A Fixer in Need: Good News from The Pastor

Riccardo Gangale
Riccardo Gangale
Pastor Marrion and his wife Julienne in Nairobi after the kidney transplant.

Several weeks ago I wrote about Pastor Marrion P’Udongo, my fixer in the Democratic Republic of Congo who’d suffered kidney failure. Pastor Marrion worked as a fixer with just about every journalist who passed through the region, and spent years guiding photographers through displacement camps, firefights, and into the homes of people who’d been raped and assaulted. And as a result, the world is more informed about this chronically underreported conflict.

When I wrote the story in April, he was in Nairobi on the verge of dying while we scrambled to find money for a life-saving kidney transplant. Many people responded with such amazing generosity that we managed to pull the funds together for Marrion’s procedure. And on May 26, he received a new kidney, donated by his nephew.

It was an enormous achievement, but that wasn’t the end. Two days after the transplant, the new kidney went into shock, or as the Pastor’s doctors described, “a state of slumber.” Pastor Marrion suffered excruciating pain and his body became swollen. Then, as we feared, doctors informed us the body was rejecting the new kidney. We feared for the worst, so we began scouring eastern Congo looking for another possible donor, a process that before had taken us months.

Riccardo Gangale

Pastor Marrion after the surgery.

Then one afternoon, Riccardo Gangale, a fellow photographer and close friend of the Pastor, called and said the kidney was starting to show signs of waking up. Pastor Marrion’s body was beginning to heal.

Two weeks later and Pastor Marrion has recovered well enough to send me an email. Without souls like Riccardo, Bryan Mealer, Taylor Krauss, and the over 500 people who gave anything from $2 to $8,000, this amazing feat would have never taken place – proof that miracles can happen through the power of community. Pastor’s words to you and me were as follows:

“My health is better, my result from the hospital today was so good.
My kidney is working well…Thank you so much for saving my life
God bless you and thank you all.”
And because of the donations, the pastor can hopefully go home soon. He’ll be returning to the St. Kizito orphanage that he helps manage in the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to over 100 kids whose parents perished during the war. He’ll return to the primary school he started in the Tagba displaced camp, where people who lost everything to violence can at least know their children’s education is secure. He’ll go home to his community, his family, and the journalists who still need his courage and skills to help them tell this story.
However, Pastor Marrion still needs support. The operation, medication, and hospital bills have drained all of the money raised. In the coming weeks, the pastor will require another surgery to open his urinary tract, which will cost upwards of $5,000. In addition, we need to cover the cost of vital anti-rejection medication for at least several months until the pastor is able to work again.
And if possible, we’d like to set up a small education fund for Uyer Omaka, Pastor Marrion’s  24-year old nephew who so bravely volunteered as the donor. In a society as broken as Congo, it is encouraging to know there are still young men as noble and selfless as he. Already he’s following a path of service and sacrifice like his uncle. We only hope to help his journey.

To learn more about Pastor Marrion and to donate to the fund set up to help him, visit Indiegogo.com.

Marcus Bleasdale, an award-winning photographer based in Oslo, is a member of the VII Photo Agency. Bleasdale has published two books, “One Hundred Years of Darkness” and “The Rape of a Nation“.

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