Saturday, December 17, 2011

So, how are things in Congo after the elections?

We wrote in our last newsletter about the elections in Congo and the current political situation. Elections were on November 28, and the results were announced (for the presidential election) on December 9. The incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, was declared the winner by a margin of 48% to 32%.

This election was a landmark for DRC – the first democratic elections organized and controlled by Congo itself in more than forty years. If you have been following the international news, you know that international and independent observers have reported that there were severe irregularities in the election. Congolese people protested the results at their embassies in London, Chicago, Toronto, Brussels, and elsewhere. The atmosphere in Congo remains tense, with many people of the view that Etienne Tshisekedi, the strongest opposition candidate, was the true winner of the election. Despite talks of investigating the irregularities in the election, it is doubtful that another election would be held, or that the president would step down.

We talked to a Congolese colleague last week who is in Kananga. He said that the mood is somber, akin to a funeral. Many people, hopeful for change, are discouraged. This week, the Supreme Court in Congo heard official objections to the election results; today they confirmed Joseph Kabila as the winner and he is scheduled to be inaugurated for his next term next week.

Please pray for peace in Congo, and please pray for hope! Regardless of how anyone feels about these results, we pray that God would give HIS hope to people in Congo and that there would not be violence. It is not easy for the Congolese people to persevere in an oppressive economic and social climate. But one thing that we admire about the Congolese is their resilience and perseverance, and we pray those traits will carry people through in the days ahead.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Advent - A “Political” Event and So Much More

Ashland parade, witch  Fairy Godmother at Ashland Santa Parade

The day after Thanksgiving our family was watching the annual Festival of Light and Santa Parade in Ashland, Oregon.  Of course the usual suspects for Ashland participated:  the Camelot theater company, Southern Oregon University, the local animal shelter, a dance studio company, a few local churches, and Santa and all his helpers.  Sandwiched between these traditional participants were two groups which piqued our curiosity.  First was a group supporting the Occupy Wallstreet Movement.  Second was a group protesting the local ski resort’s plan to expand into the national forest.  One member of our group was troubled by these two groups participating in the parade.  After all, their agenda was strictly “political” in nature, and had nothing to do with Christmas cheer and the season of Advent, or so he reasoned.  Probably others felt the same way.      

Ashland parade, tree lit up

Yet, the entry of the savior into the world was nothing less than a political event.  Matthew tells that that Kind Herod, upon hearing that three wise men had come from the East to worship the king of the Jews, was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him (Matthew 2: 2 – 3).  King Herod feared the prospect of a challenger to His throne.  Later, he would sentence all boys in Bethlehem two years and under to death.  For this reason, Joseph and Mary took Jesus too Egypt where they would live as refugees for some time.  As a preacher in Yreka, CA, would proclaim from the pulpit the following Sunday, “Too often we sanitize our faith.  We put Jesus in the manger and we follow our traditions.  We don’t talk about them being refugees in Africa, or the genocide of Herod.”  There is nothing apolitical about the coming of the King of kings and Lord of lords into this broken world.  There is nothing sanitary about this monolithic event.  This Christmas story is infused with all the rawness of human life and tragedy: pride, fear, jealousy, sadness, loss, mourning, uncertainty, searching, worship, the unexpected, relocation, survival, and ultimately hope. 

Today we live in an unsanitary world which is no different from the world of Joseph and Mary, and the infant Christ child of two thousand years ago. However one feels about the Occupy Wallstreet Movement, one cannot avoid the message that things are not as they should be.  As we think about the ecology of our world, we cannot avoid the sad truth that we have destroyed more trees than necessary for our pleasures and purposes, and done significant damage to a world which has been bequeathed to us for stewardship.  These reminders which walked down the main street of Ashland, OR, are perhaps more appropriate than a mythical Santa and his fairytale reindeer.  These “political” reminders remind us that we live in an imperfect world which cries out for healing, restoration, and ultimate redemption. 

For members of God’s covenant community, Advent is a time to reflect upon the entry into the world of the Christ child.  It is also a time to proclaim that He will come again.    It is a time to ponder with Mary what God will do:  He will come to bring down the rulers from their thrones, He will scatter the proud in their inmost thoughts, He will lift up the humble, He will fill the hungry with good things, He will send the rich away empty, His mercy will be extended to those who fear him, and He will remain faithful to His covenant forever (Luke 2: 50 – 55).  God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.  The birth of Jesus was not only a political event, but also the advent of God’s glorious work of salvation in Christ.  May our hearts be pricked this season by the reality of a God who cannot allow our world to remain the same, a God who yearns for justice and equality, and a God who will humble the proud and exalt the lowly. 

Thank you Ashland, OR, for a good parade…                    

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. 
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. 
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.  (Isaiah 9: 6 – 7)

come to Me, all who are weary

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The joy of cooking

When we moved to Congo, we brought only 1 cookbook: More with Less. This cookbook had already become a friend, both for its philosophy and for its recipes with simple, natural ingredients. I did not know exactly what foods would be available in Kananga, and I must admit that I did not expect the complete dearth of familiar spices, which made cooking comfort food a real challenge! Fortunately, Inge Sthreshley bequeathed a copy of The Babula Cookbook to us, which gave hints of how to use local vegetables in familiar ways.


There were many days when I poured over More With Less, looking for the recipes that would work for us. Imagine—excluding all recipes that require an oven or the common American ingredients like cheese, green peppers, cream of mushroom soup, or boneless chicken breasts. Fortunately, More with Less is written by Mennonites living in all kinds of remote areas – perfect for “from-scratch” cooking, with lots of meatless options. So, I worked my way through the cookbook, marking the date and ranking how well we liked it. I imagined myself reenacting the movie Julie & Julia, with the stark contrast of our settings and the resulting meals.

We learned, gradually, that okra is a very flexible vegetable, and substitutes well for other vegetables like green peppers, broccoli, and carrots, that we don’t have in Congo. Gwenda Fletcher introduced me to the vegetable sellers that have “foreign” vegetables, like spinach, eggplant, and occasionally green beans. I also learned, through trial and lots of error, to cook rice on charcoal, where there is no “simmer” option. On our vacation to Morocco last year, we stocked up on several spices and bags of lentils, and some friends brought us some soy sauce from Kinshasa. So—now we really did have options! Some of our favorite recipes have been Egyptian rice and lentils, huevos rancheros, sweet and sour soybeans, and potato soup. We have also come to enjoy homemade macaroni and cheese and corned beef sloppy joes (as long as you are not expecting the same flavor as you would in the U.S.!).


Bob makes pancakes on the babula – a Saturday morning tradition!

