Exile Blog

Exile Family Homes Destroyed | Emergency Relief Needed

On May 22nd, Mount Nyiragongo erupted outside of Goma, DR Congo, killing many, destroying villages, and displacing thousands.

After returning home, many families in the Exile community found their homes destroyed, even more returned to find all their possessions looted. Multiple Exile programs in Congo have been affected by the volcanic eruption. Now, is the time to help these communities rebuild physically & emotionally.

Give Now  Support Volcano Relief

Disaster Relief Plan

Immediate Disaster Relief For 413 Families in 5 Communities Impacted by the Volcano – $103,143

  • Food, water, and supplies for 413 families *Already underway. 
  • Rebuilding 6 homes destroyed by the lava flow. *Families and foster families of children in Exile’s care programs.
  • Trauma care and counseling for children, families, and staff *Already underway. 
    • Exile’s counselors are providing trauma relief through expressive therapies.
    • For their emotional and spiritual well-being, we are planning a staff care retreat and providing outside counselors to provide support to on-the-ground teams.
    • We are mindful of the toll recent events have had (are having) upon our teams. As they work hard to support others, we are committed to ensuring they too are cared for and supported.

6-Month Disaster Relief 413 Families – $220,971

Along with the support listed above, this would provide:

  • 6-month support for food, water, and other basic needs.
  • Supporting these basic needs for a period of time will dramatically relieve pressures for these 5 communities and 413 families, empowering them to recover and rebuild.

Donate | Disaster Relief Plan

Prayer Requests from our teams on the ground:

  • Protection, endurance, and rest. While the tremors have ceased and families are returning home, there remains the emotional aftershock of living in constant alert for many days with minimal sleep.
  • Safety while distributing relief and support to affected families and communities.
  • Emotional well-being of the families who lost loved ones and children still missing.
  • Increased costs from inflation make it difficult for all people, including Exile teams, to obtain adequate food, water, and supplies.

Updates from Field

June 16 — Situation Update

Schools in Goma have reopened — Praise God!

  • Schools in Goma have reopened. This is incredible news! When schools are closed it increases multiple risks for the children in Exile’s programs (risks such as pregnancy, being married off, illness, etc).
  • Inflation –– The continued heightened costs of essential supplies make it very difficult for our teams on the ground to get the supplies they need for emergency distribution.
  • Staff providing trauma care — our incredible, devoted staff continue to assess the needs of village programs, providing trauma care, support, and counseling to children and staff.

When you support Exile’s Volcano Disaster Relief Plan, you are enabling our teams on the ground to provide immediate, desperately-needed relief and supplies to multiple families who have been severely affected by the volcano. The threat of the volcano is over, but the work has just begun. We invite you to join us in restoring lives!

Donate | Volcano Relief Fund

100% of gifts to Volcano Relief will be used for the greatest needs on the ground.

June 5 — Situation Update

Key Needs – Financial & Prayer:

  • Protection, endurance, and rest. While the tremors have ceased and families are returning home, there remains the emotional aftershock of living in constant alert for 14+ days with minimal sleep.
  • Disaster Relief –– food, water, clothing, shoes, other supplies, and rebuilding six houses of affected families.
  • Safety while distributing relief and support to affected families and communities.
  • Repair of Exile program facilities damaged by earthquakes.
  • Healing and trauma care activities for children and for staff.
  • Care for Caregivers — outside counseling for staff and healing retreat for Exile Congo staff who continue to pour out in service of others.
  • Large van or bus needed –– essential for future transportation of children, especially in event of emergencies.

Exile’s Congo team is exhausted — physically and emotionally — but they continue to amaze with their courage and faith; their positive attitudes and their choosing hope! John, from Exile Congo leadership team, wrote this week — “God literally stopped the lava. There is no reason it should have stopped. There was no hill, no wall, or anything to stop it besides God. It could have wiped out the city, but He stopped it!” The staff keeps saying “we saw the hand of God” and they are clinging to His goodness!

Each passing day decreases the likelihood of a second eruption. There is still lava under Goma and Lake Kivu (which poses a real threat), yet volcanologists are hopeful, especially as tremors continue to decrease in intensity and frequency.

Most Exile’s Goma area staff, along with their families, stayed at Exile’s HQ (The Peace Lives Center) for six days while most of Goma was being evacuated. They did not want Joseph (Congo Country Director) and his wife to be left alone in keeping the children safe. They decided it was better to be together, as a family, caring for the children and one another! A few concerned people tried to convince Joseph to leave early in the evacuation because he requires a wheelchair or crutches to be mobile because of injuries sustained from the shooting in 2019  (*more on that here). Joseph refused to leave since it was impossible for all the children to safely leave and be cared for as well. Joseph is a true hero and legend – we’re constantly humbled by (and learning from!) his faith and strength.

