Alan Hood
Feature

From Horror to Healing

After most of her family is murdered, a Congolese teenager searches for healing.

Merci Honorine was only a pre-teen when she was awakened one night in 2009 by the noise of a truck outside her home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC ).

“It was the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA),” she explains.

Soldiers from the infamous rebel military group—which for 30-plus years has wreaked havoc across Sudan, Uganda, DRC and the Central African Republic—were raiding her village.

Eighteen-year-old Honorine tells her horror story while seated in a spare room of a convent in the remote village of Rungu, in northeastern DRC. As she talks, her train of thought is interrupted occasionally by the needs of her six-month-old daughter.

Honorine says she, along with her parents, siblings and extended family were tied up by LRA soldiers and taken away from their home on foot. Reaching a river, the soldiers nudged the family to walk across—but Honorine’s father told them he would not go any further.

“They took an axe and chopped off his head in front of all of us,” says Honorine calmly.

The soldiers left the corpse of her father behind and forced the rest of her family across the river. After a couple days of travelling by foot, they came to a deserted place. Here they released 11-year-old Honorine and her brother with the other children. They were all exhausted from carrying the soldier’s loot and equipment, and the soldiers expected them to die. As the children fled, their mom, uncles and grandparents were taken by the LRA in a different direction. 

Honorine later learned that her four uncles were tied up together and forced to carry bags of sugar on their heads. When they became too exhausted to bear the weight of the bags any longer, the soldiers shot three of them point blank. The fourth uncle’s throat was slit. Honorine says that when her grandparents witnessed the murders, they both collapsed from heart attacks. They died on the spot.

(PHOTO ABOVE) Merci Honorine (right) went through horror when most of her family was murdered in 2009 by the Lord's Resistance
Army (LRA). She needs help from trained trauma counsellors in her village of Rungu. (THIS PHOTO) Like Honorine, these four boys were also abducted by the LRA, who made them carry loot pillaged from the boys' village. After being released, the boys returned to their community, but found no one. They are now in Rungu, where villagers have taken them in as refugees.
(Photo: Alan Hood)

Fleeing the Scene

As Honorine and her brother fled, they saw dismembered corpses all around them. She and her brother searched the forest, looking for villagers they knew who had hidden and survived. They didn’t find any survivors. Making their way back to the river that they had fled from, they followed the shoreline until reaching the village of Rungu.

There, a local pastor couple took in Honorine and her brother. And a short time later, Honorine’s mother—who was the only other survivor from her family—learned through word of mouth that her daughter and son had found refuge with the pastor.

For the next five years, Honorine, her brother and mother lived with the pastor’s family. They had a new family of sorts and even attended school thanks to the pastor’s generosity.

“Don’t continue to think about your father there by the river,” the pastor told Honorine. “Because now I am your father and I will take care of you.”

The pastor also encouraged Honorine and her brother to forgive the soldiers who killed most of her family. One day he led them into the church in front of the altar and asked them to kneel down. He explained that these soldiers didn’t know what they were doing and that it was important to forgive them. Honorine says that day she gave up her anger and bitterness toward the soldiers.

More Loss

Unfortunately for Honorine, she hadn’t faced her final tragedy. Five years after moving in with the pastor, he was poisoned to death. It was suspected that it was not an accident, but the culprit was never found. Shortly after that, the pastor’s wife and Honorine’s mother died from organ failure. 

After being taken care of for a short time by a local Catholic development agency, Honorine and her brother were alone to fend for themselves. To put her brother in school, Honorine dropped out herself and began selling sandals on the roadside. 

"I saw the power of God work              in my life in that way."

Soon after, out of pity, a family allowed her and her brother to have part of their land to build a small hut. Despite the generosity, life was still torturous for Honorine. Not only did she struggle to provide for her brother, she regularly had flashbacks from the horror she saw when she was abducted.

“I get very emotional and start crying a lot,” she explains regarding the symptoms with which she still sometimes struggles.

“And then emotion hits my stomach and I cannot eat anymore.”

Trauma Healing

Fortunately, someone again reached out to help Honorine. Returning from the forest one day with a handful of firewood, she was overcome by grief. Sitting down on the ground, she sobbed. Rungu’s radio DJ and pastor Abule Dieudonne happened to be nearby and saw her. (This is the same pastor who took in a young girl named Lundi. See “Eyes of Sorrow”).

“Come, I’ll share with you,” he told Honorine.

Dieudonne walked through lessons from the trauma healing book Healing the Wounds of Trauma with Honorine. He told her that she could find relief from her torment.

“Oh, I don’t need that,” Honorine replied skeptically. “It’s not for me. I’m not interested.”

Honorine treasures her brother very much. After their mother died, she quit school so she could work and put him through school. He and her infant child are now Honorine's only remaining family.
(Photo: Alan Hood)

But Honorine began to listen when Dieudonne showed her the front cover, illustrated with a weeping woman, her hands over her head.

“Look," said Dieudonne, "this woman has experienced something very similar to you and she has experienced freedom from trauma.”

Since that meeting, Honorine has been meeting with Dieudonne to find healing for her torment. She’s made some progress, but admits that she still finds life extremely difficult. The process of healing is ongoing.

“In the past I would often stay awake at night and couldn’t sleep at all. The thoughts of the past came back,” she says. “But since following the trauma healing lessons, I can sleep much better.”

What Honorine says has helped the most is that she’s learned her pained heart is like an open wound. As she goes back to her memories of her trauma, she opens the wound up again and again. This prevents her from finding healing.

Dieudonne explained to Honorine that she has to take her burden to Jesus. When she gives it to Him, she can allow her wounds to slowly heal.

Giving Her Life to God

As Honorine faced her trauma, she slowly began to give her life to God, though it hasn’t been easy to put her complete trust in Him. She also desired a man to love her and take care of her. This longing led her to a relationship with a classmate, and then to an unplanned pregnancy. When her classmate found out, he abandoned her and moved away.

Honorine felt deserted and alone. When the hospital told her she’d need a Caesarean section because of her young age, she was scared. But when she shared this with her church, the congregation began to pray for her throughout the pregnancy. By the time she was ready to give birth, she was told she could give birth naturally.

“I saw the power of God work in my life in that way,” she shares.

Honorine has suffered immense losses and hardships. Despite this, she has chosen to trust God with her life and her healing one day at a time.

This is her path forward.

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Eyes of Sorrow

A Congolese child struggles toward healing after a brutal assault.