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In April 2017 an AIM team, led by Steve & Sharon Entwistle had to leave Zemio, the Central African Republic. But since August 2017, a small team of AIM personnel has returned monthly to offer support to our African colleagues. In November, a medical team offered practical care.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reports that the fighting in Zemio displaced about 20,000 people, with more than 7,000 initially seeking refuge at the health centre and 5,000 at the Catholic mission, with others fleeing to different sites around the town. The violence witnessed by MSF, including shootings within the health centres, forced MSF to also withdraw, leaving behind thousands of patients with no access to medical care.
Reaching the UN
Whilst in CAR we were well looked after by UN Peacekeeping troops. On this occasion, they were from North Africa, and it was a privilege to be able to interact with them too. In particular, our pilot Chris, who has spent years in North Africa, could speak to them in a dialect of Arabic they understood.
We were even invited to share a meal with the UN Commander. As we ate couscous together we were able to have good conversations. Chris was even able to witness to them of his faith in Christ.
Pray for safety and healing for the Zande people, many of whom have been displaced into neighbouring cities and countries with no healthcare, schools, and poor water supply, and for forgiveness for the men of violence. Pray for the gospel to be spread among Muslim neighbours in CAR, including the UN troops. Pray that the church in CAR holds firm, resists hatred and division, and uses available resources to help the poorest and most needy.
Many of those who fled the fighting in Zemio have settled around 200km away, in the town of Obo. So it was in this town that an AIM team of five, including three doctors, initially set up a base. The team took with them basic medical supplies to support the Obo Church Health Centre, which has been overwhelmed as it seeks to help the influx of needy people. Immediately the doctors began seeing patients, whilst the others tried to get a clearer picture of the overall situation. Visiting local health authorities, as well as the Prefect and UN Commander, meant that permission and assistance were given for the team to also visit Zemio.
In Zemio some team members were able to meet with and encourage pastors and church leaders. In the midst of all the trouble that they’ve seen, it was an honour for the team to remind those they ministered among about who we are in Christ, and to remind them that the things we face in this world are only temporary and that a good eternity is awaiting.
The team unloaded the tarpaulins, mosquito nets and the other materials they had brought. They presented them to the Muslim community and then later to the Zande community. The church leaders were excited about us providing medical care in Zemio. They felt they could announce it in the refugee camps on both the CAR side and the DR Congo side of the city. In one day in Zemio the team saw well over 300 patients with probably more than 100 that they were not able to see.
This trip accomplished far more than we had hoped or expected. In Zemio and Obo many told the team how thankful they were that we had come. It was clear this visit had been a big encouragement. Hundreds had been seen by the doctors, and medications were distributed. Even surgeries had been carried out. Hearts have been spoken to of who we are in Christ and how to understand these difficult times in the perspective of eternity. Many were able to tell their stories and be heard.