January 29, 2020, was just another Wednesday, like any other weekday for 52-year-old Francoise and her husband Reverend Batsemire-Ngulongo Yese, 67. They were traveling with their grandson to their farm outside of the town of Eringite in an area known as the “triangle of death” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Times are dangerous and complex in the DRC with dozens of militias terrorizing communities in eastern Congo where conflict rages. The couple and their family served God in this difficult area for many years. That day, Yese was singing along to a popular Swahili praise song, “Safari Bado,” a rhythmic melody about our spiritual journey:
On this safari we must stay humble,
not become complacent,
and use every opportunity we receive
to honor and worship God
as we come closer to meeting Him.
Never during this journey should we think we have arrived,
or as King Belshazzar, the writing will be on the wall.
Little did Yese know his journey on earth would end that day.
Captivated by the song and with the volume turned up, the couple and their grandson heard the gunshots but they were too close, she says, sitting on the mud floor of her traditional hut. She speaks exceptionally slow and in almost whispers–grief has taken its toll.
“In that moment of panic, we thought it wise to hide in the bush in case the enemy was on the road,” Francoise says. “We hoped they would pass us.” After about 45 minutes, she and her grandson came out of hiding. They couldn’t find Yese.
Francoise informed the military about Yese’s disappearance. Two hours later, they received the tragic news: Soldiers had found a body almost two miles away, possibly Yese’s. A group set out to check and returned with his body. The soldiers explained that Yese had unknowingly hidden in an area the Allied Democratic Forces used as a shortcut. They shot him and finished him off with the very machete he was carrying to use at his farm.
Since his death, stress and grief have created physical suffering. Francoise says she now has hypertension, regular headaches and constant and severe stomach pain. Family members take turns sitting with her. When she’s alone, she weeps for her husband.
“Her gaze appears far off while she talks,” says an Open Doors worker who visits with her, “as if she is caught in memories of when her husband was still alive.”
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