Just a Young Boy

By Mutombo Esdras

My name is Shadrack. I grew up in a small village in Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. My family owned a small farm. Life was always hard, but my parents spent most of the time at tending to the fields and crops. They made sure no day passed without something on the plate.

I never had any formal education. My father gave me the only lessons I ever received. He taught me basic survival skills, hunting, swimming, and other skills. Ever since I was a little boy, my father was harsh to me. His idea of being a man was being able to survive the harsh and cruel world. Unlike me, my father was well built and muscular. Every evening I saw him returning to the farm under the bright light moon walking like a giant bear retreating to its cubs.

My mom was always in the kitchen, adding more wood to the fire to prepare food for the family. Her voice was tender. When she brought me to bed, she sang, or told stories about our ancestors, how they fought so hard for the freedom of the land we call home.

Every night, I went to bed with a smile on my face. I was happy living in my small bubble. The two most important people in my life where always around, and our life was peaceful.

One night, it was raining heavily. Clouds covered the sky and not a single star could be seen. I went to sleep in my comfortable little bubble as always. I was thirteen years old, and I had no idea that the walls that kept my family peaceful and full of joy were cracked, and that they would soon crumble before my eyes.

I heard noises, screaming, shouting, footsteps that sounded like a thousand wild horses running across the field. My heart was racing, and I was shaking. “Mom! Dad! Where are you!” I screamed, but I could finish my sentence I heard the sound of gun shots, the sounds that changes people’s lives, sounds that tears families apart.

I rushed to the living room, and I stood there, frozen to death, because I could not believe my eyes. My mother was laying still on the floor, blood oozing from her chest, and my dad was beside her. Both their chests and heads were filled with holes. Tears rolled down my chin.

I cried out their names and shook them, hoping they might awaken, hoping that they might open their shut eyes, but my little bubble was broken: my parents were dead. I knew the rebels where responsible, for I had heard rumors of them killing innocent people. I knelt down to be close to my parents and wept as rain fell from the sky. I felt the sky was shedding tears for my loss.

When the sun rose, I still lay there besides the dead bodies of parents. Then, a hand touched my shoulder, and I heard a voice becoming louder and louder. When I looked up, I saw I was surrounded by people. They lifted me and I saw the distance between me and my parents grow bigger and bigger. Then I saw some of the people cover their bodies with a cloth.

The government had sent rescue troops, but only if they came a little bit earlier maybe my perfect little bubble could still be intact.

A lovely American couple called Jack and Melinda took me to Washington DC in the United States. They adopted and raised me, and paid for all my expenses. They became a beacon of hope when darkness swallowed up all hope and joy I had.

Years passed. I stayed with Jack and Melinda, and graduated high school. Then I went to university to pursue a degree in international relations. My dream has always been to help and support all the young boys who are torn by war. I established an orphanage and brought refugee kids and families to the states, hoping they could start a new life free from war and persecution. I lived the rest of my life helping the poor, and trying to support my home village. I know what war can do to a child because when it happened to me, I was just a boy.

10 April, 2023