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!