We enjoy local cuisine in Kasai, but we come from a culture that practices culinary variety. So, while we appreciate local food and even eat it at home in Kananga, if we tried to eat it every day we would quickly lose our appreciation for it. So, we continue to explore ways to cook healthy, tasty meals that don’t take too many hours to prepare! One new acquisition during this visit to the US has been a very sturdy kerosene stove –hopefully easier to start and regulate the temperature on than charcoal! We got the stove from Lehmans, who is a major supplier for the Amish – perfect match for our environment in Kananga!

During these months in the U.S., I have been thrilled to get the chance to cook with all the ‘modern conveniences’ like an oven, a refrigerator, and an American grocery store down the street. We have perhaps enjoyed cooking and eating a bit too much here, since we have gained back all the weight we lost in our lean Congo lifestyle. Ah well…at least it is one sign of returning health!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Whispers from God

Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Church in South Barrington IL, writes “Without a hint of exaggeration, the ability to discern direction has saved me from a life of sure boredom and self-destruction.  God’s well timed words have redirected my path, rescued me from temptation and re-energized me during some of my deepest moments of despair.”  In his book The Power of a Whisper (Hybels, 2010), Hybels gives powerful witness and testimony that God continues to speak to His children today. 


Since August, I have visited several doctors and had more tests done on my body than any other period in my life.  At times, this process has felt quite helpful and hopeful; at other times I have felt exasperated and hopeless.  The biggest challenge, medically speaking, has been hearing a diametrically different message from a few select doctors we have seen.  These mixed messages have led to consternation and confusion. 


In the midst of this confusion and befuddlement, I have found solace in a God who continues to speak to His children.  Almost everyday over the last several weeks I have taken a walk along the Belmont Slough in Foster City, CA.  The Belmont Slough is a narrow, winding channel of water creating one of many marshlands next to the San Francisco Bay.  Along this particular slough is a wonderful trail for walking, running, and bicycling.  There are also many benches from which one can watch egrets, ducks, seagulls, and once in a while a lost seal. 


view of birds, reeds  birds


Most days, between noon and two in the afternoon, when few others are out, I will take a meditative stroll.  Recently I have been stopping and resting on a bench where I simply asked God to “whisper” to me.  As I enjoy the sunshine and a gentle breeze, God, in His faithfulness, has given me messages of encouragement.  One time I believe I heard God say to me, “I will never leave you.  I will never fail you.  Take me at my word.  I am yours.  I will never let you go.”  Another time I believe I heard God say to me, “My loving-kindness is for you.  You are my son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Still a third time I believe I heard God say, “I am your King.  I am your Father.  Follow me and know my ways.  Serve me and be blessed.”  Upon hearing these messages (in my spirit), I meditate upon them as I continue walking along the slough.  Always, I have felt uplifted, remembered by God, and more fully loved.  The angst and worry of doctors’ appointments and mixed messages evaporates as God reminds me of His constant love. 


This last week was particularly trying.  After meeting on Tuesday with a specialist who seemed at odds with what I have read and what I believe my body is telling me, I felt wholly perplexed and unsure of myself and what to do.  Thursday morning I took a long walk along the slough where I again found solace and peace.  Though I didn’t feel any specific message in my spirit, God’s goodness and love flooded over me as I enjoyed His wonderful creation.  I had the sense that things would work out, that God would give me the wisdom I need, and that ultimately God would bring healing to my body.     

birds on water  shadow

As God spoke to His servants Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus (His Son), and so many others, God is faithful to speak to His children today.  There are many ways which God continues to speak.  May our hearts be open to the message God has for us.  God is so good! 


The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness” (Jeremiah 31: 3).                 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Psalm 40

In early August, we were in a whirlwind of deciding to return to the US for medical help, making short-notice plans to leave and facing the uncertainty of health and future. In the midst of that whirlwind, Psalm 40 became especially meaningful to me, and it seemed to jump out at me as a fitting description of my hopes and feelings for this time of medical leave. I’ll just share a few of the verses that stand out.

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.” (v1)

Bob had been sick several times in the span of a few months, and we were getting really frustrated, wondering “why??”. In addition, my (Kristi) bouts with depression and hopelessness continued (a side-effect of our malaria medicine). We had cried out to God for each of these things, and in the decision to come back for medical testing, we felt that was part of God’s answer.

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock,
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.” (v2-3a)

Sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees. We were frustrated by each new bout of sickness Bob faced, but saw them as isolated incidences. We needed others to help give us the ‘forest’ perspective –perhaps all these sicknesses are related, and are not what they appear in isolation. We felt like God was taking us out of the ‘mud’ and the ‘pit’ of our frustration and hopelessness, and giving us renewed perspective. With our trust in God, we have a firm place to stand. We pray that we will return to Congo with a "new song in our mouths”, really rejuvenated in body, mind, and spirit!

“I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.
I do not conceal your love and your truth
from the great assembly.” (v10)

In response to the miracle of God’s salvation and faithfulness to us, we don’t want to sit silent. I love the “full-circle” way that David describes what God has done and his response – to share it, and perhaps help others be “lifted out of the mud”.

“Yet I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer,
O my God, do not delay.” (v17)

There is not much we can do on our own. This has become more real to us after a year in Congo. In the face of unknown sickness, or the overwhelming challenges the church faces in Congo, we see our “neediness” and “smallness” in living color. We cry out to our Deliverer, grateful that he is able to surmount the obstacles we can’t.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Half Moon Bay

We just returned from 4 wonderful relaxing days in Half Moon Bay. When we decided it would be best to cancel the vacation to Spain that we had been anticipating with Bob’s parents, we opted for a shorter, “closer-to-home” vacation that would be less taxing. So, for 4 days, we did our best to relax: we made a fire in the fire-place every morning and sat there to read, we had lunches on the beach (and read some more), we took strolls on nearby trails, and enjoyed some great seafood!






And, since we spent hours and hours reading a rather eclectic stack of books, we thought we might share the titles that we were working on:

1. The Feeling Good Handbook, by David Burns, M.D.

2. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand

3. Thyroid Power, by Richard Shames, M.D. and Karilee Halo Shames, R.N., PhD

4. A Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp

5. Between Sundays, by Karen Kingsbury

6. A Shelter in the Time of Storm, by Paul David Tripp

7. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Be Strong…Wait for the LORD!

Two and a half weeks ago we received the fateful phone call from our tropical medicines doctor at Stanford.  She had received our blood results from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, GA.  The results confirmed that both Kristi and I have had schistosomiasis (also known as Bilharzia).  Schistosomiasis is caused by parasitic worms. More than 200 million people are infected worldwide, and it is the second most devastating parasitic disease in the world (after malaria).  Kristi and I have both taken the medication which will kill off the worm and will effectively heal us.  Living in Africa does have risks, eh?

