The price of petrol increased and triggered a civil protest around the city. At all the major junctions, groups of angry youths were stopping cars and motorbikes. Many of the main roads had lava rocks strewn in large piles across them to prevent buses, cars, and motorbikes from being able to traverse them. The police were staying out of the way, fearful for the reprisals and being under-prepared for this eruption of emotion in Goma.
We planned a youth volleyball game — it had been a couple weeks since having one and we had a guest from America that really wanted to play with the youths. We were so excited about putting this game together we failed to consider the transport to Mugunga.
The guest and I managed to get motorbikes after walking quite a ways and agreeing to pay three times the normal rate. The guest was riding in front of me and I watched as she came upon a junction that was being blocked by youths — somehow she made it through and my driver raced off through back alleys while we chased her motorbike. We met up down the road and I gave her props for making it through and getting all the way to Mugunga on her own, practically.
We began playing volleyball with the children from the community and waited for the youths. A couple of hours later, just as we were about to pack everything up — I saw some of our youths walking up the hill towards the property! They could not get motorbikes or buses so they walked! That called for an additional hour of volleyball. We were playing volleyball with the setting sun reflecting off the mountains all around us.
There was only one motorbike available when we got ready to leave — I sent our guest ahead and decided to walk with the youths. I can not think of a better group of young people I would want protecting me and keeping me company at sunset in Mugunga. We were talking and laughing and dancing down the road. The joy and energy of these young people — the next generation for Congo — is rewarding and encouraging. I saw a quote the other day: “Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you.”
These youths perpetuate this idea — they were stopping along the road to greet elders in the community. At one point we even stopped to pray for an elderly woman selling charcoal along the road. I hope I never stop learning from these youth of Congo. While some youths riot and cause violence, these youths are bringing joy to a community and hope to the future. This is Hope.
Michelle Smith is a missionary in Democratic Republic of Congo, working for Rally International. She is a graduate of Citrus High School and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and political science, with a Bible minor from Lee University, as well as an Associate of Arts in paralegal studies from the College of Central Florida. She runs into areas of the world that others are running out of, in order to build strong communities in the midst of conflict. For more information on her or Rally International, visit www.RallyIntl.org.