Perhaps my narrative will catalyze a paradigm shift for both you and your family. I am here to delve into the lamentable facts of life that include the erosion of cherished family values, the specter of animosity, the weight of financial struggles, the burden of destitution, the labyrinth of conflicting interests, and the profound chasm of emotional distance
I was born and nurtured in an atmosphere of profound affection, even amidst the challenges of my early illness, which persisted from birth until I was around nine years old. My parents showered me with boundless love, providing unwavering support during times when I struggled to communicate effectively. They made considerable financial sacrifices for my well-being, driven by their unwavering faith in God. Their constant reassurances that I would ultimately recover buoyed my spirits. You see, my life began with a formidable health challenge—bronchitis—a condition that hindered my ability to breathe normally and consume typical childhood foods. The cost of securing suitable meals for me, given the circumstances of my birth, was a significant burden.
In conventional circumstances, expectant mothers seek medical care at a hospital for childbirth. However, the wartime conditions in our town made this impossible for my mother. As a result, I entered the world in the middle of a frigid night, without the presence of a doctor or nurse. Such was the dire context of my birth.
My siblings, along with our neighbors with whom my parents shared a neighborhood, collectively made the decision to depart our region due to escalating insecurity. Our plan was to leave the country and seek refuge in Europe, driven by the pressing concerns of our environment. These issues included a shortage of food, the absence of electricity in the city, and the dire lack of medical professionals at local hospitals. The region was marred by the tragic consequences of a six-day war that transpired in 1978 in the town of Kolwezi, located within the Katanga state of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kolwezi, the second-largest city in northwestern Katanga, boasted an extended rainy season and abundant mineral resources. This area was home to a prominent mining company known as GKMIN, a leading producer of minerals such as copper, cobalt, gold, coal, uranium, and more.
Furthermore, the city was enriched by the presence of the majestic Lualaba River, featuring a picturesque beach and teeming with fish. The surrounding landscape included vast forests, adding to the region’s natural splendor.
Kolwezi today is a great place with kind people who welcome everybody with hospitality everywhere on the streets, embracing Bantu traditions. This means that a family is not just composed of daddy, mom, and children; the family includes aunts, uncles, grandmothers, and fathers, plus all siblings and older persons are highly respected within the family. We have Swahili as a common language, French as an official language, and many people are fond of the English language.
Usually, on weekends, most people attend different churches, while others enjoy various places like nightclubs, restaurants, the Lualaba beach, and attraction areas. I was born in the midst of a war when it became necessary to seek asylum in another country. I don’t know how many days my parents took to reach Kolwezi before my birth, but due to the insecurity in the city, stemming from a disaster, it was impossible for my parents to stay in the area. That’s why they decided to leave.
It all started with my mother’s slight pains as we passed through a certain village called MWANZAMPANGA. The traditional chief, using his power to discern that my mother was about to give birth, stopped us and told my mum, ‘I saw a great king about to be born, and that’s why I can’t let you leave this place today because the baby is on the way, and he will arrive very soon.’ So, my siblings, our neighbours, and some people whom we met while working on the road left, except for us because of my birth.
It was outside, in the middle of the night, that I was born because my parents had stayed in the village all day to wait for my birth. During the night, around 3 a.m., my mother began to have labor pains. My father quickly went to see the village chief to inform him of the situation. After speaking with him, the village chief ordered some wise women to attend my mother’s birth.
Why outside? I don’t know because my mum didn’t explain it. Perhaps she didn’t trust them, as it was the first time they had met in that village. Knowing that people from villages are often very suspicious of witchcraft, that might be why she preferred to give birth outside. But all my mother told me is this: it was cold that day because it was the dry season. Under the stars and a beautiful moon around 4 o’clock in the morning, I saw the light of day. Due to the bad weather and the cold, that’s where I developed health problems, as I had explained in the second paragraph.
Despite having received good medical care later on, my father’s plea to the presiding village chief for mercy marked a turning point. He requested that someone check whether the ongoing war and insecurity in the town were subsiding. The chief, acknowledging the state of my baby’s health, agreed, saying, “I’ll send someone to assess the situation in the town.” He promptly dispatched a representative.
That same afternoon, the emissary returned with encouraging news. The rebels had fled, leaving the official army in control of the town. The village chief inquired about the safety of civilians, nurses, doctors in hospitals, and essential services. The emissary reassured him that all was well; hospitals, pharmacies, markets, banks, government offices, and the police were functioning smoothly.
This information brought relief to my parents, prompting them to decide on our return to the city for my health care. The following morning, we left the village for the city, where the distance was manageable, and normalcy had been restored. We quickly found a bus for our journey back.
Upon arrival, our first stop was our house, where we assessed the situation and made plans. My parents then accompanied me to a hospital for medical attention. At the hospital, we received excellent care. Given my condition, the pediatrician placed me on the urgent cases list. After an hour of waiting, the doctor welcomed us into his office. He discussed my condition with my parents before conducting a thorough examination. Following these assessments, the doctor delivered the diagnosis: bronchitis.
Since I was just a baby when I contracted the illness, there are aspects of that time I’ve never inquired about. All I recall is our relocation to Lubumbashi for superior medical treatment, as recommended by the doctor who had overseen my care in Kolwezi. This move was prompted by the availability of advanced medicines in Lubumbashi, offering a better chance of recovery.
Reflecting on my childhood, I remember the constant need to bundle up against the cold. I wore layers of clothing, including double jackets, pants, a hat, and two pairs of socks. Each day, I diligently took various medicines, some sweet and others bitter, though I can’t precisely recall the number of years this routine persisted. My early years were devoid of typical childhood joys; instead, they were characterized by a recurring need to take medications for my well-being. This regimen continued until I was around 5 years old, when I started venturing into the garden.