So, how are we feeling?  Because Kristi has been asymptomatic to begin with, her health is relatively good.  For me however, the lingering fatigue and malaise remain.  We were semi-hopeful that the medication for the “schisto” would turn things around.  However, it seems that my health problems may be multi-faceted.  Our best guess is that I am suffering from two or three other conditions.  The first condition is often referred to as Adrenal Fatigue or Adrenal Exhaustion.  Some doctors might refer to it as Non-Addisons Hypoadrenia.  Adrenal Fatigue is caused by constant stress and poor nutrition, which in turn weaken the adrenal glands.  Adrenal dysfunction disrupts the body’s blood sugar metabolism, causing fatigue and weakness and causing one to feel run down.  Constant stress has been our life story living in Congo.  Learning a new language, trying to understand Congolese culture, and dealing with constant requests/demands have taken their toll.  On the other hand, our nutrition in Congo has actually been quite good; thus, there is the probability that my immune system has been weakened by the schisto parasite and perhaps by other parasites as well, and it is therefore probable that I haven’t been able to “absorb” the nutrients of the foods we have been eating.  Thus, a weakened immune system is a second condition we are seeking to address.  A third condition I may be suffering from is low thyroid.  My thyroid tests came back within the normal range, but on the low side.  I have done some reading on low thyroid condition, I am currently doing some extra self-testing, and I will see a specialist again soon to assess the possibility of this condition.

So, the big question, “When will we return to Congo?”  We recently met with our mission leadership of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Louisville, KY.  We were so encouraged by this visit.  They took the time to listen, to pray, and to provide wisdom.  They encouraged us to stay “State side” until I am feeling 90-100% better for a consistent period.  They recognize that going back prematurely will have negative consequences.  They also understand that some of the decisions we make regarding our health and emotions will have ramifications that will affect us for the rest of our lives.

Kristi and I are currently doing a fifty-two day meditation on Psalm 27, following the book A Shelter in the Time of Storm:  Meditations on God and Trouble (2009), by Paul David Tripp.  This morning’s meditation came from the final verse, verse 14: 

Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!                  

Right now Kristi and I are being called to wait.  We are in a “holding tank,” waiting for the right time to return to Congo.  While waiting never seems easy, God is giving us this time to deepen our trust in Him and to strength our faith.  We believe that God has called us to serve Him in Congo, and that He will work all things out in His time.  May our meditation at this time be upon God’s goodness and power, not upon our weakness and infirmity.  As Abraham of old was able to hope against all hope in the promises of God (Romans 4: 18 – 21), may we also hold onto hope.  “God,” writes Tripp, “will guide us on a path we could never have discovered or would never have been wise enough to choose.  He will supply for us every good thing that we need to be what he has called us to be, and to do what he has called us to do in the place where he has put us.”  As we consider the facts of our situation and the challenges we currently face, may we stand resolutely in the knowledge that we have a powerful, mighty God who will see us through and enable us to do the work He has called us to.  With Him we will gain the victory!      

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Those little things in life…

While we are not very excited about the reason that prompted this visit to the U.S., we are grateful for this unexpected opportunity to reconnect with family and be rejuvenated in ways that are familiar to us. We have not been too adventurous with traveling or visiting because of Bob’s low energy, but we have are definitely enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Here are just a few of the things that we appreciate about being in the U.S.

1. The freedom to hold hands in public (as a married couple, no less!)

2. Making chocolate-chip cookies

3. Watching baseball on T.V.

4. And then attending a Giants baseball game in person!

4. Taking a walk and feeling ‘anonymous’

5. Driving on smooth roads

6. Corporate worship in English!

7. Eating hamburgers (Our first week, Bob had 5 hamburgers in 6 days, then decided to ease up a bit)

8. Eating non-tropical fruits, like berries, apples, peaches, etc.

9. Cooking on a gas stove (SO easy to start, and the temperature is consistent and can be regulated!)

10. Throwing clothes in the washer (Amazingly easy! You can wash clothes in almost no time at all with a washer and dryer!)

11. Sleeping at night without noisy disturbances

Saturday, August 27, 2011

And the winner is….Schisto!

The last 2 weeks have been full of doctor appointments and medical tests. Bob has done more blood, urine, and stool tests in 2 weeks than the rest of his life combined! (OK, maybe that is an exaggeration…) One of the key results is that he tested positive for a parasite disease called Schistosomiasis. While the hospital we are working with found a positive result for schistosomiasis (colloquially, “schisto”, for the non-medical folks), the CDC does a more specialized test, and we are still waiting to receive their results. These worms enter your skin in fresh-water sources, carried by snails. Fortunately, there is a medicine that can cure people of schisto. For the last month, Bob has felt unusually tired and weak – lacking energy to go out or be active, and taking multiple naps every day. Yesterday, Bob took the medicine, praziquantel (it is just a one-day course). We are hopeful that in the next couple of weeks his energy will come back and his immune system will regain strength after its long fight with this parasite. We found out this week that I (Kristi) have also tested positive for schisto, although I am asymptomatic, so will also take the medicine while we are in the U.S..

Thank you for the many words of encouragement and prayers for Bob’s recovery! We trust that God is healing Bob’s body and will give us health and energy to embrace life and ministry in Congo!

Our hope continues to be that we will return to return to Congo in early October.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

God’s Amazing Grace!

Last December we were hosted by fellow missionaries in Kinshasa.  Over an amazing meal of pasta and garlic bread, a missionary colleague made this interesting comment:  “Missionaries who go to Asia come back as mystics; missionaries who go to Latin America come back as activists; missionaries who go to Africa come back drinking beer and telling stories!”  I sure got a good chuckle out of this comment.  This blog will include a remarkable story, and a mention of beer.  


As means of background, some of you may know that I (Bob) have been struggling a bit with my health.  I have contracted malaria three times in the last six months, I have had typhoid which stays in your blood for two years, and I have encountered other various smaller ailments which have been frustrating and even debilitating.  For this reason, a missionary colleague and friend, Dr. John Fletcher, advised us to go to the States to do some further medical examinations.  His advice came unexpected, was affirmed by our leadership in the U.S. and in Congo, and just felt right to us.   


Getting out of Kananga last week was nothing short of a miracle.  In July, a Hewa Bora plane crashed in Kisangani.  For this reason, the Congolese government has grounded all Hewa Bora planes.  Thus, currently there is only one passenger carrier (CAA) operating out of Kananga to Kinshasa.  Because the Thursday flight is booked full on a regular basis to begin with, and with Hewa Bora currently out of commission, chances of us getting seats were virtually impossible.  


