By Stan Friedman
GOMA, DR CONGO (April 16, 2012) – The work of HEAL Africa, which treats victims of the bloodiest conflict in the world’s poorest country, will continue despite the recent death of its internationally honored founder, Lyn Lusi, says her good friend Judy Anderson, the organization’s executive minister.
Lusi, an orthopedic surgeon, died in March following a lengthy battle with cancer. Click here to read more.
Anderson is a member of Monroe Covenant Church in Monroe, Washington. Heal Africa is a longtime partner with the Congo Covenant Church (CEUM), Covenant World Relief, and Paul Carlson Partnership (PCP).
Lusi and her Congolese husband, Jo, who also is an orthopedic surgeon, founded the hospital in 2000 with assistance from Judy and her husband, Dick. Jo served as the ministry’s executive director in addition to serving in other capacities.
The broader Covenant’s involvement dates to 2001 when the Nyangongo volcano erupted, spreading lava over the town and partially burying the hospital. During reconstruction, technicians from the CEUM hospital in Karawa trained workers to use a mobile sawmill funded by North Park Covenant Church and PCP.
The hospital in Northeast Congo has gained worldwide admiration for treating thousands of women terrorized by warring factions that use mass rapes as a way of controlling the populace. Conditions are so horrific, just going outside to tend a garden is dangerous for women and girls.
Visitors to the hospital’s work have included George Clooney and Hillary Clinton. The hospital has been featured in numerous programs such as PBS’s Religion & Ethics, which aired a segment entitled “The Worst Place on Earth to be a Woman.” In November 2011, Lyn was awarded the prestigious Opus Prize, which recognizes heroes of any faith tradition, anywhere in the world, who are striving to solve today’s most persistent social problems.
Following her death, “Thousands of people attended the five ceremonies in Goma and Butembo,” says Judy. “It was an outpouring of grief and thankfulness for her presence, her spirit, her courage and her life lived on behalf of others – the Congolese especially.”
Judy spent the last months of Lusi’s life alongside her friend and remains inspired by the example she set. “Lyn gave everything she had,” Judy says. “It’s such a privilege to have worked with her.”
Those who knew Lyn held a party per Lyn’s instructions that stated at her service there should be “no wailing, no crying,” sermons only on “God’s amazing love,” music and lots of food, says Judy.
Jan Thornbloom, a former Evangelical Covenant Church missionary to Congo, remarked, “Her presence will continue to be felt through all the programs she began.”
Lusi was determined to transform lives and communities. “She was especially passionate these past years about the role of the church in creating space and opportunity for women,” recalls Judy. “She said, ‘Can anyone work with one hand tied behind their back? We’ve hobbled ourselves when we don’t let women do what they can do – women and men, working together, each using their capacity to the full. It will take everyone to create a society where all are loved. Is that not the mandate Jesus gave us?’ ”
HEAL stands for Health, Education, Action, and Love, which reflect the ministry’s holistic approach in response to the mandate. In addition to treating physical needs, the ministry has led efforts to improve literacy and provide job skills such as sewing.
When the ministry started, Jo was the only orthopedic surgeon to treat eight million people. It has since trained numerous physicians.
In 2007, HEAL Africa started a three-year training program for orthopedic officers. Although not physicians, they will be able to treat numerous issues. One of the recent graduates, a CEUM member, has returned to work in Karawa.
The staff of HEAL Africa continues to mourn Lusi’s death, but is committed to expanding the ministry. Judy quotes John 12:24, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
Editor’s note: Click here to read a recent story about HEAL Africa’s work amid the violence of Joseph Kony and other militias.