Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Congo’

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Cousins In Rwanda

Cousins In Rwanda

Once, when we were visiting our friends in Rwanda at the Rwandan Orphan’s Project, we decided to also take a trip up to the north, near the border with The Congo, and visit our cousins in the rainforest – better known as gorillas. The families we met were so similar to our own human family, that there were times it was difficult to tell if their was much difference. It turns out gorillas have 97% of the same DNA as humans, or vice-a-verse.

Mother and child gorilla copy

International Arms Trade Treaty

Dear Gabriel,

Huge news coming out of the United Nations today: this morning, delegates from 154 nations voted to adopt the first-ever international Arms Trade Treaty!

This is a historic moment – for the first time, the world has a treaty to help monitor and control the flow of arms and ammunition across borders. It’s a strong, effective treaty that will save lives and protect human rights around the world. And it’s the result of the actions of tens of thousands of Oxfam supporters like you – people who raised their voices in support of an Arms Trade Treaty, donated to fuel this work, and spread the word about this crucial issue. Thank you for everything you did to make this victory possible.

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President Obama and his Administration played an important leadership role to ensure the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty. Will you join us in thanking them? Send a message to President Obama now >>

For families in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Mali and other countries wracked with armed conflict, the Arms Trade Treaty means a safer, brighter future. Ending armed conflict in poor communities is vital to righting the wrong of poverty, and that’s why Oxfam has been working to pass this treaty for more than a decade – we couldn’t have done this without you.

History was made at the United Nations today, and you were part of it. Thank you so much for standing with us in this fight.

Sincerely,

Raymond C. Offenheiser
Board of Directors
Oxfam America Advocacy Fund

A Drop In the Bucket

“I saw over five hundred kids walking out of the Congo three years ago and decided I had to do something about it,” says Rev. Paul Oas. What he did was organize the church he attends in San Diego, California to provide support and funds for an orphanage in Rwanda (called ROP Center for Street Children) and put together a team of people to visit the orphanage of 150 children and assist them with health care, clean water, trauma relief, job training and hope for a future in a country that is still reeling from the 1994 genocide. “I feel like I’m in my twenties again,” says Pastor Paul, as his seventy-five year old eyes light up.

For three weeks Pastor Paul, who likes to be called Paul, helped coordinate a team of concerned health professionals in the capital of Rwanda, Kigali. They worked from morning until night providing children at the center with the first medical check up and exam they had ever had, teaching older youth sewing and quilting skills, in order to have a vocation once they left the orphanage and connecting the center for orphans with local clinics, dentists and a water filtration company. They also provided classes in Thought Field Therapy – TFT (a meridian based treatment that eliminates symptoms of post traumatic stress) and did a follow up study with children they had treated the previous year. Other members of the team taught classes on TFT to orphanage directors, ministers and other social service organizations from all over Rwanda.

Paul says, “When people without church backgrounds see things like this they are touched as well and have a change in values. Too often religion has become more interested in form than in function. In the twelfth chapter of Romans Paul says, ‘present your bodies as a living sacrifice and this is your reasonable worship’”. In other words, make sure your walk matches your talk.

There are countless disappointments and frustrations with this kind of work and mission, such as never having enough resources and constant feelings of helplessness, but Pastor Paul believes these realities are part of the journey. “I still get overwhelmed and feel like it’s all a drop in the bucket. The way I take care of that is to keep getting others involved and having it expand.” He says his father and mother (who was a nurse) taught him to always “find a way” and believed “we’re all one family”.

Working in Rwanda is not the first time Paul has gone outside his community in southern California. He has also organized trips to orphanages in Baja Mexico and worked with survivors in Kosovo, as well as visiting a refugee camp of 100,000 on the border of Sudan. He believes that words mean nothing without corresponding action and often quotes a passage from James 1: 27, which states, “True religion and uncorrupted, is to visit the orphans and the widows in their distress and to keep one self unstained from the world.”

After traveling and serving people in Kosovo, Mexico and Africa, Pastor Paul finds it challenging to live in such an affluent part of the world. Instead of judging or condemning those with affluence, he realized that most of them want to get involved and giving to others provides meaning for their lives as well. “People start blossoming,” he says. “Our mission is to help one another mobilize and find our individual gifts.”

The work Paul has done at the ROP Center for Street Children in Rwanda has also blossomed. Not only have members of his church at Christ Lutheran in San Diego committed funds and resources, but Pastor Paul has also reached out and received support for the orphans from concerned individuals and religious and non-religious organizations throughout the country and around the globe. “When you have the compassion to do something,” Paul says with a smile, “you’ll find roadblocks that will stop you, but don’t let them. The roadblocks are for some purpose. When people see your passion for God and His creation, they get involved and new paths appear.”

Pastor Paul Oas has not let roadblocks, government restrictions, lack of funds, cultural misunderstandings or church politics block his path to helping children or prevented him from bringing people of diverse backgrounds, beliefs and areas of the country to “get on board”. “Most people say they admire me for doings this, but I don’t want to be admired,” Paul says. “What they are really saying is that it is wonderful what you’re doing and I wish I could help. The greatest admiration is when they contribute or get involved. Some people make a show about how much they love God, but Jesus said, ‘How can you say you love God who you haven’t seen, when you don’t love the brother who you have seen?’”

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