The Bulletproof Nuns of DR Congo

There are a great number of Catholic nuns in DR Congo. Being that I’ve never really had much exposure to nuns before, it was interesting to see all of them at work in their various missions from setting up hospitals, to educating the children, to simply helping out people who come to them asking aid.
These nuns happen to be some of the toughest women on the face of the planet though. Whether their will is inherent or backed by their belief in god, they made me feel like such an incredible weakling for getting sunstroke and not getting out of bed for three days. This one nun in Kinshasa got malaria while we were there (I was of the opinion that if a mosquito bit them, then the mosquito would die, but apparently not) and kept going to work each day. To put this in perspective, lesser mortals are out of commission for around a week while taking the treatment, unless the malaria is caught in the absolute earliest stages. This sister also gave us a ride back to where we were staying. She’s around 80 years old and drives like a bat out of hell, which is perfect for Kinshasa. A cop in the street was harassing her when we tried to cross and it appeared was asking for a bribe to which she just chuckled and drove on, ignoring him. She knows the system.
Then there is the fact that these nuns have been in DR Congo for literally decades. They came in in the early days of Mobutu, were there through his downfall, hung around through Kabila I’s coup, then his assassination, and are still chirping on with Kabila II in power. The chunk of modern history that these women have seen is staggering and again, others in their situation fled during this time, but they all stayed put, continuing to work.
The nuns are crafty as well, making the best things there are to have in Congo. For instance, near the Bukavu airport, there are a group of nuns making some of the best ice cream you’ll ever taste. The best flavor being the pistachio of course. They also make paté, sweets, good candles, and fruit wines which aren’t necessarily for mass consumption. This group is also cheeky because they claim to have no change when you go to pay. Your options are either get enough items for the amount of money you have or to just let your change “go to the poor.”
While I don’t like much of what the Catholic church has come to stand for, the work that these women have done for the people in DR Congo is amazing. The only problem is that these women are getting quite old. Most are at least in their late 70’s and some seem to be approaching damned near 100. The problem in all of this is that there are no younger sisters available to come in and take their places, which is a tremendous issue as the institutions these women have built up would more than likely collapse without them. It will be interesting to see how the next decade goes in the areas that they are heavily ensconced.
The Bulletproof Nuns of DR Congo