We just returned from our first visit to Mbuji-Mayi, the capital of Kasai Oriental, the province next-door to us to the east. It was a grueling 180km (about 110 miles) drive to Mbuji-Mayi, which we likened to the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland—for 9 hours straight! We enjoyed meeting leaders in the church there, visiting families in their homes, and seeing the ‘life of the church’ in Mbuji Mayi. One of our highlights was meeting with the women’s leadership from the Synod and presbyteries that Mbuji-Mayi is located in. Three times we were hosted for a meal in different churches by groups of women, and each time we grew more impressed with the strength and faith of the women of the church.
In each place, we were joyfully greeted with song and dance as we drove up to the church. It is hard not to feel welcomed and joyful when you are received this way. We were served a big meal (and feeding the car-load of people we traveled with is an undertaking!) and then heard from them about their activities and life in the church. Culturally, women have a big role to play in farming, working, taking care of their families, and being the social and emotional ‘glue’ in the community to keep people together. This means that being involved in the church does not come easily!
First, the women of CPC typically divide their parishes into ‘cells’, and the women of each cell meet once per week to pray, study the Bible and worship. The women of each parish have a monthly combined meeting, and every 3 months the women of several parishes or an entire presbytery will meet in one location for a ‘unity meeting’. These women typically travel to all of these meetings by foot, which means walking for 2 or more hours if going to another parish! Each year they have a women’s conference for the presbytery and the synod, which we are anxious to visit sometime soon. At their conferences, women learn how to teach the Bible, lead singing, facilitate women’s activities in the parish, and cultivate healthy relationships in their families, as well as physical skills like soap-making and cooking. These conferences are an important time for women to learn and teach, because it empowers them to teach and have confidence to voice their opinions in their parishes.
In each group of women, we were impressed with the projects that they have started to improve the lives of the poor in their parishes. We were especially impressed that most of these projects are initiated and funded by the women themselves! Several times we heard a story like, “the women of the committee each contributed what they could, and we came up with $10. So we bought a few chickens….” Or, “We loaned the $10 we saved to a woman who did not have a job, and told her to put the money to use.” Or, “We were able to buy supplies to make and sell soap.” Amazing how many possibilities there are with a little creativity!
One women shows off the clothing that she made.
The women dye fabric as a cooperative project and sell it.
The women of the Presbytery of Mbuji-Mayi stand in the corn of
their cooperative field. The proceeds from the harvest helps start
new projects, provides food for their families, and also supports
the local parish and the women’s department of CPC.
The women of the Bipemba parish slowly built a house with the
proceeds from their field! The house is rented to 2 families, and
provides an income of $5 per month to support women’s activities.
They hope to start building a second house!
Each time we heard their stories, we left impressed. These women have strength and faith to persevere in the midst of many challenges. It is a challenge for everyone here to feed their children and pay the school fees, and keep their families healthy. But these women choose to put God first, make time for worship and prayer, and therefore find strength and creativity to face these needs together. In each location, they expressed a desire to partner with women in the U.S., to encourage and strengthen each other, and to find support to grow some of their projects. We think that we have lots to learn from them! :)