The Economist has the best obits, but they’ve outcome even their usual standards with the March 31 obituary of Lyn Lusi, a Baptist missionary in Congo, who died on March 17. The obit includes this moving description of the beginnings of HEAL Africa, the ministry that Lusi and her husband Jo started for Congolese women:
“Their hospital at Goma had been set up in 2000 to train young Congolese doctors. Two years later the building was destroyed by a volcano; they built it again, low brightly painted buildings behind battered metal gates, and called it HEAL Africa. By 2011 they had trained 30 doctors there, often with the help of students from American medical schools. Yet the hospital became most famous for something different. Hundreds of the patients were women with genital fistulas, or tears: some caused by childbirth, but a startling number the result of rape by militiamen.
“This, too, was hidden in darkness. Mrs Lusi was unaware of it until 2002, when a sobbing young woman came to her office . . . .“She realised then that horrific sexual violence was taking place in every village round Goma. Women working in the fields, or girls as young as five walking back from the market, would be abducted and raped repeatedly. Sticks and guns were forced into their vaginas. Sometimes the guns were fired. The brutalised victims, once home, would often be disowned by their families.
“Over almost a decade HEAL Africa treated 4,800 such cases. The women would arrive in buses, traumatised after travelling for hours and stinking with the urine and faeces that leaked from their injuries. At the hospital, energetic local ‘Mamas’ recruited by Mrs Lusi would welcome them and wrap them in their arms. ‘Love in action,’ she called it, and she too was ‘Mama Lyn’ to everybody there.”