Dirck just turned 5 on April 21 and is really looking forward to going to kindergarten in the fall. He is the big brother to his sister Dinorah who is 3 and Diella who is 3 months old. Dirck is in the Dragonfly class in the First Lutheran Children’s Program and is one of the preschoolers we are helping with tuition this year.
Dirck began preschool last fall and was very shy. He has gained a lot of confidence in himself now. He jokes and asks so many questions…some are hard to answer…like “Why did you marry Mommy”? “Why do you kiss Mom when you come home from work”? And of course, questions about his Mom’s pregnancy with Diella.
He has learned so much in preschool. Now he knows the ABCs, can count to 35 and can print his name. He’s a good basketball player — inside and outside! His Mom says the last thing they do every night is have him pick out a book they read and then he says his prayers
Claver and Joyce, Dirck’s parents, are very proud of their son’s accomplishments in such a short time and grateful for this opportunity for him to learn at FLCP. Their own background and experiences were very different and explain why they are so pleased with this opportunity for their son to have the chance to learn alongside his friends as they all prepare for a good start to kindergarten.
This is the story of Dirck’s parents and their journey to this time in their lives. Both Claver and Joyce were born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and lived their whole lives in a country in conflict, war and turmoil. They were continuously challenged by frequent attacks causing their families to flee and move often, sometimes to refugee camps where they continued to be attacked. It was and is still a dangerous time in the DRC; several family members in Joyce’s family were killed. Dirck’s mother, Joyce, was severely wounded by a gunshot wound to her right arm. Even after several surgeries in Africa, her arm remained paralyzed. With the help of others, she moved to Dayton, OH where further surgery corrected much of the damage done by the gunshot wound. Joyce has really good use of her right arm and hand now and while paralyzed, learned to use her left hand making her ambidextrous! Both Claver and Joyce come from large families and still have family members back in the DRC and in refugee camps in Kenya.
Claver and Joyce did not know each other in the DRC. They met in 2011 in the US. Marrying in the Congolese tradition meant that Claver’s family had to “vet” Joyce, her family, and her appropriateness as a wife and Joyce’s family did the same with Claver, his family, and his sense of responsibility. Both families gave them their blessing. Without that blessing, the marriage would not have happened even if Joyce had said yes to Claver’s proposal. They married in Portland in 2013…the same year she found out her mother had also been killed in the DRC.
An interesting tradition in their marriage is the dowry that the groom’s father gives the bride’s father–a gift of cows. Claver’s father’s gift was 11 cows. Then Joyce’s father gave the couple 5 of the 11 cows to ensure that they would always have milk. That was an important and traditional blessing to give the newlyweds. Their 5 cows have ended up in the hands of the Mai Mai, one of the militia groups continuing the conflict in the DRC.
Joyce is home with Diella while Dirck and Dinorah are in preschool. Dinorah is enrolled in our Butterfly class and is supported by the Children’s Program. Things are hectic around their home when the weekend comes. Joyce has hopes of writing a memoir of her experiences one day. Claver works at Spurwink providing care to developmentally challenged individuals living in group homes. Claver would like to go “home” to the DRC at some point—when the conflict is over. Joyce has no interest in going back because of what she experienced there.
They are so thankful for the support Dirck has received from our Give a Child a Chance ministry. Thank you all for your continuing prayers in support of our efforts and for the continued success of Dirck and Dinorah and all the others who have been and will continue to be supported!
Karen Johnson &
Give a Child a Chance Team