Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hopes for healing

On March 1, an orthopedic surgeon will visit Kananga along with a physical therapist. Dr. Theuri, the surgeon, will perform surgeries at IMCK (the Presbyterian hospital near Kananga), and Miriam, the physical therapist, will train nurses and other staff in follow up therapy. The primary motivation for this visit came from three of the children in the Ditekemena program for street kids who have physical handicaps that could be improved with surgery. We want to introduce you to each of them, and ask you to pray with us for successful surgeries and recovery.
First, we have Andre. Andre’s thigh bones are bowed, rather than straight, so he has a hard time running or walking long distances, and his growth is stunted. We think that perhaps nutritional deficiency when he was younger precipitated this problem. Andre is now 7 years old.



Second, we have Espoire. Espoire is currently in the first year of secondary school, and is 13 years old. His right leg is permanently bent at about a 30 degree angle, so he walks with a crutch. It is not clear exactly what the cause is, but we think there was an accident at some point when he was younger without proper treatment or setting of the bone. Doctors at IMCK think that it probably will not be possible to recover movement in the knee, but that they might able to reduce the angle so that he could walk without a crutch.
Mukendi Espoir
And third, we have Dominique. Dominique had tuberculosis when he was younger, and it appears that it moved into and affected his spine. His spine is severely weakened, and he has a permanent hunch. It is hard for him to stand, let alone walk very far. We are not sure that his condition is operable, but are praying that something could be done, perhaps inserting a rod in the spine to give support. Dominique loves going to church, and has a gift for drawing. His father is living and has given approval for this surgery; he was chased away from home when he was accused of witchcraft by his uncle.
Dominique, center, celebrates the arrival of our department’s new vehicle with other
kids. For comparison, he and Serge (far right) are both 12 years old.

There are two other children who won’t have surgery next week, but who have physical challenges that we hope can receive treatment soon. One of the children who we hope will benefit from physical therapy is Kanku. Kanku has cerebral palsy. It does not seem to be severe, and he is able to walk on his own short distances with the help of a stick. We hope that physical therapy could help relax and strengthen his muscles, and help him to be more mobile.



The final child is Macqui. A few years ago, when she was about 4 or 5, she was pushed down some stairs. She was seriously hurt, and from that time had trouble hearing. She has partial hearing in one ear, but can only hear someone speaking if they speak loudly directly into her ear. In a country with such minimal infrastructure like Congo, there are very few services or allowances for people with disabilities. This makes it difficult for her to learn or progress in school. A couple of doctors have examined her, but there is not an audiometer in our province that could do a proper hearing test. We are hopeful that she could be taken to Kinshasa soon, and assessed to determine what the problem is and whether hearing aids could help her.

There are several churches and individuals that gave financial contributions to make this medical visit possible. Medical Benevolence Foundation found the medical professionals, and is also providing coordination and funds for this visit. These medical professionals from CURE in Kenya are giving their vacation time to come to an underserved area. They will treat each of these kids, and also perform surgeries on other patients in need and provide instruction and example for other doctors at IMCK. We are very grateful to everyone involved for the part they play and know that God will continue to hear and answer our prayers for healing in these kids!

Friday, February 20, 2015

And there was light!


Mamu Nzeba and Mamu Tshidibi faithfully run the Protestant Center here in Kananga.  It is an aging building built by the Belgians back in the 1920s as a hotel/restaurant.  Today it belongs to the Congolese Presbyterian Church (CPC) and serves as a guesthouse.  On a shoestring budget, Mamu Nzeba and Mamu Tshidibi do an amazing job to maintain this archaic structure and provide for the needs of their guests.  They make out with a positive balance each year and make a contribution to the larger work of the church and also make small repairs and improvements to the Center. 

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Protestant Center, Kananga (DRC)

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Mamu Nzeba and Mamu Tshidibi

Two major needs for guests at the Protestant Center are water and electricity. Because they can easily get water from a nearby water tower, the Protestant Center has an advantage over other guesthouses.  However, electricity has been a problem.  SNEL, the power company of Congo, supplies power to its clients almost every day, but at odd and untimely hours.  Power may come for a couple of hours during the day, and then the following day be on for maybe 30 minutes in the evening and then come back on at 2am when everyone is asleep. SNEL is expensive too – one pays about $40 per month. When potential guests come to look at rooms at the Protestant Center they are impressed.  However when they ask if there is “current” (electricity) they  lose interest and go elsewhere.  

