Goma lies beside deep-blue Lake Kivu surrounded by majestic mountains, so it looks like it could be home to a resort. But endless border conflicts make it a battleground for its 600,000 inhabitants.
Natural forces also threaten Goma. The picturesque Mount Nyiragongo hurled smoke and unleashed rivers of lava through Goma in January 2002. Much of the city was burned and buried.
But one thing seems to keep Goma growing: the church. There is a house of worship around every corner. Or so it seems. Many are simple wood- and zinc-roofed structures.
A motorbike speeds me to Evangelical Restoration Church just in time for the midweek service. Their 1,000-seat auditorium is still under construction but is already in constant use. The main wall is at window level. The temporary roof is a creative collage of zinc sheets, tarpaulin, and wobbly timber poles.
Dust from the dirt floor creates a thick layer on the coarse benches. But the 200 church members gathered for worship pay it no mind. The band sets up equipment on stools and benches. After sound checks, a torrent of music gushes from hefty speakers. The rhythm is classic African rumba. The message is gospel. The dance is vigorous. The mother tongue is Lingala. The sincerity is sobering.
"Jesus, give us strength to go on."
The local pastor, in a short-sleeve, navy-blue outfit, introduces the guest speaker, a Canadian Assemblies of God pastor. Through a translator, she reminds the worshipers that they have strength in Christ to overcome every challenge. She also calls on them to reach out to the hundreds of international aid workers in Goma.
"God has brought the world to your doorstep," she says.
Four days later, it is Sunday. The 270-strong congregation of the Church of the Assemblies of ...1