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The Guy on the Hill

April 20, 2017

Monday, a big truck was parked in the street across from our house and men were working on it all day.  The guy in the house across the street owns these trucks, used to transport goods around town and, perhaps, into the interior.  Either way, the very loud THWUMPs, BUMPs, and BANGs kept jolting me, both physically (vibrating the windows) and emotionally.  I couldn’t really place where the extra stress was coming from…I felt fragile and slightly out of sorts.  Was it because Matthew is in the US for management conference?  Was it because I was stressed about a series of airport pickups and drop-offs that I was responsible for coordinating (and it wasn’t going well)?  Surely it wasn’t some random noise across the street bothering me so much.

Then, the kids and I sat down to dinner and the THRUMPs started again, very methodically, but every once in a while, a beat would be missed.  And one of the kids named the source of my stress:

“Mom, it sounds like that one time, when the guy on the hill was angry.”

Ah, The Guy on the Hill.  I have gone back and forth about mentioning The Guy on the Hill.  I share so many positives about life here, so many things I’m learning, and even when it is hard emotionally and spiritually.  But I don’t share about any danger…because we aren’t in any.  Not any more than anyone else, anyway.  And our neighborhood is the most peaceful of all.  Even if the city erupts into all kinds of protests, we know our neighborhood has such a low likelihood of being involved, we don’t even worry about it.

But, then there was The Guy on the Hill.  When the current president didn’t step down on time after elections failed to be organized, the opposition party and the Catholic church stepped in to discuss the best course of action.  Then, when the opposition party leader died in early February, a few other fringe guys, wanting to lead actions against the president, made a little fuss.  But this guy, who has a religious and political cult, decided he wanted to make strong statements and posted them on YouTube.  Bad idea, dude.

The military and police decided that he was a national threat and one evening, the day before Valentine’s Day, they wanted to go to his house and have a little chat, probably resulting in taking him into custody.  Except it didn’t go as planned.  This guy wouldn’t come out of his house.  The authorities demanded he come out.  I really don’t know how things escalated, but suddenly there were cars on fire and munitions being spent.

We were sitting at our house, hosting two other individuals in our home, and chatting about the day (the kids were asleep already) when the gunshots were heard.  At first, we thought they were leftover fireworks from New Year’s, but we quickly realized things were not okay, somewhere nearby.

A few quick calls and Matthew knew from our neighbors much closer to the action that something was happening on the hill (immediately behind the house where we lived our first year, and across the street from where we lived before moving into our current house, which is just around the corner).  Matthew called around, and it seemed isolated to only this spot.  Watching Twitter and African news websites and a story emerged about two hours later, mostly getting the facts right.

So, we holed up in our room, not sure how far out things would spread or for how long.  We took a quick inventory of edible food, moved our water filter into the hallway (away from windows and easy access) and filled a few buckets of extra water just in case.  We were on lockdown.

By midnight, the gunfire had ceased.  The report from our missionary neighbors who could see up the hill said it seemed calmer.  We went to bed.

At 5am, things began again – we were awakened by gunfire.  It only lasted a couple of hours and then ceased.

For three weeks.  Three weeks, the police and military guarded the road up on the hill and the compound, where this leader stayed his ground.  Rumors spread about the leader’s whereabouts – that he’d disappeared, that he was going to stay in there forever, etc.

But, one Saturday three weeks later, as we sat down for lunch around 11:30am, with chicken pot pie fresh from the oven, some shots rang out.

This time, the fighting wouldn’t stop until the leader had been captured and stability restored.  Our neighbors closer to the action, after three weeks, had befriended some of the military guards on the road, so they were given about a ten minute warning that they were going in to finalize the problem.

Seven hours we holed up in the house.  The kids watched THREE movies, they’ll tell you, while we listened to boom after boom after boom.  We weren’t in any targeted danger, but it was close enough that stray bullets or fleeing individuals could pose a problem.  And the noise and the unknown of how long it would last was stressful.

But, by the evening, he had been captured, a few photos popped up on Twitter of his arrest, and the police and military men went cheering through the streets of the neighborhood.

Our kids asked a lot of questions about The Guy on the Hill.  I showed them a picture of him getting arrested, so they would know it was over.  But every time we hear a car backfire, or some sort of explosion (happens often, for some reason), or we have a PPUD (potential political unrest day), the kids wonder if they’ll have to stay in the corner of the boys’ room, watching movies, while Daddy spends his time pacing the hallway on the phone, and Mommy frets.

Thanks for praying for us and our safety.  Thanks for praying for our kids.  They do get to experience a lot, not all of it is positive, but all of it shapes who they will be.  We pray that they will have compassion for those who live under these stressors every day and for those guys on hills who aren’t making wise decisions.

Most of all, pray that Congo can move forward peacefully.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Elsie Worthen permalink
    April 26, 2017 0829

    Thanks for your stories. Prayers for your family.

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