“It was a very unexpected experience for me in the presence of my 16 year old son. About 40 rebels invaded the offices of the ministry. One of them stood in front of me pointing his gun at me,” says Pastor Gerald Bomana, leader an Evangelical church in Bangui.
“To my greatest surprise, I recognized one of my neighbors among them. He was wearing a rebel uniform. He was probably the one directing them to my office,” a visibly distraught Pastor Bomana told Open Doors workers who were visiting.
Rebels of the SELEKA coalition took power in the Central African Republic (CAR) after capturing the capital city of Bangui on Sunday, April 24. Residents have lived in constant fear since then, as armed bandits have been looting, holding people for ransom and harassing the population.
“Because our organization does evangelism among local tribes and cares for abandoned children, the rebels thought we have much money. We have several stations in the interior. They ordered me to hand them five million CFA francs (about USD 11,000),” Pastor Bomana reports.
When Pastor Bomana told them that he did not have the money, the rebels replied, ‘Then you will give us three million CFA francs. And these premises will be one of our headquarters. You will also see to it that our troops are fed. We are giving you few days to gather the money and then we will be back.’
While a group was speaking to Pastors Bomana, members of the rebel group plundered the different rooms of the building, loading everything they wanted onto their pick-up trucks. They stole computers, printers, chairs, various other appliances and ten motorbikes used for ministry related travel.
“One of the rebels approached my son. He slowly put his hand in his trouser pocket. He took my son’s purse, opened it up and removed the 3,000 CFA francs it contained. Then he put it in his own pocket. [Knowing well what the rebels are capable of], my son was terrified.”
But this incident was only the first encounter Pastor Bomana had with the rebels. A day later, they came again – this time to his house.
“The rebels came to my house to hear if I had prepared the money for them. My wife, who was at home, fainted when she saw them. When they heard that I had not prepared the money, they left, promising to come back later.”
Pastor Bomana realized his family was in grave danger. A friend advised him to plead for protection from Seleka officers occupying the Ledger Hotel. In desperation, he immediately followed the advice. When he told the colonel in charge what had happened, the man instructed Pastor Bomana to park the ministry vehicles at the hotel for safe keeping.
“We loaded all the remaining belongings in the cars and brought them to the hotel. A few days later I sent one of my co-workers to check if the cars were really in safekeeping. He found out that the cars were no longer there. When he asked the colonel I had spoken to about it, he started shouting at the worker and ordered him to never talk to him about the cars again.
“We then knew that we had lost everything. I got my family together and left for a safer location on the outskirts of the city. My neighbor later told me over the phone that the group of rebels returned looking for me, and have threatened to kill me when they find me.”
Pastor Bomana heard that the rebels looked for him in a local village. During their search, the rebels killed two members of the local tribe. The rest of the villagers fled into the forest. There are many new believers among them.
“I’m feeling very down. I can’t even concentrate enough to read. My wife has gone to the Congo, struggling with heart problems. I worry for my son who now hates Muslims and often gets nightmares.
I pray that God will heal my family and bring us together again soon, so that we can continue this race of faith together.”
Father, we pray that You will take even this harrowing experience in the life of Your servant, Pastor Bomana, and his family, to strengthen their faith and their testimony in the community. But they have undergone so much and we lift them up to Your comfort and protection. We pray Your healing of the emotional trauma the family has experienced. We pray for the protection of the family in Congo and of Pastor Bomana where he is. Supply their needs and provide for them to be reunited soon. We pray for Your comfort over the family members of those who were killed and for Your protection over the young believers who have fled into the forest. Strengthen their faith in the midst of their trials. May Your comfort overwhelm their fears and fill them with Your perfect and incomprehensible peace. In the name of Jesus, our comfort in times of trouble, Amen.