Feature

Eyes of Sorrow

A Congolese child struggles toward healing after a brutal assault. 

Editor’s note: This story contains disturbing content of a graphic nature.

Moments before our interview, I watched Lundi* attentively, as she stood in the back row of a packed trauma healing workshop at her small, rainforest church in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). She was one of only a handful of adolescents in attendance.

As the group began to sing a worship song, the petite, short-haired Lundi looked frightened and lost. She gently clapped her hands and whispered the words to the song sung in the regional language of Lingala.

“Hallelujah to Jesus Christ . . . Jesus has given us life . . . What a friend we have in Jesus,” she sang.

Sharing her story a few minutes later in a private room in the village’s Catholic convent, Lundi—who is just 13 or 14—admits that the words of these songs ring hollow because of the internal torment she feels every day.

“Since the trauma I encountered, I have lost all joy in life,” she says in her mother tongue of Lombi through a translator. “I don’t even have the will to eat.”

The Story

Lundi looks down at her hands and fidgets with her fingers as she shares her story. It happened about a year ago. She was sleeping in a room with her cousins after the funeral of a relative.

As the grown-ups were partying in a different hut, Lundi’s stonedrunk father came into the hut. He raped her.

(PHOTO ABOVE) Lundi's eyes tell a story of despair and abuse. Violated by the one person in the world she should have been able to trust, her eyes are clouded by torment. In the midst of her horrific circumstances, trauma healing counsellors in her DRC village hope to help her heal. (THIS PHOTO) Lundi walks along a dirt pathway toward her home in Rungu. Life has been lonely and confusing for the teenager since her father raped her. She doesn't feel like she's made much progress toward healing, despite the promises from trauma healing counsellors who tell her that healing is possible.
(Photo: Alan Hood)

“I’m not sure when he raped me if his intention was to kill me,” she wonders aloud.

Lundi’s father was caught in the midst of the act by his brother and pulled off of Lundi. The brother took him away and berated him for his hideous crime. Lundi was left alone for the rest of the night in shock. The next day the story spread. Her father was swiftly arrested and put in prison.

Listening to Lundi share, I wonder how she could even survive such a brutal act. How will she recover from this? Her father, the one man above all she should be able to trust in the world, took away her innocence—her sense of security. He left her broken, both physically and emotionally. A year after the abuse, Lundi still needs medical care, which she can’t afford, to address the damage from his act. He’s her father. He should be taking care of all her needs. But instead, he’s in prison.

Yet, Lundi still shares her story with us. She relives it in her mind. She tells us that her relationship with her father was good except when he drank. When that happened, he mistreated her to the point of threatening to kill her.

*Pseudonym used due to sensitivity.

Back-story

Lundi tells us about her childhood, providing us with a little bit of background about her upbringing. When she was very young, her mother died. Lundi chose to stay with her father, while her older siblings left because of his drinking.

“Was your father responsible for your mother’s death?” the translator asks her.

Lundi replies that she doesn’t know. She was too young and can’t remember.

After Lundi’s mom died, her father remarried.

"I don't have a problem with God. I see the rape as a satanic attack. Satan came and did this.

“Each time my father went off and got drunk and came back, they quarreled,” she says. “To the point where my step-mom said under these conditions that she couldn’t stay.”

Soon it was just Lundi and her father living alone again.

I wonder to myself how her father could do something so terrible. Was he drinking to ease a mental illness—or his shameful desires? Was he abused as a child as well?

I don’t dare ask Lundi if she’s forgiven her father for what he did. I assume that incident is too raw. But, I do ask her how she views God in light of all of this.

“I don’t have a problem with God,” Lundi replies. “I see the rape as a satanic attack. Satan came and did this.”

Getting Help

After being abused by her father, Lundi listened to a radio program about trauma healing. She found the host of the program, Pastor Abule Dieudonne (left), who has provided her with counselling and emotional support.
(Photo: Alan Hood)

One thing I’m sure of as I look into Lundi’s sorrowful eyes is that she needs help—supernatural help. She needs hope. This started to come into Lundi’s life when she overheard a local broadcast on a neighbour’s radio. A local pastor who is a trained trauma healer (thanks to the project sponsored by Wycliffe Canada) is regularly speaking about trauma healing over the airwaves.

Lundi started listening in with her neighbours until one day she decided to go and find the pastor. She shared her story with him. He led her to Christ and his family took her in and provided shelter and a road to healing. She has found a new family. They promise her that she will slowly gain more hope.

“In spite of the promises, I feel I have not made much progress,” she admits.

I feel helpless as I look at her, puzzled with the fact that something so terrible could happen. I can’t help but wonder if she can actually find healing. Before we say goodbye to her, my colleague Chris asks if we can pray for her. Lundi agrees and Chris begins.

“God, I ask that you be with her,” he says. “Oh, I know how much you love her. Provide healing for her soul and her body.”

Chris starts to weep as he lifts Lundi’s burdens to God. He later tells me that as he looked at her and heard her story, he imagined the horror of his own girls being hurt like her.

For me, the whole interview felt like a movie. I didn’t weep. Interviewing her almost didn’t feel real. Maybe my emotional distance was a defence mechanism. Or, possibly I just needed to process what I was hearing.

But her story did impact me—deeply. I often feel broken by stories I hear of sexual abuse. It’s too common, not just in Africa—but also at home in Canada.

A big part of me wonders how Lundi can ever find healing. How can she ever recover from this? Has God truly comforted her in her torment? I look for hope in Jesus’ words: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:4-5, NIV).

Lundi (second from the right) shucks peas outside her new home in the rural village of Rungu, DRC. After her father was jailed for raping her, Lundi moved in with relatives. Later, Pastor Abule Dieudonne, a local pastor whom Lundi heard on the radio presenting trauma healing lessons, took her in to live with his family. Feeling isolated and confused, being with family gives Lundi needed stability.
(Photo: Alan Hood)

What this Scripture says to me is that Jesus is with Lundi and every girl like her. He’s with those who have little or no hope, and have experienced unspeakable horror. He calls people like the trauma healing team in Lundi’s village to counsel and support those in need of healing. And He also leads families to take in orphans like Lundi who desperately need love.

But, ultimately, victims need the “beyond-human” help to conquer their brokenness. My hope for Lundi is that the restorative, powerful God of the universe continues to heal her as only He can.

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