For Congo's Hero Pastor, the Clock is Ticking Down

A couple of weeks ago, I told you the story of Pastor Marrion P'Udongo, who's now in dire need of a kidney transplant. I explained how during the war, the pastor had risked his life.
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A couple of weeks ago, I told you the story of Pastor Marrion P'Udongo, the "Oskar Schindler of Congo" who's now in dire need of a kidney transplant. I explained how during the war, the pastor had risked his life to shelter scores of his neighbors who were being persecuted and killed. And how in the years that followed, he'd used his pay as a fixer and interpreter for journalists to nurture and minister to orphans and child soldiers, and to the multitudes forced into squalid camps that sprang up along the valleys of northeastern Congo. Pastor Marrion's work transcended any religious order. He was a hero in a country short on heroes, and now he needed our help.

I appealed to your better angels, and many of you responded. In the days after the story ran, the Pastor Marrion Fund raised over $11,000. Prayers and good wishes poured in from all over the world. One person said she was planning to bike from London to Paris to raise money. Another even volunteered his own kidney, if needed. The pastor was completely overwhelmed by the response. From a hospital room in Kampala, Uganda, where he was receiving dialysis and recovering from an infection, he said, "God has brought these people to save me. I never knew I had so many friends."

A few days later, one of our partners in this effort, filmmaker Taylor Krauss, visited the pastor and filmed this clip:

In my first post, I also explained how the pastor was fortunate to have a kidney donor -- his 24-year-old nephew, Oyer Omaka. This week, Omaka will travel from Bunia (Pastor Marrion's hometown) to Kampala to undergo the final round of tests to assure his compatibility. The doctors are very optimistic. Later this month, the two of them will fly to Kigali, Rwanda, to be examined by doctors at King Faisal Hospital. After much preparation and anticipation, KFH will begin performing kidney transplants in April. The pastor hopes to be one of their first patients. (If for some reason Kigali doesn't work, we're also in contact with a hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa.)

The bad news is we still have a long way to go before any procedure can take place. According to hospitals we've contacted, a kidney transplant will cost roughly $76,000. As of now, we've raised only a quarter of that amount.

People have said to me, "It's great that you guys are taking the time to help your friend." The first time I heard that, I was reminded of a profound moment in my reporting in Congo, a day in 2006 when Pastor Marrion and I visited a displaced camp known as Gety. Over the past months, militias warring over gold mines near Bunia had entered villages and massacred dozens, while raping scores of women. They'd also kidnapped many young girls and taken them as slaves to their mountain hideouts. Tens of thousands had fled toward camps such as Gety, where United Nations soldiers could protect them. They'd walked for days through the unforgiving hills and forests, arriving with festering wounds and malaria, starving and dehydrated. These tent rows of silent anguish, save for a rattling cough or faint whimper, is where pastor had been called to work.

As soon as we arrived in Gety, people -- mostly women -- called out to pastor and motioned us over. For the next three hours, I walked from tent to tent, where mothers would hoist up a bundle of soiled blankets, each containing the now lifeless body of their child who'd died in the night. Most had died from diarrhea after drinking dirty water. Others had died from malaria -- just stupid, preventable things. This is what pastor had wanted me to see.

"In Congo, " he said, "people die too easily. Here they die for nothing."

So when I heard that my friend was sick and needed a kidney, and we could save his life for a mere $76,000 -- it felt stupid to just sit there and watch a good man die. We only have one shot at this. I don't want to leave any room for regrets.

To help us, please visit: The Pastor Marrion Fund