Mathilde’s Mission Trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo

Mathilde, a Sacred Heart volunteer from France, recounts her two months volunteering in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Read the original article (in French) 

After the passing of our dear Sister Fidéline from Congo, who holds a special place in my heart, I’d like to share the experience of my two months spent in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This experience had a profound impact on my life, and I am extremely grateful for the richness it brought me.

Almost a year ago, I was getting ready to leave for my mission trip. I was waiting to find out where I would be going, when I received the message: “Mathilde, I am pleased to confirm that you will be going to the Democratic Republic of Congo.” I was filled with joy and excited to discover the culture there.

Looking back, I think I can say that I left with an open heart, eager to love, learn and grow. I took a leap into a new culture, which was an act of faith and total trust in God. I was able to fully surrender to Him, saying, ‘I dedicate my whole life to You Lord, and offer You this experience’. I left with this verse in my heart that says, “I will be with you”, which God spoke to Moses in Exodus 3: 11-12. I received this verse as if God were speaking directly to me, and it stayed with me throughout my mission trip. I can say that the Lord has always been present, guiding me along the way, even if I didn’t always realize it immediately.

I was initially sent for three months but ended up going for two months because my visa was delayed. Waiting for my visa increased my desire to leave, and I was overjoyed when I finally got to! During the trip, I stayed in Kimwenza, a neighborhood located on a hill overlooking Kinshasa. This area is a blend of housing and vegetation and is home to many religious communities.

I stayed in the community of the sisters of the Sacred Heart of Kimwenza, where I received a warm welcome. My daily activities included helping out with the children at the elementary school, assisting 12- to 19-year-old girls at the sewing foyer, where I was able to share and even teach some French; and playing with the boarding school children in the afternoons.  These moments spent with the children, young girls, and teachers were precious.

During my stay in Kimwenza, I also had a wonderful time with the sisters in the community. They were so generous and kind, and we developed a beautiful friendship and complicity. I immediately felt at home among them. It was a joy to see our two cultures meet. Living in the community and sharing everyday moments with my sisters was one of the greatest joys of my experience. I was also fortunate to meet sisters from the Sacred Heart communities in Congo, who were all very generous with me.

During my voluntary service, I learned a lot on many levels. I discovered the reality of the world that was previously unknown to me, including poverty, violence, and injustice. However, I also witnessed the strength and joy of the Congolese people, their generosity despite the difficult circumstances in which they live in, and how much they have faith full of hope.

During those two months, I learned to have a newer perspective, to pay attention to the small things, the simple things, and daily joys. I learned to see and receive the gifts that the Lord gave me each day, even if they weren’t always easy to see. One of the highlights of my experience was tasting the small, simple joys of each day, and sharing them with those around me, in the simplicity of our daily lives.

I had said that I left with an open heart, but it opened up so much more during my time as a volunteer, and it also filled up. I was able to grow in my relationship with God, with others, but also with myself. During my stay in DRC, I had the feeling that the Lord was planting small seeds in me, which He made grow and they will be continuously growing.

Finally, I’d like to say that my voluntary work has allowed me to see the treasure and beauty of life, in all its dimensions.

“Everything is grace” -Saint Therese of Lisieux

Section |International News|RSCJ International Volunteers

Province |Belgium/France/Netherlands, Democratic Republic of Congo