Thanks to the ingenuity of friends who love Congo, the situation at the Protestant Center has recently taken a sharp upturn.  Tatu Omba who works with Rivers of the World (ROW) Congo recently came to install three solar panels.  With these panels, each of the guest rooms has lighting during the evening and nighttime hours.  Moreover, there is a centralized outlet center whereby guests can charge their telephones and computers during the day.  Mamu Nzeba and Mamu Tshidibi are quite proud of the new panels and have instructed one of the night guards to remain directly underneath them and maintain careful watch.  They express profound thanks to Jimmy Shaafe (Director of ROW, Congo Chapter), Tatu Omba, and friends of ROW who have generously given to help strengthen the Protestant Center in Kananga.

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Installation of the solar panels, Protestant Center (Kananga)

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Outlets for charging during
daylight hours

So, the next time you visit will you consider staying at the Protestant Center?  Your patronage will provide a ‘shot in the arm’ to the church and encourage these two saintly women who toil day and night to keep this grand structure functional and appealing.  Maybe God will inspire you to help in some way too.  Thank you ROW for coming alongside us here in Kananga – we are very grateful! 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The chicken thief

The leaders of the Ditekemena (Hope) program are in the process of visiting the families or relatives of the 23 children they are caring for. They want to determine what caused the child to be abandoned or to run away to the streets, and what counseling or assistance might be needed to make the family receptive to receiving their child into their home again.

Last week, Bob and Ruth joined Pastor Manyayi to visit the home of Mukendi Moise. They learned that Mukendi and his friends Masanka and Nzaji had been notorious thieves in the neighborhood. “They stole chickens from everyone!” said Pastor Kabamba, who lives nearby. “Whenever you saw Mukendi run by, you knew that something had been stolen.” They were ‘partners in crime’, and they continued to run together even when they left home and were living behind one of the outdoor markets. To get money for food, they would scrape up the crumbs from piles of dried fish, and sell it for pig food. The fish sellers didn’t like that though, and would chase them and attack them with razor blades.

When the leaders of Ditekemena came to find kids living on the streets in need of help, many of the kids ran away, afraid that they would be taken and exploited or killed. Mukendi recognized his desperation though, and went with the leaders. Within the first few weeks, he was leading a choir in the midst of these rag-tag kids who had all come from deplorable situations. Now, after nearly a year of being in a loving and safe environment, Pastor Manyayi says the transformation is incredible. “He loves to sing, and will read through the songbook for hours at a time. He could barely read before, but now he is really intent on his lessons and especially loves geography. He is really helpful and respectful, and we often find him teaching the Bible to the younger kids!”

Mukendi and Serge lead singingMukendi (right) and Serge lead the other kids in a worship song.

Mukendi and his younger sister, Macqui, were living with their grandmother after their parents died. But their grandmother is very poor; her mud-brick house is tiny and doesn’t even have a door on it. “How can they live in a house that doesn’t even have a door?” questioned Pastor Manyayi to the other leaders. They decided to do a ‘test’, and Mukendi and his sister Macqui recently spent the weekend at their grandmother’s house. They said afterwards that they would like to live with their grandmother again. Please pray for the Ditekemena leaders as they seek the right solution for each of the children. Mukendi is fourteen years old now, and seems to be a humble but natural leader. When you see him, it is hard to imagine that a few years ago he was terrorizing his neighborhood. Pastor Kabamba marveled, “You have taken away our thieves and turned them into pastors!”

Mukendi Moise (far left), with other kids in Ditekemena, including Nzaji (far right).

The testimony about the Ditekemena program is starting to spread around town. Mukendi’s neighbors asked if they could send their kids to Ditekemena when they saw the transformation that occurred! We praise God for the transformation that we see in each of the kids, and for the knowledge they now have that they are valued and loved. Thank you to many of you who have contributed to meet the expenses of caring for these kids and putting them ‘back on track’ in life. We ask for your continued prayers for the kids and for the leaders as they discern the next steps.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Poetic Psalm of Lament


This lament is written in the aftermath of the events that happened the week of January 19th (2015) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In response to an attempt by President Kabila and his political allies to change election laws to remain in power for an extra four years, opposition leaders and youth led protests which were met with fierce and brutal force.  Human Rights Watch reports 36 killed over four days, mostly university students.  This poem is written in honor of these students and their heroism. 

He Will Not Stand Down

High Chief of all,
Mighty made low,
Your awesome power
Who can stand before?

The proud power hungry -
Standing, backs of men  
Smile and laugh, frown and smash -
Crumpling poor at door: refuse, trash!

Self-preservation escalating 
Escorts, black windows tinted
Invisible to masses, heard across air -
Waves heralding, hearts shuddering.   