On Monday evening we visited two of our closest Congolese friends, Mukulu (Elder) Ntumba Simon and Mamu Tshibola Therese.  We told them our situation and plans.  They were very supportive and prayed for us.  We discussed with Mukulu Ntumba and later Dr. John and Gwenda Fletcher ways to get a Thursday flight, considering both the CAA option and the UN.  On Tuesday we learned that the UN does not allow non-UN-personnel to travel for medical purposes.  Feeling deflated but not losing hope, we figured God had another plan.  We then learned that that our friend, Mukulu Ntumba, had gone to the governor’s office that afternoon.  To our surprise and great joy, we shortly thereafter learned that we had two seats for the Thursday flight.  Apparently the governor’s office had intervened.  Mukulu came by that evening to fill in the details.  The Vice-Governor of the Province of Kasai Occidental had two children on that flight.  When Mukulu Ntumba told him our medical/health situation, he generously gave up his two children’s seats.  The Vice-Governor, Pastor Kamuesa, is a Mennonite pastor and serves as the Legal Representative for the Mennonite Church of Congo.  God amazing grace was demonstrated to us through this man!

Mukulu Ntumba Mukulu Ntumba Simon advocated on our behalf!


DSCN3821Mukulu Ntumba Simon and Mamu Tshibola Therese, Kristi and I  at the CPC’s
IMPROKA Print Press in Kananga (June 2010)


Kristi and I arrived at the airport at noon on Thursday.  Our plane would leave at five.  Two close colleagues stayed with us all afternoon, and would see us all the way to the airplane door.  When we arrived at the airport, I still felt anxious about our situation.  After all, we hadn’t yet received our tickets.  I told Kristi, “I will only rest when we are actually inside and have seats.”  It became apparent that my anxiety was adversely affecting our small group sitting in the airport lounge.  I turned to Kristi and said, “I think a beer would really mellow me out right now.”  Kristi, knowing that I only drink occasionally and sensibly, agreed.  Thus, we were able to spend the next three hours relaxing with our colleagues, laughing and reflecting on experiences together, patiently waiting for our plane.  Even though actually getting on the plane turned out to be an amazingly chaotic experience, even for all the members of “the governor’s party” (which included us!), everything worked out in the end. 


We stand in awe of God’s amazing grace, demonstrated through Pastor Kamuesa and his children, our friend Mukulu Ntumba Simon, and our fellow missionary friends Dr. John and Gwenda Fletcher, all of whom helped us in amazing ways.  May God receive the glory!                              

Monday, August 8, 2011

Looking for answers…

In the past year Bob has been sick several times. His body has valiantly fought through 3 cases of malaria, 1 of typhoid, a bacterial infection, flu, inner ear infection, and several other times when he was very weak and tired but no sickness could be diagnosed. Last week, when he got a serious case of vertigo and tested positive again for malaria, our missionary colleague Dr. John Fletcher recommended that we get further medical tests outside of Congo. Perhaps there is some other sickness or problem in Bob’s body that is making him more susceptible to these other sicknesses? We had not expected this advice, but realized that these repeated periods of sickness are draining us physically and emotionally. Living in Congo is not easy, but when you are not healthy the challenge gets compounded.

Our PC(USA) leadership agreed with Dr. Fletcher’s advice, and urged us not to wait to pursue these exams. So, just one week later, we are in Kinshasa getting ready for a return flight to the US. Bob is still weak from his latest round of being sick, so we are laying low and Bob is taking lots of naps.

We are praying for God’s insight in this process to show us the right course to get healthy again. Our hope is that we will be back in Kananga by mid-October. There are a lot of good things going on in CPC that we would like to get back for, so please pray with us that the medical exams will be successful in making some determinations. We are hopeful also that this trip will be ‘holistically restorative’ and renew our vision and perspective for ministry in Kasai.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mother comes home

Tatu Muanda, hardworking, quiet, and congenial, works in our home 3 days a week. We hired him soon after we moved into our apartment last year, to help with cleaning, laundry, and some cooking. He tends to be so easy-going and reserved, that we did not find out for a few months that his wife was in the distant city of Luiza with some relatives. She had traveled to Luiza for the funeral of her mother, then lacked the means or motivation to return home to Kananga. So she stayed in Luiza with some of her grown children and relatives…for 2 years. “She will return.” he told us, “Maybe next month, when the kids are out of school.” One month stretched into several, and we asked Tatu Muanda repeatedly if he had heard anything and if there was anything we could do to help. “She will come,” he always said confidently, “we just wait.”

Mamu Monique with Kristi

Just last week, we heard that his wife, Mamu Monique, had made the 200km (120 mi) trek with some of her children. Then this week she came to our house to visit. We rejoiced at the reunion of the family, and were relieved that Tatu Muanda is no longer alone. “A whole week on the road,” she recounted “walking and stopping to sleep, and walking again. Our whole bodies hurt so bad when we arrived!” She marveled that her blue flip-flops had survived the arduous journey “usually I don’t wear any shoes, but my daughter gave me these for the road.”

Mamu Monique - shoes

“In Kananga, we didn’t have any food to eat, we were dressed in rags. We were so ashamed!” She reflected, referring to life in Kananga before she had gone to Luiza 2 years ago. “So, when my mother died, I went to Luiza. At least there you can grow food because it is rural. In Kananga there is no way if you don’t have money! Tatu Muanda refused the long walk though, so he stayed here.” Now that Tatu Muanda is employed with us, they have some income to buy food and other necessities. While this does not make them rich, we were thrilled to see that at least it was enough motivation for Mamu Monique to return home. She returned with a few of her children and grandchildren. “Now we all want to live in Kananga!” she said.

Not only did she return by foot on the long, sandy, road, but she carried a large squash with her to give to us. “I heard that Tatu Muanda was working with you, and so I decided that I had to come see you. I had to see Muambi Disanka and Mamu Luse!” (our Tshiluba names), she exclaimed. We marveled at her strength and stamina to carry a 10+ lb squash on that multi-day walk. We asked her to show us how she carried it, and she demonstrated how she positioned it on her head with a cloth.

Mamu Monique with squash

So, welcome home Mamu Monique! We are humbled by the labor of love of transporting this squash such a long distance. We enjoyed with much gratefulness some wonderful squash and peanut soup just before we left Kananga this week.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

‘Creation Care’ from Congo

For the last eight weeks I have been part of a team of Congolese pastors and Christian educators.  As a group we have revised and updated Christian Education curriculum and teaching material for Congolese Presbyterian Church (CPC) primary schools in Congo.  Currently, CPC primary schools do not have any material to assist teachers as they instruct students regarding the Christian faith.  A chaplain, Pastor Kabasubabo, who serves a large region of CPC schools, felt burdened that something needed to be done.  By God’s grace we will complete this program and be able to offer excellent teaching material for Christian instruction to all CPC primary school teachers. 


