God sometimes gives us word pictures to help us remember things, and to teach us lessons. Concerning providing for our needs, I (Bob) think about how Jesus taught his disciples how the birds of the air do not sow or reap or sore away in barns, and yet God feeds them. Moreover, the lilies of the field neither labor nor spin, yet Solomon in all his splendor was not dressed like one of these (Matthew 6: 25ff). Thus Jesus encourages his followers not to worry; God will take care of them.
I believe that God spoke a word picture to Kristi and I last week. On our way home from our walk to the nearby airstrip in the village of Tshikaji, where we are currently living, we saw several “mitshi mikese,” small baby trees. Immediately upon seeing one of these trees, I thought to myself, “that is a picture of us right now.” We are weak. We are vulnerable. We are small. We are living in a new country. We do not speak the language. We do not understand the culture. So many things are new. We are in a position of vulnerability.
In the area where we are staying, we have seen many small trees which are protected by walls of small sticks, branches and leaves. These walls have been carefully and purposefully placed by persons to protect the young tree from predators such as goats. It is obvious that someone has intentionally sought to protect them.
Likewise, I believe that God has placed special people around us who serve as a shield, as protection, as a buffer during this vulnerable period of transition. Several leaders and members of the Communaute Presbyterienne au Congo (CPC) have come alongside us. Among them, just a few are: Dr. Mulumba, Pastor Mboyamba, John and Gwenda Fletcher, and Simon Ntumba. Dr. Mulumba, the General Secretary of the CPC, met us on the tarmac of the airport when we arrived and escorted us to a pleasant waiting room. He and a few others chatted with us, served us cold drinks, and allowed us to relax as we waited for our luggage to be handled by other members of the CPC. Dr. Mulumba has invited us to join him for worship and fellowship the past two Sundays. He has also arranged for us to live with six different families where we will build relationships and friendships, and learn more about Congolese culture. Pastor Mboyamba, the Director of Evangelism for the entire denomination, has taken two weeks out of his busy schedule to spend time teaching us Tshiluba each day. He also invited us to his home where we were introduced to his family and to Congolese culinary delights. John and Gwenda Fletcher, PC(USA) missionaries, have bent over backwards to make us feel welcome. They have invited us over for several meals and helped us with important logistical details. Gwenda even spent one morning taking us to our new apartment, where we will eventually live, and helped us get a picture of what our future dwelling place will be like. Simon Ntumba, who runs the printing press, made a special trip on Monday to come see us. He invited us to his home on Saturday, and to introduce us to more of the town where we will eventually live. In all of these ways and in manifold others, God is using His people here in Congo to help us during this infantile time of growing, learning, and becoming. How good it is to know that the God of the universe cares for us, His children, even as the Congolese care for their baby trees.