Goma, a large city in eastern DR Congo had been plagued for decades by warring militias competing for access to valuable minerals and by active volcanoes whose flowing lava had cut areas of the city into pieces. Now, in the spring of 2020, it came under a new threat: severe famine.
Provoking further food panic, the United Nations World Food Program had destroyed a large cache of rice contaminated by toxins in nearby Bukavu. Similarly tainted food stocks in Goma were disposed of by burying them in the crack of one of the nearby volcanoes. Guards were hired to keep hungry people away but, lured by bribes, they allowed a group of famished children into the crack in an attempt to retrieve food. The children were overcome by toxic gas. Several were able to escape by their own means, others were rescued by people from Goma, but a little girl perished. In addition, corrupt businessmen influenced the government to destroy non-polluted food stocks to inflate food prices. The ongoing presence of armed militia groups and invading troops prevented farmers from cultivating their fields. Covid 19 and malaria became aggravating factors to the deaths of those weakened by hunger; the death toll was highest among children.
Alarmed by the situation, a group of former French-speaking missionaries, including Rémy and Shirley Guérin and Chris Miasnik, moved into action. The Guérins raised funds from other members of the Dijon, France ward to help sustain the Goma group. And with the help of the Area Presidency, additional needs of the fledgling group of Saints and many others were addressed. In Goma itself, these efforts were led by a courageous (unofficial) group leader named Charles SHABANI MULUVYA.
Baptism of Charles SHABANI in Uvira, 16 December 2018.
Two years earlier, Charles had left Goma and traveled the length of Lac Kivu in a small boat to Bukavu, and then continued overland to Uvira where he could be baptized by members of the church group there on 16 December 2018. With a wife and four children to provide for, he had hardly enough money to pay for the trip. But he had enough faith!
Starting with his family and just a handful of friends, they met in a small clapboard home to discuss the Gospel. They were not yet authorized to hold sacrament meetings. Their numbers grew until they were recognized as an official residential group of the Church. Despite near starvation, Covid confinement, joblessness, and a spewing volcano, they remained united in faith. After Charles received the Melchizedek priesthood, and they were allowed to hold sacrament meetings meetings in a more spacious accommodation, though it was furnished spartanly and had uneven dirt floors.
Some members of the Goma Branch in front of their new branch building, 8 October 2023.
On 30 July 2023, they met in Goma’s Union Hotel to organize the Goma DR Congo Branch. Brother SHABANI was called as the first branch president. On 22 October 2023, the Goma Branch held its first Sunday meetings in a wonderful new building—a place of peace in war-torn Goma.
Because of conditions in Goma, the mission president has not yet been authorized to travel there, and no full-time missionaries have yet been assigned to the city. But thanks to a generous donation by Chris Miasnik, he and I hope to meet with Charles and other members from Goma, Bukavu, and Uvira to learn more about their history in May-June 2024— either a Rwandan city near the border with the DR Congo or—if authorized—in the cities themselves.
View Notes & References
 Photo ID: Goma group 2019b.jpg. Courtesy of Chris Miasnik.
 Account freely drawn from an email message from Rémy Guérin to Area Presidency members S. Mark Palmer and Joseph W. Sitati, along with Shirley Guérin, Chris Miasnik, and Jeff Bradshaw, 14 May 2020. According to Chris Miasnik, efforts to get help from a nearby Church group had failed. He passed along a report from Charles Shabani: “that he had contacted Pt. Marcelin Iraji of the Uvira Branch but he was unable to help because there had been floods in Uvira from the devastating heavy rains they have had and many homes were washed away.”
 Photo ID : la-quecc82te-de-la-spiritualite-a-abouti-a-mon-baptecc82me-1.jpg. From Charles SHABANI MULUVYA, « Une quête de la spiritualité enfin achevée », Foi en Christ, 29 December 2018, https://foienchrist.org/mormons-daujourdhui/une-quete-de-la-spi…=IwAR1ClwIkywVH-dZCBRzn7MbFRdb8zM-NRYcyEjoDNVDWeCi_gHNSj9NL7rs, accessed 5 September 2023. With permission of Silvia Ghidini from the More Good Foundation.
 Photo ID: Goma new building first visit 20231008a.JPG. Taken 8 October 2023. Courtesy of Chris Miasnik.
 Short biography and description of events freely drawn from an email message of 9 October 2023 sent by Chris Miasnik to Charles Shabani, Jeff and Kathleen Bradshaw, Brent and Lorraine Jameson, Ronald and Shauna Peterson, and Shirley and Rémy Guérin.