Two weeks ago we were reviewing material for fifth year primary students.  For the first semester, we cited major Old Testament figures such as Deborah, Hannah, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, and a handful of others.  For the second semester, we cited for study the genesis of the Christian Church in the 1st century.  After some reflection, we realized that we hadn’t inserted any material on Jesus and His teachings.  Whoops!  A major mistake!  We decided that a good segue into the birth of the church would be Jesus’ Great Commission to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything [He has] commanded (Matthew 28: 19).  While our group was happy with this course of action, Pastor Mbuyi suggested that we also add another teaching from the ‘Great Commission’, yet this one according to the book of Mark.


Knowledgeable and Biblically literate Christians will know that the traditional, well-known, and oft-cited ‘Great Commission’ is in the book of Matthew.  But, the book of Mark?  What is that all about?  We quickly looked it up as Pastor Mbuyi reminded us all that in Mark, the ‘Great Commission’ is to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15, emphasis added).  Pastor Kayembe and I quipped to each other, “Well does that mean we preach to rabbits and trees as well?”  All joking aside, we concluded together that perhaps the addition of Mark’s Gospel is the need to ‘preach the good news of Jesus Christ’ in all the ways we live in relation to God’s creation.  We then reflected on the theme of stewardship - the need to take care of our cities and villages and how we treat the earth.  By acting this way, we preach ‘the good news’ by honoring God and His creation. 


I was so encouraged and challenged, hearing this message of ‘Creation Care’ and stewardship from my Congolese brothers and sisters.  Perhaps their traditional connection to nature and its rhythms gives them an extra insight into the need to care for our surroundings.  In the Kasaian traditional worldview, religion was an integral part of life, and religious belief had no meaning divorced from all other aspects of life.  Kasaians admire beauty and see God’s power active in nature.  For example, writes Dr. Mulumba Mukundi in his doctoral dissertation, if a Kasaian sees a wonderfully beautiful spot of trees or rocks, etc., he or she wonders, “Why is this spot so beautiful?  Is not this the dwelling place of God?” (Mulumba, 1988).  May we realize afresh that all of nature is the ‘dwelling place of God’ and that we, as stewards, are called to care for creation all around us. 



DSCN3361“Why is this spot so beautiful?  Is not this the dwelling place of God?”



DSCN3353“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; 
the mountains and hills
will burst forth in song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.”  (Isaiah 55: 12)



“Go into all the world and preach to all creation” (Mark 16: 15) 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The grand pond opening

Monday was a much-anticipated day. For the city of Kananga, President Kabila was expected to arrive, and for several days there had been frantic road-repairing, sweeping of boulevards, and political meetings. For us, the focus of the day was the opening of Tatu Henri’s fish-pond.

We woke up early so we could arrive by 7am at his house in the valley. Before we left the house, I tried flipping the light-switch—it worked! Bob smiled, “Ah, the president is coming!” he said. Electricity in the morning, what luxury!

We arrived at Tatu’s Henri’s home in the valley just as he was digging a break in the wall of his fish-pond. Bob helped dig the break in the wall. while all the kids watched eagerly. The water began to spill out, and we watched excited fish swimming and playing in the receding water.

P1100150When most of the water has receded, the kids jump into the mud and start hunting for the largest fish. This pond had been there 6 months, but most of the fish were still small because of lack of resources to feed them properly. That did not seem to matter to the kids though; the excitement in the air felt almost like Christmas morning in our culture.

hunting for fish

Daniel, the oldest of the kids “fishing,” was an expert at catching the fish with his hands.

Daniel with fish

   Each time the kids caught a fish, the would hold it up for the camera. “Papa Bob! Papa Bob! Look!”

kids catching fish

When all the fish are collected into a bucket, Mamu Mbuyi rinses off the mud.P1100279

When all the fish were cleaned, Mamu Mbuyi showed us how to prepare the fish for cooking. She cuts off the fins and tail, scrapes off the scales, and scoops out the inner parts that are not good to eat. This was a first for Kristi! Mamu Mbuyi was amused at how naive I was in this process!


Tatu Henri held his baby daughter, Luse Kristi (Kristi’s “Shakena”) while mom cleaned fish.


And the final product: Bidia and fried fish. Delicious, but I must admit it was not quite what my stomach was used to for breakfast! 

Bidia and bikele



A fun occasion and hospitality that I think even the president would have enjoyed. :) We went home with happy stomachs and happy hearts.  By 10 we had had a full day!  We were grateful for this occasion of participating in “life” of our Congolese friends! 

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Death of Osama Bin Laden (reflections from Congo one month on…)

It was early Monday morning and we were just finishing breakfast.  Kristi received a text from her Dad.  “You’re not going to believe what my dad just wrote?  They have found and killed Osama Bin Laden.”  I was nonplussed.  I didn’t have a response.  I wasn’t happy.  I certainly wasn’t sad.  I just “was.”  My cell phone then buzzed in the bedroom.  I went to grab it.  It was Pastor K. calling.  “Bakushipa Osama.  Nzambi atumbishibue!” (they killed Osama; glory be to God!).  I have to confess, I wasn’t in the mood for praising God for the death of another human being.  But how to respond? 


Throughout the day various Congolese friends and acquaintances cited the fact that Osama was now dead.  “Are you happy?” they would invariably ask.  I have to confess, I was tongue-tied.  I really did not know how to respond.  I would often say one aspect of this phrase, “Many people in America are happy.  In fact, some are celebrating.  But as a Christian, I don’t know if it is right to celebrate the death of someone.  We are called to love our enemies and to pray for them.  I believe justice has been met.  That is good.  But I cannot celebrate.”


Kristi and I are currently reading through the book of Ezekiel.  Ezekiel was a major prophet in the life of the nation of Israel.  Chapter eighteen has given me perspective into the death of Osama Bin Laden.  The theme of this section is repentance, and how each person is responsible for his/her sin (turning from God).  Twice, I repeat twice, God says that He does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked.  In fact, God says that He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone.  God’s one wish is that each person would turn from his/her own wickedness and erring ways, and repent - to finally turn to Him!  In reflecting on the death of Osama Bin Laden one month on, perhaps the most significant message for each of us is this - death will come.  It may not come as suddenly and violently as it did for Osama, but it will come.  After pushing through death’s tragic door, some will live eternally with God, worshipping and glorifying Him.  Some, however, will not.  Through Ezekiel the prophet, God speaks this message, “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18: 20).  It is a message that is also repeated by the Lord Jesus in the Gospels.  Jesus cautions his listeners to enter through the narrow gate, “for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7 :13).  Jesus tells the story of the rich man in hell, enduring torment and eternal agony because he did not care for the poor man Lazarus (Luke 16: 23 – 31).  Jesus compares the sheep and the goats - some will will go away to eternal punishment while others will  inherit eternal life (Matthew 25: 31 – 46).     


