It was 1996 and war had broken out in the African Congo.
The years of cruel leadership from the dictator Muboto had caused neighboring groups and tribes to ally against him in a rebellion. These groups were survivors and refugees of the Rwanda genocide that had happened just next door a few years earlier.
At eight months pregnant, Julie Mapatano and her husband Isaac made the difficult choice to flee on foot and seek asylum in Kenya. They knew there was nothing left for their young family back in their home country.
“Trust God,” her parents would say, in the middle of their horrific and hopeless situation.
“Trust God,” as family and friends were dying all around them.
“Trust God,” as they made the treacherous journey to Kenya, with all their belongings on their back.
Although they were safe from war in Kenya, it was still a dire situation. Julie and Isaac dreamed of exchanging their war-torn home for the safety and freedom of the United States. This wait was difficult for many refugees, as few were chosen to receive a visa to America. By God’s grace, a few years later they received their visas and were granted asylum in Atlanta. “Coming to America was a dream come true for my family. Many people applied, and many even starved waiting for a response. My family received this miracle!” Julie said.
The Message of Grace
The Mapatanos settled in Atlanta and Isaac was able to find work. As he was flipping through the channels on his car radio on his way to work, he heard Andrew’s teaching for the first time. As soon as he got to work, he called Julie and told her to listen to this teaching.
When Isaac returned home from work that day, they continued listening to Andrew’s teaching together and could not stop for the next two weeks! Although they had been raised in a Christian home in the Congo, and even attended church faithfully in Atlanta, they were hearing about the unconditional love and grace of God for the first time. “This teaching was different than we had ever heard before,” Julie said.
“All our lives we were taught we have to earn the love of God. You had to do certain things in order for God to love you. But we don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love. God loves us unconditionally,” Julie said.
Two weeks later, they attended a Gospel Truth Conference in Atlanta, to hear Andrew live and in-person. It was there that Julie, Isaac, and all six of their children were baptized in the Holy Spirit. “We had been taught that the Holy Spirit baptism was a gift given to only special people who were holy and different. But at GTC we learned it is a wonderful gift from God and it is given to every believer. This really helped me a lot,” Julie said.
Isaac’s hunger for more of God’s good news did not stop at the Atlanta GTC. He chose to drive to Colorado to attend the Summer Family Bible Conference. While there, he decided this is where God wanted his family to be.
Just months later, Isaac moved his entire family to Colorado Springs to attend Charis Bible College. This was a dream come true for the Mapatanos because Charis taught them their identity in Christ and grounded them in His unconditional love. This foundation is what would carry Julie through the horrendous tragedy she was soon to face.
While attending Charis Bible College, the Mapatanos felt God calling them to return to their home country and share the Gospel and God’s unconditional love to their own people. They wanted to share what they had been learning about their identity in Christ and how God loves them unconditionally. They saw themselves preaching the Good News and ministering together as husband and wife in churches and villages across their home country—what is now called The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
However, Julie’s family was dealt a heavy blow when Isaac suddenly, and unexpectedly, died.
Just one week after they had finished their first year of Bible College, Julie had to face life as a single mother of six children. Their dreams of ministering together in their homeland were seemingly shattered. “We had all that hope—all those dreams to go to Africa and do things for God, and now I’m all alone with six kids. I didn’t know what to do,” she said.
However, after Isaac passed away, Julie knew she had to continue learning more about God’s unconditional love. She knew she had to finish what they started. She decided to go back to Charis Bible College for the second year.
“Many people go to therapy or counseling, but my best counseling was learning more about God’s love for me,” Julie said.
God continued to show Julie His faithfulness throughout that year and the following years, as He supernaturally provided finances for her family, and even gave her a home to live in. During her second year of Charis, Andrew taught one day about dreams and destiny and it stirred up hope and purpose again in Julie’s heart. When Andrew said, “Plan B can be better than Plan A,” she decided to wait after class to speak to him. She will never forget what Andrew told her. He said, “Julie, God’s not finished with you yet. God created everyone, and He has placed a dream and vision inside of everyone.”
Soon after, Julie received a phone call from her father in Africa, saying they were having to turn away children from the orphanage due to lack of funding. She had just received Isaac’s $400 tax return from the previous year. She sowed all $400 into the orphanage and was able to help over 200 children!
When she called to talk to the children she supported, something inside her leapt with joy. God was beginning to form a vision in her for His purpose. Although it would not be what she and Isaac had dreamed originally, she knew God was not finished with her yet!
Redeeming Love Ministries
Julie knew firsthand the atrocities and challenges women and children face in the DRC, so it made perfect sense to start helping these children in her home country. Julie and her children continued to monitor the conditions in the DRC. As they saw their people suffering through disease, starvation, and government corruption, they looked beyond their own needs as a single-parent family in America. They cried out to the Lord, asking for direction in how they could help these Congolese children.
Then in 2012, God gave Julie the vision for Redeeming Love Ministries.
“I realized God had a plan for me all along to go back and reach the orphans,” she said.
Julie’s ministry partners with believers across the globe to provide orphaned children in the DRC with the basic necessities and the education they need to flourish.
Redeeming Love provides homes for the orphans by matching and placing orphans and abandoned children with local widows and families in Ludwindja, D.R. Congo.
Redeeming Love also supports the orphans by giving supplemental food monthly to the families, paying school tuition, school supplies, and provides spiritual training, monthly medical, uniforms, underwear, socks, and shoes.
There are many stories of how special donations from individuals have supported the purchasing of items to improve the quality of life for the orphans and villagers, such as:
- Shoes for the orphans,
- Solar lights for villagers to have outside of their huts and homes,
- Pipes for water to flow down from the mountaintop (over a mile and a half) to the elementary school,
- Schoolbooks for the elementary children, and the purchase of a new chalk board to replace the cracked and broken one.
How You Can Help
You, too, can join Julie and Redeeming Love to support these precious Congolese orphans.
For only $45 per month, you can provide school tuition and fees, a uniform and school supplies, regular medical care, and nutritious food to a Congolese child.
With your additional donations, you can:
- Provide homes for the poor and widowed,
- Help the orphans start their own business through micro enterprises,
- Feed hundreds of people through the community garden,
- Meet their medical needs through RLM Hope Center,
- Build water wells,
- Improve school buildings, and
- Feed hundreds of people through the feeding center.
Bring the hope and unconditional love of God to the Congolese people by helping RLM meet their tangible needs.
Beyond their obvious physical needs, these children need love. They need a foundation in the Word of God to help them overcome every difficulty they may face in life. They need to know their identity in Christ. They need to know someone is on their side. That is why Julie founded Redeeming Love. “Knowing who I am in Christ changed my life completely. When you know who you are, you will not be defined by what’s going on around you. You will know you are loved unconditionally by the most high God,” she said.
Despite the hardships and loss Julie’s family experienced in the US—including the loss of husband and father—Julie refused to walk away from her source of strength. She allowed God to use her Plan B, and now she has ministered to thousands of people in the DRC, and many, many more are waiting to get in.
“I cannot move my focus from God. I cannot forget what He has done in my life. My life is not just my own; I am here to serve and be a testimony to His goodness!”
Find out how you can partner with Julie today at RLMCongo.org/You-Can-Help.