Was this weekend nine years ago our finest hour? One of our church members, a human rights lawyer had been taken from the court during the lunch break of a case where she had been representing victims of fabricated charges brought about by a President trying to stamp out any resistance to his corrupt regime. They made her open the boot of her car and ‘found’ automatic weapons and hand grenades inside. She was roughly arrested, along with her driver and taken before a military tribunal and charged with treason, planning an insurrection. The feared sentence of death by firing squad was passed on her and she was incarcerated in a primitive, unsanitary, women’s wing of a high security prison.
Four women to a cell. One toilet that didn’t work for the whole wing of women. Mosquitoes, flies, rats, heat, smell, hell hole. She grew weak; her heart condition flared up not having any of her medication. Delirious.
Our church was mobilised to prayer. 24 Hour prayer meetings. 48 hour weekend prayer meetings. We were on the radio, on the London TV news. Her husband and four children were desperate. Our church was turned into a ‘Free Marie Therese’ centre with pictures, flags, petitions, candles. We sang ‘Just one touch from the King’, changes everything’ over and over. It became our anthem
Marie Therese’s health started improving. She began gathering the other women prisoners together daily for scripture readings and singing worship songs. She started ministering hope to them. Giving advice to them how to appeal against their sentences. The wing started to change. She put in appeal after appeal for her own sentence to be over turned.
After 160 days in prison, 160 days wondering if this would be the day she’d be taken to face the firing squad, she was taken back to the court. The prosecutor stated he had falsified the evidence against her; it had been fabricated and that he was setting her free. There was uproar in the court. It was suggested she get on the first available plane out of Kinshasa. The army moved in and arrested the prosecutor. As her plane to anywhere was taking off the army arrived at the airport …
160 days came to an end, nine years ago this weekend.
Just one touch from the King.
She was very weak and took a long slow journey back to London via several stopovers, medical check ups, before eventually arriving by Eurostar back to London, to her husband and children, the Congolese community (she had been voted Africa’s Woman of the Year), press, radio, and a red carpet welcome from All Nations Church, waving flags, cheering and singing ‘How great is our God’. Passengers in the station looked on perplexed, asking who is this famous woman, we don’t recognise her.
Nine years ago. The reality of that spiritual conflict doesn’t fade.
When she decided to return back to fight another battle we tried to dissuade her, Her husband and children tried, but to no avail. So we gathered round her and covered her in the armour of God. Another adventure unfolded … but that’s for another time. The battle for the D R Congo right at the heart of Africa, the most dangerous place in the world today to be a woman, goes on. How we still need ‘Just one Touch from the King’.