The opportunity to turn to God is always there.  Ezekiel chronicles how those who were once wicked turned themselves over to righteousness before a most holy God.  Others began on the path of righteousness but then turned to paths of self-indulgence and idolatry.  God states emphatically in this section of Scripture that we are each responsible for our own eternal welfare.  It was a message Israel needed to hear.  It is a message we need to hear. 


Death will come.  Are we prepared?         


Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit.  Why will you die, O house of Israel?  For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD.  Repent and live!  (Ezekiel 18: 31 – 32). 

Friday, July 8, 2011

From Demba to Diarrhea…

Today we were supposed to start our long walk to Demba. We were rather disappointed that it got postponed, but grateful also to see God’s protection and guidance in the process. This week, we had been vascillating about whether we should still go, because Bob was feeling weak physically and we feared that it was too soon after he had been sick with malaria and typhoid a few weeks ago. We really wanted to go—we felt that it would be a great learning experience for us and the change of scenery might be an encouragement to our spirits. Each day we prayed that God would make it clear, and each day we were unsure what to do. On Wednesday, 2 days before we were to leave, we decided to go see the doctor – maybe if we could verify that the malaria and typhoid were gone, it would be a ‘green light’ to go. We were somewhat surprised to hear the doctor give his ‘go-ahead’ and wish us a good journey. “But if you had diarrhea…then I would say that you could not go.” he said. So, we return from the doctor somewhat hopeful; and then within an hour Bob got a serious case of diarrhea. After about 6 trips to the bathroom in 1 evening, it was clear that this was the confirmation we were waiting for. We wouldn’t be able to make the trip this weekend.

Thursday morning, our colleague Pastor Mboyamba said he needed to talk to us. He carefully explained that while they supported the idea and desire of this journey, due to some current security concerns on that particular road and concerns from several people about protecting our health, he was requesting that we postpone the trip. He said that he had really struggled with the decision, which is why he had waited until the last day to tell us. We were relieved…it was much easier for us to agree to his decision when we had already come to the same conclusion ourselves the night before. And, we are relieved by the double-confirmation that this really was the right decision. We are still disappointed, and really want to make this trip –perhaps later this year.

Last weekend we did a ‘trial’, walking to Tshikaji and back, which is approx. 15 km each way. We were tired and sore afterward, but it did give us confidence that we could do a longer distance. Here are a couple of pictures from that trip. We also encountered several people along the way who provided good conversation or helped guide us when we were a bit unsure.

Kristi back walking Kristi in her “walking dress”. The hardest part about
walking here is the soft sand on the roads!

Tshikaji walk Bob coffee stop We stop for a short break on the way home – the local “Starbucks”


You would not believe how much sand was in our shoes!

For those of you who read our newsletter and would like to support the distribution of Bibles in Kasai in connection with our walk—we hope that you will still consider supporting this effort. We will let you know when we are able to reschedule the walk!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cross-cultural Logistics

We are in the process of preparing for a youth conference for the CPC. Youth representatives from all of the 12 synods in Congo have been invited. It has been 4 years since a conference like this was held for youth, so we are hopeful that it will be a big encouragement and source of equipping to the faith of the youth. Both Bob and I have been involved in planning conferences and events in the past in the US and Rwanda. We expected the logistics to be more challenging in a place like Congo where infrastructure is limited. But it still takes me by surprise sometimes…

A few weeks ago, we were discussing the invitation letters that were sent to each of the 12 synods. It went something like this:

Bob: “Central Synod. check. We took their invitation with us last week to Munkamba and asked Pastor Wetunganyi to deliver it. Synod of the North. Check. I sent it via e-mail last week to Pastor Mboyo. We should call to confirm that they received it.”

Pastor Mbikayi: “I also sent their invitation via train last week. And the one to the Synod of the South East went right away, because I knew someone going there.”

Bob: “What about Tshikapa? How do we get the invitation to Tshikapa? Is there a way to send it by vehicle, or by plane? Can we call them and ask?”

(Pastor Mbikayi tries to call the synod exec, and the call does not go through. He finds the number for someone else in Tshikapa)

Pastor Mbikayi (on the phone talking to the clerk of the Tshikapa synod.): “How should we send the invitation letter to you? By plane? Is there someone at the airport that we should address it to who can get the letter to you?”

…yes, we live in the age of instantaneous communication. But we are also in a part of the world where sending a single piece of paper can be a major project.

That was just one piece! Then we have the matter of where people will sleep, how the cooking will be done, etc. The conference will be held on the site of one of CPC’s nursing schools, so the dorms will house the students. But, of course, there are not enough mattresses, or bathrooms, and only one burner to cook for 200 people. This promises to be a good learning experience for us. :) Thankfully, our colleagues have plenty of experience and connections to hopefully find solutions to all the ‘logistical challenges.”

We welcome your prayers for this youth conference. It will be July 26-28 in Tshikaji, near Kananga. In Congo, unpredictability and flexibility are a way of life. We trust God to guide all the preparations and accomplish HIS purposes in the conference!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mupongo (Witchcraft) in the Kasai of Congo

On the outskirts of the large village of Bilomba, we seven pastors sat in an oblong semi-circle with the three children huddled closely together at the edge of the cement walkway of the school building.  All questions were directed to the three.  Each answered as he/she was asked.  The three squirmed a bit in their obvious respect for authority.  The night was black and the mood was solemn.  Our interview of the three children was direct, completely serious, and apparently very necessary.  The three children had been accused of mupongo (witchcraft) and had admitted their crime.  Earlier that evening their older brother, Kabonga, had been interviewed as well, and had confessed.  We prayed for these four children.

100 francs, mupongo Kabonga confessed to giving 100 Congolese francs belonging to his father to a “muena mupongo” (witch) who
thus rendered Kabonga’s father incapable of finding work or finding money for the family; Kabongo also confessed to giving small pieces of
material from the clothing of his three younger siblings, thus giving the muena mupongo power to “eat” (metaphorically speaking) them,
‘eat’ meaning to have power over their lives and ultimately to kill them. 