Our arrival in Lubumbashi occurred when I was very young, leaving me with limited memories of that time. My recollections mainly revolve around our residence and the neighboring families. One family, in particular, left an impression; they lived adjacent to us, separated only by a wall. This large family comprised more than seven children, including teenagers.
One day, as I was playing with my toys outside, unaware of the brewing conflict nearby, a dispute unfolded between two girls. One of them, in her attempt to strike her sister with a brick, inadvertently hit me on the head. Those present quickly informed my mother about the incident, and she rushed me to Swdwe, a large hospital in Lubumbashi City. The events that transpired during my time at the hospital remain hazy in my memory, as both my mother and I seldom discuss it. What I do remember is the excruciating pain in my head, coupled with the challenges posed by bronchitis, which made breathing a struggle and playtime a rarity.
Despite these hardships, my parents’ boundless love illuminated my childhood. Their actions spoke volumes of their affection; each interaction was infused with kindness, warm embraces, and smiles. They never left me alone, and whatever I desired, they provided. Their words of hope, such as “You will recover from your illness; everything will be alright,” filled me with happiness. I remained a bit spoiled for nine years, as I had no siblings nearby. However, the loneliness weighed heavily on me, especially when neighboring children played joyfully together, while I sat alone in our house.
Then, one day, my father introduced cousins, sisters, and other relatives from various places into our home. Some were my uncle’s children, some my aunt’s, and some I didn’t even recognize, yet my mother informed me they were my siblings. This was the turning point that reshaped our family dynamics. My father’s love was now divided among all of us, marking the end of my exclusive affection. Unfortunately, conflicts and accusations began to surface among us. Small issues like not clearing dishes or neglecting to tidy up after meals led to disagreements. When our parents sought answers, each of us denied responsibility out of fear. Consequently, we were unable to change our behavior, leading to an escalation of false accusations. My mother urged me to set a positive example for my siblings, but I wondered how I could achieve that when we had different upbringings and behaviors. Her daily response was consistent: “Do your best.” Yet, fostering unity was far from easy.
As we grew into teenagers, our home became a battleground of differing opinions about education, lifestyles, sports, and more. This discord strained my relationship with my parents, who resisted my ideas and choices. Tensions gave rise to trauma and stress within me. Our family faced its own set of challenges, with my father losing his job and no one to provide assistance for an extended period. After a year, my mother found stability by selling clothes at the central market in town. Amidst this turmoil, I felt unsupported in my pursuit of the lifestyle I desired, further straining my relationship with my parents. Eventually, I made the painful decision to leave their home.
Prior to this, my life revolved around school, playing with my siblings, and attending Sunday Mass at the Catholic church. However, as an 18-year-old, I began to explore Lubumbashi City. Lubumbashi, with its diverse population hailing from all corners of the country, presented a vibrant mix of cultures and languages. French was the official language, while Swahili blended with French, English, and other local languages in everyday conversation. Lubumbashi, the second-largest city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, boasted a rich cultural influence in music, lifestyles, languages, and education. Football and basketball dominated the sports scene, with fierce rivalries between teams like Lupopo and TP. Mazembe. Handball and karate also had their presence. The city offered a wide variety of foods, from fresh fish and meat to various vegetables. Notable landmarks included churches, mosques, and lively nightclubs.
As I grew older, I formed close friendships with neighbors in our square, but one particular friend, Erick Kabongo, stood out. We shared similar ideas, lifestyles, and dreams, including the aspiration of traveling to America. Erick, a clever young man with an affinity for girls, had already begun conversing with them. He even had his eye on a girl from the CPN church in Kamalondo commune, Lubumbashi. One day, he invited me to accompany him to meet her on a Sunday.
However, during that time, I was going through difficulties because of my parents’ relationship, and I was feeling bored, so I started searching for something glamorous. Then I said, “Yes!” Back in the day, I asked him, “Where, actually?” He replied, “In a certain Pentecost church near here in Kamalondo commune.” I then said, “Okay.”
Afterward, we planned to visit the girl during the upcoming Sunday service. When I saw the girl, I was taken aback because she was beautiful. However, I had gone there with all my pain and stress, and my friend had no knowledge of it, as we had never discussed my family. I was merely curious about who the girl was. Although that day, something unexpected happened during the church service while the praise and worship team performed the songs; the lyrics spoke directly to my heart, and through the songs, I felt like I had found something I had lost a long time ago: love and affection.
Starting from that day, I made a decision in my heart that I would never stop attending church, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. This decision created conflict with my parents, as we were Catholics and a believing family. However, this path didn’t help me with my teenage problems, and I wasn’t active in Catholic Church activities when I was young. My parents wanted me to stay in the congregation, but I decided to leave. My dad told me, “If you leave the Church, you should also leave my house.” As our relationship had already deteriorated, I made the difficult decision to leave, and that’s what happened.
When the Pentecost Church welcomed me, it brought me happiness and the hope of building a new life with new people around me. This occurred during the period of conflict with my parents. After six months of being a believer, I met some new brothers in the singing choir, and we started sharing good times as believers. However, it wasn’t enough because I constantly thought about my family and the parents and siblings I had left behind. One day, some brothers noticed that I wasn’t happy at all, and they informed the senior pastor. After hearing about my demeanour, the pastor asked one of the church brothers close to me to approach me and have a conversation.
12 September, 2023