John and Zawadi (from Congo leadership team) housed 60 displaced people “in” their home and were coordinating placement (if needed) for children and staff across the Rwandan border. Their church also took in hundreds of people displaced by the eruption and evacuation.

Five of Exile’s program areas were impacted by the eruption. Six families (of children served by Exile) lost their homes and many families lost most or all of their possessions fleeing for safety. Looting has remained a constant in the affected areas leading some to return what’s left of their homes to protect what’s remains of their homes or belongings.

Exile staff have developed a disaster relief plan for immediate support of 413 families in 5 communities affected by this disaster. Our teams have begun distributing supplies — food, water, mattresses, and basic necessities. Additional needs we aim to address include the rebuilding of 6 homes, repairing damaged facilities and *several months food and water for these families.

*Supporting these basic needs for a period of time will dramatically relieve pressures for these families and communities, empowering them to recover and rebuild.

Immense thanks to the broader Exile family for prayers and financial support for these families and children. Your response has, and continues to, demonstrate the love of Christ to families in need! 

Donate | Volcano Relief Fund

100% of gifts to Volcano Relief will be used for the greatest needs on the ground.

June 3 — Situation Update

Twelve days since the eruption of Mt. Nyiragongo – the resiliency of the people of Congo is overwhelming!

  • Our teams are traveling to the areas most affected by the eruption to provide direct relief including food, water, and other supplies to those affected by the volcano.
  • Exile’s counselors are providing trauma relief through expressive therapies of singing, drawing, and dancing – providing war-affected (already traumatized) children with the care they need to cope with yet another life-altering trauma.
  • Current concerns include: increase in food prices, felt trauma in staff and children, and a lack of resources for those families finding refuge in the homes of our staff.

According to volcanologists, a second eruption is still possible, as the presence of lava under Lake Kivu is still detected. However, Rwandan authorities say they do not feel the Limbic eruption will occur (an explosion which would be a catastrophic scenario – smothering the area with carbon dioxide and affecting all living creatures within 12 miles of Lake Kivu). We remain hopeful with each passing day, with each passing hour. Please join us as we continue praying “peace.” We pray for the cooling of the lava and stillness in seismic activity.

For a quick and easy way to give to Exile’s Volcano Relief Fund, text PEACELIVES to 44321 – 100% of gifts to Volcano Relief will be used for the greatest needs on the ground.

May 27 — Situation Update

Second eruption possible. Mandatory evacuations started. Join us in prayer.

  • Tens of thousands again flee the Goma area as an official warns an eruption “could happen very soon and without warning.”
  • An eruption under Lake Kivu could release deadly clouds of carbon dioxide and methane.
  • Goma has experienced over 200 aftershocks since Mount Nyiragongo erupted Saturday.
  • 10 of Goma’s 18 neighborhoods began mandatory evacuation on Thursday (May 27).
  • Exile Goma children, staff, and families likely evacuating on Friday. Today, teams worked to gather sufficient supplies and plan for safe evacuation of all children, staff, and staff families.

‘”An eruption under Lake Kivu could ignite methane gas trapped in the depths of the lake. Such an explosion could destroy parts of Goma and Gisenyi in neighboring Rwanda, according to AP. In addition to methane, Lake Kivu traps huge amounts of carbon dioxide. In 1986, a similar lake — Lake Nyos in Cameroon — released dissolved CO2 into the air after a landslide. The cloud of CO2 asphyxiated an estimated 1,800 people in nearby villages. 

Because of Lake Kivu’s size, Sally MacIntyre, a limnologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said an eruption in Lake Kivu “would be completely catastrophic.”

An earthquake, like the ones the area has seen since Mount Nyiragongo erupted last Saturday, could trigger a limnic eruption in Kivu, causing the water to release the trapped gases. Dense clouds of CO2 and methane could displace oxygen in the surrounding air and lead to asphyxiation. In high enough concentrations, the methane could also ignite.”‘ [1][2]

May 26 — Situation Update

All youth from Exile’s programs have been located!

  • All youth from Exile’s programs who evacuated have now been located! Thank you for praying! ⁠⁠
  • Continue praying for the other children in the area who were separated from their parents during evacuation.
  • Earthquakes and tremors are decreasing in number, but increasing in intensity. Over 100 tremors and earthquakes since Monday morning. Homes and buildings have collapsed and large cracks are seen on the roads⁠⁠.
  • There are fears of food and water shortages.⁠⁠ Pray for supplies and food to reach the people.
  • Officials warn there could be another eruption.
  • Ash and dust fill the air – making it unsafe to breathe without a mask.
  • Exile staffs’ homes are overflowing with displaced families⁠⁠ they’ve taken in. Pray for their resiliency, energy, and encouragement. 