Mupongo is a dominating feature of the Kasaian worldview.  Fear of mupongo and “bena mupongo” (those who practice withcraft) have a stranglehold upon the hearts and minds of the people.  Because mupongo is an issue that wasn’t properly understood or sought to be understood by most missionaries who came to the Kasai of Congo, it was glossed over as “superstition.”  Looking back, this reality is tragic.  Missionaries who came with the Good News of the Gospel, news which has the power to set persons free from fear and every stronghold which enslaves, failed to deal with a central issue for the Kasai people.  Modern western missions of the last two centuries, despite historic successes, often failed to take seriously indigenous cultures and worldviews.  Since the Enlightenment Period, the western worldview valuing logic, reason, rationalism and the material world, has been perceived by westerners to trump all other understandings of reality.  Looking back, this cultural hegemony has resulted in negative implications.  One of which is a lack of understanding of mupongo in the Kasai, and how it affects the daily life of the people.  According to Dr. Mulumba, General Secretary of the Congolese Presbyterian Church (CPC), the CPC is sadly ill-equipped to help persons and communities dealing with mupongo (a legacy from the missionary period).  However, he and other church leaders who seek to give voice and understanding to their culture and their Kasaian worldview, have found constructive ways to minister to “mupongo bound” persons and to set them free in the Name of Jesus. 


The day after the initial interview with the four children, we met with them along with their parents in their home.  In front of their parents, the four children individually, one by one, renounced mupongo.  We prayed for them, that God would remove this spirit.  After two hours of continued interviewing, confessing and praying, we finished our time by praying for the family as a whole.  While there was solemnity and seriousness throughout the entire duration, there was rejoicing at the end.  I was impressed with this group of pastors with whom I ministered.  They knew what they were doing, they acted with authority and humility, they gave dignity to the children and to their parents, and they served this family in a culturally-sensitive and pastoral way.   

pastors and family We pastors rejoiced with the family afterwards! 


I will relate more about the specifics of the actual witchcraft beliefs of the Kasai people in another blog or newsletter.  For now, let me say that the Bible cites the reality of evil in our world and evil’s multitudinous forms.  Deuteronomy 18: 10, 11 gives the most explicit Old Testament prohibitions against sorcery, witchcraft, and divinatory activities.  According to Dr. Mulumba who wrote his PhD disseration on witchcraft (Mulumba, 1988), those who practice such things break faith with God, and do not trust in him alone for guidance.  Kasaians are very aware of the spiritual world and evil, and they have much to teach us as their worldview concerning the spiritual world lines up closer to the the biblical understanding of reality.  Dr. Mulumba also makes the important concession that whether mupongo is scientifically real or imagined, Kasaian culture confirms it.  Thus to relate meaningfully to Kasaian people in this area, it is best to have an “understanding heart to understand their problem of mupongo.”  Such was my experience with the six pastors I ministered with in Bilomba.     

Mukundi, Bob, Kabaseli, Tshiwala Pastors Kabaseli and Tshiwala (on my right), Elder Mukundi (on my left)

Breakfast in Bilomba - do you prefer sardines or corned beef? We spent three days ministering in Bilomba; here we are having breakfast Sunday morning before church. 
Everyone (except me) ate sardines every day!


There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an auger, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer…For these nations, which you are about to dispossess, give heed to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do.  (Deuteronomy 18: 10,11)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Waking up the market

Jackoo headshot

It’s me, Jackoo! My people finally let me blog again! I want to tell you what a star I’ve become on our street. Every morning, I get to wake up the neighborhood and see to it that the street-side market on Lake Fwa street comes to life. It’s a tough job sometimes, but I make the best of it. I’ll tell you how the schedule goes: At about 6:30 every morning, I wake up with the sun and Kristi moves me to my balcony perch while Bob starts the fire. I relieve myself (I try to be very consistent, only relieving myself in the outdoor cage…), scrounge for some food, and find a good perch.

market 6 15AMThe street-side market on Lake Fwa street at 6:15AM 

I start my wake-up calls, softly at first to ease people into the day. I get excited when the sparrows and little birds in the tree near me come scrounging for scraps under my cage. They can pick up and fly—something I have always wanted to do, but never got to learn. I do my best to imagine though, squatting low, lifting my wings, and making a trilling whistle like a plane taking off. Maybe someday. The first to arrive in the market are Tatu Martin and a newcomer who makes fresh donut-holes and coffee every morning – a big hit on the street!

market - 6 30AM

6:30AM – Tatu Martin (right) is setting up
and the donut-maker has started her fire

Then, my favorite part – foot traffic picks up on the street, while big people head to work and students go to school. Some of the kids know me now, and call greetings to me as they pass. I love it when they call my name, and whistle so that I can imitate them. I try to make sure that everyone knows that I’m here, and help the market-sellers be AWAKE.


market 7AM 2

7:00AM – a few people have stopped for donuts and coffee (left) 

One of the other early-birds is Elizabeth, who sells peanuts and cassava, and also has a good clientele for coffee in the morning (even Bob sometimes!). She sweeps the sand around her stall, and makes a few trips across the street with her stuff that is stored in our building at night. By 7:30 AM there are lots of people and voices in the street, and I have to be extra loud to keep up.

market 730AM

7:30AM – the street starts to get lively!

It is not too long before the shoe-repair guy who sits by the tree arrives, and the restauranteers set up their huts and start preparing beans and rice. Rush hour ends though, and the street is a bit quieter, so I take a little break to play. I know the market sellers value my whistles and calls, but everyone needs a break!

Market 9AM 9AM – all the regulars have arrived by now. One of the
restaurants is on the right, with a white sheet in the doorway.

I do my best to savor my “people-time” every morning, because when the sun gets hot, everyone heads for the shade. Tatu Martin puts up a screen on his stall, Elizabeth hangs up a sheet, and by noon, even I have had enough. It’s time to head inside for my afternoon nap! BOB!! Did you hear me??

market 11AM 11AM – Start looking for shade!

Monday, May 30, 2011

At long last…Tshikapa!

Tshikapa…the third largest city-center in the two Kasai Provinces.  A bustling city full of  life, energy, and diamonds, the city of Tshikapa actually has electricity at all hours for those who can pay.  We arrived at 12:30am after a grueling 13 hour drive which included one mud-bog-from-hell which threatened to swamp our vehicle for the entire night – only providence saved us, coming in the form of two PNMLS (governmental AIDS organization) vehicles which pulled us out deep into the night.  Of course, once you arrive 265 kilometers from home and are greeted by eager church leadership, you can’t just go to bed.  There is fellowship, food, and drinks (beer or soda).


I have been told that the church in Tshikapa sometimes feels overlooked because they are so far from Kananga (the center of the Congolese Presbyterian Church).  Thus, when folks in the Synod of Tshikapa learned we were coming to conduct a seminar, they showed up in big numbers.  Each of the 10 presbyteries was asked to send 5 delegates (3 elders, the presbytery exec., the presbytery moderator).  Each presbytery was well represented.  One pastor, Simon Kuete, from the “frontier,” or the border with Angola, had walked 200 kilometers (120 miles) to be with us.  It took him 3 full days.  I thought 13 hours of mudslinging in our LandCruiser was rough!

