December 21, 2018
Nyankunde, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Nyankunde is far too beautiful of a town for the atrocities humans have committed in it. Surrounded by savanna, it sits lush and pastoral under a clutch of hills that look like green knuckles. It is a hospital town, known throughout the country for both Congolese and international specialists. It was a hospital town in 2002, when a militia supported by a displaced tribe that had not been allowed to use the hospital raced down from the top of the hill and murdered roughly 3,000 civilians, many of them doctors and patients, in what became the single largest day of death in the Second Congo War, a nine-country conflagration that lasted from 1998 to 2003. As the violence seethed, the bricks of the hospital came down. Many of the buildings became roofless husks, toothless mouths, ruins. And even then, Nyankunde was a beautiful town.
By 2004, the hospital had returned. It now has several new buildings and new medical equipment provided by humanitarian organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse. It is staffed by doctors like Patrick LaRochelle, who first visited the Congo just before he started medical school, heard about the massacre, and thought to himself: I never, ever want to live in the Congo. But LaRochelle and his wife are religious people, good people, who felt called by God to practice medicine in an underserved community. LaRochelle’s wife is a nurse practitioner who grew up doing humanitarian work in Haiti. After LaRochelle completed his residency, they applied to a program with World Medical Mission, part of Samaritan’s Purse, which li