During the late summer of 2013, I read the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. That fall, one of the Elders in our church told of the women of Panzi, a suburb of Bukavu, DRC, and how they had been brutally raped as an act of war, and then been rejected by their families and communities. Dr. Denis Mukwege, MD, of the Panzi Hospital had done the surgical repair and the Panzi Church of the Holy Spirit was trying to help with the spiritual healing. All of the women were struggling with a severe form of PTSD. I remember reading in the book that the UN had declared the eastern Congo to be the “rape capitol of the world”. Having a lot of experience in treating PTSD with military personnel, I was aware that this was an area that I could assist with. Besides, I got a clear message from God that “you can do this”. In my initial efforts to contact the Panzi Hospital through their US representatives, I met with the same response that I had with the Veteran’s Administration and that was that they had their program and did not need any changes. I decided to contact Bishop Desire Kabangira directly to see if he had an interest in the treatment. He was very welcoming and said that he could provide 10 pastors to train and 20 women to treat. I decided to go to Bukavu in late May 2014 with a missionary from our church, Tim Holcomb, who had done a lot of work there. The Bishop was friends with Dr. Mukwege and took us to see him. Dr. Mukwege was enthusiastic about the training and promised to make 14 hospital nurses, doctors, psychologists and social workers available for two days of training.

We decided to return to Bukavu in August 2014 with a team of 5, my son David, who would lead the teaching, while I added stories, a therapist from our practice, Hillary Boone, an interpreter, Lidia Hearing, who is fluent in English, Swahili, and French and was born in the eastern Congo, and Elizabeth Elliott, a member of our church, trained in neurofeedback. We spent 12 days in Bukavu doing classroom presentations and then doing practical hands on training with those suffering PTSD. The response was beyond what we expected both in the results of the neurofeedback and in the welcoming spirit of those we treated. We ended up treating cases of sleep disturbance, headaches, seizures as well as PTSD. We left 7 neurofeedback systems with the hospital and the church provided by EEG Info. We have since provided 3 more systems and the have expressed a need for more systems because of the long wait times for those being treated.

At the encouragement of the Bishop and the hospital, we decided to return to Bukavu in February 2015for further training. Meanwhile, I read the books King Leopold’s Ghost and Dancing in the Glory of Monsters. These two books gave me a much clearer picture of what has happened in the Congo over the last century. Additionally, two of my West Point classmates, Dave Latimer, who served as military attaché to Zaire and Dwayne Lee, who had done mission work with water supply as an engineer, added to my knowledge of the area. I can see how the DRC is able to have the second poorest GNP per capita in the world and yet be probably be the richest nation in the world in terms of natural resources.

Our February trip to Bukavu included our son David, myself, our interpreter, Lidia, and two members of our church who were looking at the possibilities of helping the church build a more suitable facility to house the women with PTSD from rape. The training went well and we saw a need for training in pastoral counseling for the pastors since they had such traumatic issues to deal with. The Bishop agreed and we scheduled a return trip for late August 2015.

Our most recent trip again included five of us, me, Elizabeth Elliott, who organized the trip, and Elizabeth Duncan, who presented on listening skills, Kim Antonelli, an LISW from Boston, MA, who presented on grief and loss and Mike Lanning, from our church and a retired fighter pilot from the Air Force. Mike presented on budgeting for the pastors and their churches. We were joined by Justin Chikuru the assistant psychologist from Panzi Hospital who presented on assessment and referral. We spent 12 days in Bukavu again visiting churches and feeding stations and assessing the effect of neuro feedback. The feeding stations and the Panzi Church treat about 300 per month and the hospital treats about 70. We will be returning to Bukavu in March 2016 to continue our training in neurofeedback and to teach the pastors about marriage and family therapy. I have committed to writing a booklet for the pastors on pastoral counseling. The feeding station in Kamenyola was approached by representatives of refugee camps in Burundi and Rwanda to send someone to treat their residents using neurofeedback since they had heard of its effectiveness in Kamenyola. They were told that as soon as we had more folks trained, we would do that. On our last day in Bukavu, the Bishop and I met with the Deputy Health Minister for the South Kivu Province and he requested that we consider becoming involved in a health initiative involving the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda. I told him that we would consider it. Who knows?

This in an ongoing mission and it appears that the psychologist, Justin Chikuru, will be able to take over the training within the year, leaving us free to move into some new areas such as Goma, DRC, and another city of over a million in the eastern Congo which experienced the same trauma as Bukavu.