P1100016 Pastor Simon Kuete, from the “frontier'” and I


Pastor Mboyamba (Director of the Evangelism) has been facilitating this particular seminar in various synods for the last 4 years.  The emphasis of the seminar is to help the laity, or members of the church, better understand their role as stewards of the resources God has given them and their responsibility to help the church move forward.  Topics covered in our Tshikapa seminar included:  the work of the laity in the church, the responsibility of church leadership, information on HIV/AIDS, reasons why we give to God, and information on how to start local development projects.  The delegates paid close attention to the teachings, eagerly took notes, had lots of great questions, and were alive with energy and enthusiasm.  One oft-uttered refrain from the lips of Pastor Mboyamba was, “bukebikebi udi nsapi wa tshidimukilu,” meaning, “evangelism is the key to development.”  Changed lives and changed hearts lead to changed communities.

P1090946   Pastor Mboyamba teaching

P1090949Women in leadership, taking notes

P1090998 All the delegates (with us)


One elder, Mukulu Maou Muanza, the stated clerk of one of the presbyteries in Tshikapa, seems to exemplify much of the teachings that were given.  By Congolese standards, he is quite affluent.  He owns a parcel of land on the outskirts of town where diamonds are mined.  With this business, he and his wife live fairly comfortably and each of their children lives in the United States.  We stayed in their home where he and his wife gave up their bed for me to sleep on; they slept upright on the couches in the living room.  Mukulu Maou loves to welcome guests, and the hospitality shown by he and his wife, Mamu Rose Kapinga, was exceptional.  During our visit, he took time away from work to be with us.  On our last day in Tshikapa he bought a goat for us to feast on.  I learned that when the Congolese Presbyterian Church (CPC) has their bi-annual General Assembly, he helps the delegates with travel, allowing them use of his vehicle and paying for gas.  We learned from a pastor friend in Kananga (who happened to do his internship in Tshikapa) that Mukulu Maou has given sacrificially to help many seminary students complete their studies.  Mukulu Maou stands out as a good example of someone in Congo who is helping the work of the church move forward, with his own personal funds.  Of course, countless other less-visible examples could be given of Congolese giving sacrificially to help God’s work.  On this recent trip, I was particularly struck by Mukulu Maou, who has decided to use his riches to invest in things that will last beyond this life.  May God bless he and countless others in Congo who give of themselves for the sake of God’s Kingdom.                                          

P1100012 Mukulu Maou Muanza and Mamu Rose Kapinga


The church in Tshikapa appears to be alive and thriving.  In the midst of so much exploitation by other countries in Congo, it is refreshing to see resources from the mineral-rich soil of Congo being used by God’s stewards to help the local people and the CPC church at large.  I am thankful for the people I met: Pastor Kuete, Mukulu Maou, Mamu Kapinga, and many others.  May God continue to bless the work of their hands and honor them for their sacrificial giving.   

Friday, May 27, 2011

Praying for Alabama

Last week we attended a prayer meeting here, held specifically for those affected by the recent tornadoes and flooding in the south-east of the U.S. The Presbytery of Nganza, located near us in Kananga, is one of the sister-presbyteries to the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley in Alabama. When people in Kananga heard about the devastation caused by the tornadoes, they grieved for their friends and sister churches in Alabama. They called a day of prayer, and designated 2 locations in the presbytery for congregations to gather.


We gathered at Ditalala parish at about 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning. It happened to be a holiday here, so kids were out of school. Most of the adults, especially women, earn their income from the informal sector of market-selling or farming, so it was a definite sacrifice for them to give up their work for the day. At least 8 choirs, including adults, youth, and children, added to the worship with their songs.


Pastor Charlotte Keba facilitated the service, and most of the pastors in the Presbytery were present. Pastor Tshiyoyo, the stated clerk of the Presbytery, described the effect of tornadoes and the flooding. Bob also shared some news and prayer requests that we had heard from church-members in Alabama. When it was announced that 300 people had been killed just in the state of Alabama in this disaster, there were audible gasps and groans. The congregation was empathetic when they heard about buildings being destroyed, families being out of work and not having a place to live; people in Congo understand those devastating ‘curveballs’ that happen too often in life.

Pastor Keba - Nganza prayer Pastor Charlotte Keba leads the service

choir Nganza prayer mtg This choir sings “God is our fortress and strength”


Pastor Sylvain Kazadi, the moderator of Nganza Presbytery, preached a message from Romans 8:31-39. Pastor Kazadi emphasized that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ. Suffering is real, but we can overcome all things because God loved us. Pastor Kazadi then led the congregation in several specific times of prayer. We prayed for healing for the wounded, shelter and provision for those in need, and the rebuilding of churches. We asked God to give wisdom in the use of resources to assist, and that those with the ability to help would be led by God. We prayed also that God’s grace and forgiveness would be known to all, and those who had turned away from God would be drawn back to Him. The congregation prayed that their Christian brothers and sisters affected by this disaster would stay true to their faith in the midst of suffering.

DSCN4760 Everyone intercedes for those affected by these disasters.

Pastor Kazadi prayer - Nganza prayer

Pastor Sylvain Kazadi leads everyone in prayer

Towards the end of the meeting, they had a ‘roll-call’ of all the parishes in that section of the Presbytery. For every parish called, there were at least a few people present. It was especially impressive to see the large turnout from Tshikaji, perhaps 10 kilometers from where we gathered. They counted 211 people in attendance – many had walked a few hours to get there.


Partnership – it is a lofty-sounding word, perhaps, and implies people working together for a common goal. The Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley in Alabama has invested a lot of people and resources in Congo, and specifically in this Presbytery of Nganza. This prayer meeting was a living example for us of the ways that, despite the limited material resources in Congo, this partnership is not a one-way street. The Christians of Kananga took seriously the call to intercede for their brothers and sisters in trouble.


(from left) Pastor Kazadi, Mamu Fifi, Mamu Kamuanya Niklette, 
Mamu Biakupangana Bijou, and Pastor Tshiyoyo;
Mamu Fifi is the facilitator of the sewing program,
with assistance from the other 2 women.

After the prayer meeting, Pastor Kazadi hosted all of the leaders and pastors of the presbytery for a meal in his home (can you imagine serving lunch to 50 hungry people in your house??). They ‘inaugurated’ new sewing machines and equipment that had recently been donated by the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley to restart and expand a program to teach young women to sew. It seemed to be a fitting cap to the day, and brought the impact of this Partnership full circle. Praise God for the ways that he gifts us to be a blessing to others!