Prayer request from Congo Team:

“Please pray for God’s protection over us. Our hearts are broken. We are running down. It feels like we are at the end of the world.”

The need is great. But as our Congo Country Director, Joseph stated: “There is no challenge greater than God.”

Donate | Volcano Relief Fund

Supplies already being distributed!

  • Monday:  Our teams assessed the need.
  • Tuesday:  You started to give & funds were sent.
  • Wednesday:  Needs are being met!  *See video below.

Support for volcano relief efforts and supplies still needed.

100% of your donation will go to volcano relief and needs on the ground. Join us delivering relief and supplies to families who’ve lost everything in the eruption.

May 25 — Situation Update

  • One community served by Exile was severely impacted. Staff is still working to locate 36 children who evacuated. *Network outages, power outages, and destroyed roads are hindering this progress.
  • Eruption and lava flow have stopped.
  • Earthquakes and tremors persist. One reached a 5.1 magnitude on Monday. Tremors struck every 30 minutes on Sunday. Buildings damaged by the tremors.
  • 170+ children were separated from their families in the mass evacuation. Please pray they are found.
  • 36 deaths reported and hundreds missing.
  • ~1,000 homes destroyed and more than 5,000 displaced.
  • 17 villages wrecked by lava flow.

Support relief for families, children, and staff impacted by the eruption.

Some families and children we serve have lost their homes and everything they own. Additionally, you will be providing trauma care to the children affected by this disaster.

Donate | Support Volcano Relief

Earthquakes in the area are increasing, buildings are beginning to collapse, and there is a concern for another eruption. Emergency relief funds are being sent. Would you help? 100% of your donation will support emergency response.

Exile teams are on the frontlines helping those affected, taking in families and children, providing trauma care to youth, and ministering in any way they can. They’re running to disaster… not from it.  #HEROES

Message from Exile Int’l Country Director in Congo:

“The earthquakes are many today. Food prices are going up and very soon there will be a food shortage because the road has been closed by the lava.

We have families of youth in our Village Programs that have been displaced and homes completely destroyed. Some of them ran away with only the clothes they were wearing and things are getting much much worse.

We are in need of more food supplies, soap, basins, jerrycans for water, mattress, blankets, basic cooking pots, plates, and spoons.

The staff are welcoming people into their homes – people who ran away after the destruction of their homes. We all have full houses and need help with food and supplies. We expect there will be food shortages in our foster families and we need to help them.

Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for the support. Thank you for standing with us and for supporting us.
— Joseph, Exile Country Director – Congo

Give Today  Volcano Relief


Footage of eruption and aftermath

May 22 — Initial report

Mount Nyiragongo Volcano erupted in Congo displacing thousands — including Exile children & staff. 

  • Multiple Exile programs, including many children and staff, were in the path of the lava flow. Exile Congo staff responded accordingly.
  • Mount Nyiragongo in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, erupted on Saturday (May 22), sending panicked residents fleeing.
  • Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002, killing 250 people and making 120,000 people homeless after the lava flowed into Goma.
  • More than 20,000 people are homeless and 40 still missing following Saturday evening’s eruption, which sent rivers of lava flowing toward Goma, killing at least 31 and destroying more than 3,000 homes, according to the United Nations.
  • The lava from Mount Nyiragongo stopped just 300 meters short of Goma airport.

Early Reporting from Reuters on May 22nd

“Mount Nyiragongo in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, erupted on Saturday, sending panicked residents fleeing.

People grabbed mattresses and other belongings and fled towards the frontier with neighbouring Rwanda as a red glow filled the sky above the city.

Dario Tedesco, a volcanologist in the lakeside city of around 2 million, told Reuters Goma did not appear to be at risk, and lava appeared to be flowing east in the direction of the Rwandan border. Earlier he had said he thought lava might hit Goma, but he later said this was not the case.

“I can see high lava fountains,” Tedesco told Reuters

A United Nations source said a reconnaissance flight by a U.N. helicopter appeared to show the lava was not flowing toward Goma or any major population centres

Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002, killing 250 people and making 120,000 people homeless after the lava flowed into Goma

“The local authorities are currently evaluating the situation with the volcanological observatory in Goma … The population is encouraged to remain calm.

Volcano watchers have been worried that the volcanic activity observed in the last five years at Nyiragongo mirrors that in the years preceding eruptions in 1977 and 2002.

*Reporting by Hereward Holland; Writing by Aaron Ross; via Reuters.

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