Power producing fear and dread
Standing proud, tall, ahead
Not least this one, not standing down, 
He wants it all, instead. 

Another voice comes, massive crowd
Assemble gather protest
Rush the door, seeking voice
Met by bullet, spray and club.

Three dozen dead, four days gone
Congo why persist, committing  
Ghastly wrong; bright future dead,
This…this your song?

Yet brave herald the strong
The veil of fear pierced*
Darkness day breaking
Hearts, hearts, waiting.

Number one numbering days
Crown but lost, pride ever gone -
The Chief will not stand down
Who can stand before?

The High Chief comes,
Pure light, countenance His
Right arm justice
Leveling, the tall.     

Windows tinted, you cannot hide
Get out, you there inside.
The High Chief comes
And He, oh yes He…
Will not stand down.


* this line is an abbreviated quote from an e-letter from Francine Mukwaya, UK Representative of the Friends of Congo, who used this phrase to say that the bravery of the youth who died has unlocked others from the ‘veil of fear’ in making their desires for a free and fair democracy publicly known.  There is no more hiding and crouching in the dark.  ‘The veil of fear has been pierced’.  There was a march just this week in Kananga and a friend of ours who manages the small local market bravely participated.       

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Appreciating rural faith

Last week we went to the village of Mbala for worship. We love the experience of worship in a rural church, where despite not having a lot of wealth or ‘things’, their worship is full of life and their faith very real and tangible. We were accompanied by our colleague Jeff Boyd, and also three of the children from the Ditekemena program. Here are a few of the images and memories from the day.
Road to Mbala

Our link to the church and guide for the day was Mulami (deacon) Simon, who we knew from Kananga before he moved to this village. When we arrived, our first stop was his house, where according to the extravagant hospitality of rural Kasai they wanted to feed us a meal. So, although it was only 9:30 in the morning, we happily ate the bidia, chicken, and beans that they generously served.
Mbala - in Mulami Simon's house(left to right) Serge, Jeff, Bob, Noella, and Espoir,
seated in the main room of Simon’s house.

After reaching the church, we were served some peanuts and bananas (when arriving from a journey, you must be hungry!) while also learning a little about this church. Pastor Mbambila had been there about 4 years and had studied theology at the pastoral institute at Mutoto. They typically had 75-100 people in worship – but today several people were visiting from neighboring parishes because of the excitement of our visit.
We processed into the simple church building along with the
choirs and leaders. Many people bring their own chairs to
worship because there are not enough benches!


Mbala 1- adult choirWe admired the traditional sounds of the adult choir
and their locally made guitars and other instruments!


Faces pressed in, surrounding those who were fortunate to be seated ‘on the inside’. The church did not have any walls, so it was easy for curious passers-by to come and stand at the edge to watch the proceedings. Today, a band several people thick surrounded the church, appreciating the rhythm of the choirs, the preaching by the visiting missionary, and the baptism of several infants. Mbala is just about 25 km from Kananga, but it felt like we were days away from the city. Young kids were crowded together on a mat on the dirt floor. Others were relegated to standing at the perimeter. The church does not have a Sunday School or time for children, so the kids just glean what the can from a message directed to adults. They were relatively quiet and attentive though, through a long service!

Mbala 1 - congregation and Ditekemena kids

Bob preached a message from Ephesians 2:11-22, exploring the way that Jesus broke down the barrier between us and God and between different groups of people. Jesus modeled reconciliation for us, and therefore we can humble ourselves and practice reconciliation and forgiveness with the people around us. After the service Mulami Simon said to Bob “it was as if I had told you before-hand what the struggles in our church were! That message was perfect!”

Near the end of the service, the offering was taken. People processed or danced up the aisle to deposit their offering in the box. Those that did not have money gave a handful of corn or a piece of cassava – the fruit of their recent harvest. It was a joyful time, with the thick mass of children and women seeming to pulse and surge as one.  Everyone enjoyed the dancing and singing during the offering.

Mbala offering box 2
 


After the service, we were served another meal of bidia, chicken, beans, and rice, as is customary. We had now eaten 4 times in one day, and it was only 2pm! The church had really hoped that we would bring Bibles and songbooks to sell, but unfortunately neither were available. We did bring some other books though, and several people seized the opportunity to get a book about women’s work, a biography of a Kasaian criminal-turned-pastor, and a new songbook of worship songs to Kasaian tunes. We were grateful to see the commitment, creativity, and simple faith of this community of believers!

Thanks to Jeff Boyd for taking and sharing some of these pictures and videos!