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Update on the situation: 
After days of intense fighting, rebels have seized the city of Goma where the SHONA ladies live and work. Surrounded by artillery fire and afraid for their lives, the population of Goma has been fleeing. 

When you can't run...

How can you flee?

All 4 SHONA woman, along with their three young babies, were huddled together in their house Monday night.  They had known the fighting was getting bad and that the rebels who had been poised at the outskirts of Goma were threatening to overtake the city.  They saw the population of Goma fleeing before their eyes.  But what could they do?  How could they run, when they can't even stand without metal leg braces and crutches.  They had gone into town that day looking for a way out.  The border was closed.  So they had spent their last dollars buying tickets on a boat leaving later that afternoon, but by the time that boat was scheduled to leave, the fighting had gotten so bad that they couldn't leave the house to travel to the port. 

So now they were huddled in their house Monday night, having found no way to leave, with the sound of near constant explosions overhead.  Argentine called me and said "the explosions are just outside and we are in the middle, between life and death".  This radiant young woman, who always has a hopeful word and huge smile, was afraid they might not live to see morning light.

Thankfully they did.  But Tuesday only brought continued shooting and chaos, as government soldiers fled Goma and the rebels made their final push into the center of Goma.  Argentine's eye turned to her "kinga", pictured above.  This is a form of a bicycle, manufactured to provide disabled people a way to hand peddle themselves.  Argentine bought this kinga with the money from your purchases.  She is deeply proud of her ability to buy a kinga and she says it gives her legs.  In this case, it gave her legs to flee.  Joining with a group of other disabled people, she decided on Tuesday morning that she could not spend another night in Goma.  Solange agreed to join her, riding on the back, as pictured here, with Argentine carrying Solange's baby in the front.  She has some young people traveling with her to help her push the kinga.  Still the road is long, and full of soldiers fleeing in the same direction, bringing chaos along the way.  They have very little money and their cell phones are out of power.  As of this afternoon we heard that they had found a safe place to sleep tonight.  It is perhaps more than they could have expected, and we are thankful for every little bit of grace along the way.  But still we are deeply worried about what this road will bring.

Meanwhile Mapendo and Riziki remain, with their little babies, and Mapendo's husband, in Goma.  Since all of them could not travel on one kinga, and nor could Riziki and Mapendo walk the whole way, the SHONA ladies were forced to split up.  For Riziki and Mapendo that means another night in Goma, with no electricty, little food, and no idea what will happen tonight, as the rebels have now taken control of the city.

To be honest, it is hard to know which situation is more precarious.  So please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.  We are deeply thankful for all of our friends who have contacted us during this time.  Thank you for your prayers and friendship, and for reminding us how important it is to simply have friends who share the road with us. 
What can you do?
First and foremost, the SHONA ladies ask for one thing...and that is our prayers.

Second, tell others...
Many people have no idea about what is going on in Congo.  Please share the story with your friends and family.

OK, telling people about Congo is easier said than done.  Many times the news can be overwhelming and hard to explain.  But what if we did this...

What if we made every shopping bag a SHONA bag?  Think about it.  This is the "shopping season", and sooner of later we are all going to find ourselves wandering around a crowded store in search of that special something.  How many plastic bags do you see in people's hands as they shop?  How many do you find in your own? 

So what if you decided to make a statement this year?   Why not buy a SHONA bag and take it with you as you shop?  Our cloth will certainly catch someone's eye, and give you a chance to talk about Congo as you wait in line.  Or maybe buy a couple extra bags, and share them around.  Let's fill our malls with SHONA's bright colors and get people talking about a place that is dear to all of our hearts.  We can shape the stories that fill our world.  Let's tell a story that matters.   

This is an incredibly difficult time for the SHONA ladies.  But sooner or later the fighting will stop.  I'm not sure where the SHONA ladies will find themselves, or what they will have lost along the way.  But I am quite sure that they will be anxious to reclaim their lives and their work.  Your purchases will help make it possible for them to start again.
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