arranged for someone to stand on the main road where people from the more distant rural villages pass to take charcoal to town. We will stock 4 bags of them to be able to prepare food even if no wood comes. Daily we bake 70 breads for the malnourished and the orphans but I am told charcoal will not do for heating the oven we build of bricks and an oil drum… So I still need to solve how to find at least a minimum of wood.

Some of you asked what is my greatest joy and my greatest frustration?  I find great joy in observing the awakening of children to the possibility of friendship with our cat and dogs, and signs of friendship between themselves, I find deep joy in the extraordinary dedication of Dr Jean Lumbala and his endless compassion. I hurt badly when children or animals are frightened purposely or even beaten by our mothers, kids or even workers. I do not suffer this in silence but try to plead and sometimes physically intervene.

One of the worst frustrations both for Jean and me is to observe the suffering of the people displaced from Angola without having the means to intervene on a sufficient scale. It is not hard to see how one might come to the conclusion that Satan rules the world… The last two weeks, a new wave of people have arrived especially in Luambo. They are more malnourished than the earlier waves. Among the kids and adults, there are 51 frankly cachectic and 18 also have oedema (kwashiorkor). None have still clothes worth speaking of They were kept a long time in prison camps. They need urgently food, clothes and medical care. We have no clothes, no food and almost no drugs left for them. UN agencies are virtually closed for Christmas and New Year, so we cannot even ask for help. What bitter irony that people are left to die because one wants to feast the birth of Christ…. Some of you tried to send some help during December but hit the same barrier with the banking system…Even my pension money is delayed for the very same reason.

Still, I know in my heart that we should not despair but need to labor on, hoping that with your and God’s help we can assist in the near future those people that survive notwithstanding and those to come. The UN predicts 40,000 more but has no reserves and no stocks. We hope and pray we can bring through our lives and common efforts the message that love is the real ruler of the world, that love dispels the fear and cold darkness. May His light shine on the world and show us our path.

Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year ! Jean is on the “frontline” in Luiza and Luambo.  He needs our prayers and sends his best wishes

Cecile  and Lazare                             

Cecile, Jean and Lazare

Cecile De Sweemer MD DrPH

Consultante Butoke

2,av Malandji Biancki Kananga

Kasai Occidental, Congo


tel 00243997442720


Contributions in Canada can be sent  through Real Lavergne, Canadian International Development Agency, 200 Promenade du Portage, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, K1A  0G4.  Contributions in USA can be made payable to H. Branch Warfield, 13801 York Rd.,V-3, Cockeysville, MD  21030 marked “for Butoke” or to Maryland Presbyterian Church, 1105 Providence Rd. Baltimore, MD  21286, USA, also marked “for Butoke.”  Contributions to Maryland PC for Butoke may be tax deductible in the U. S. A.  Contributions in the UK can be sent  through Paul Evans, 5 Westville Ave., Ilkley, LS29  9AH, United Kingdom.

Ed. Note:  Cecile’s report includes a detailed census of 11 sites in the territory of Luiza to which people driven from Angola in 2008 have fled as of 8/20/2008.