Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On Vacation (Kenya, Tanzania)

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!  Kristi and I are in Nairobi, Kenya, and Zanzibar (Tanzania) for vacation the month of December.  We are thoroughly enjoying our time, being refreshed in body, spirit, and mind.  We have been staying at our friend Eric’s apartment in Nairobi, which serves in part as a veritable theological library. 

For fun, here are the titles of books we are reading, skimming, and perusing.  The first five listed grabbed our attention from Eric’s shelves!  The second five are books we brought with us (mostly via kindle). 

1.  Redeeming Creation, Fred Van Dyke, David C. Mahan, Joseph K. Sheldon, Raymond H. Brand

2.  Evil and the Justice of God, N.T. Wright

3.  Slaves, Women & Homosexuals, William J. Webb

4.  The Radical Disciple, John Stott

5.  Just How Married Do You Want to Be?  Jim and Sarah Sumner


6.  Dr. Not Afraid, Winifred Kellersberger Vass

7.  The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar

8.  Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins

9.  Portfolios of the Poor:  How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a day, Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, Orlanda Ruthuen

10.  Dancing in the Glory of Monsters, Jason Stearns


Book Shelf, Eric's Eric’s collection of books is remarkable, one could browse for hours
(pictured is one of his two major book shelves)


We send you our warmest greetings!  We will be back to Congo in early to mid-January, and will resume our regular weekly blog posts. 


God Bless! 

Bob and Kristi


B&K, restaurant

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Are you rich or poor?

Recently we meditated on the passage in James 2 exhorting people not to show favoritism to wealthy or “important” people. One verse stood out to me, “…Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5)

I enjoy this paradox, and this reminder that wealth in this world is not what determines the value of a person. Congo, of course, is known for its severe poverty, and we have gotten to know several families in Kananga who really struggle to have food to eat or to get medical treatment when they get sick. Yet, we are repeatedly impressed with the strong faith, the resilience, and the generosity of these people who are desperately poor in material things.

One of our favorite people in Kananga is Mulami (deacon) Elizabeth. She is nearly 70 years old, but arrives at about 6:30 AM each day to set up her stall in the small market across the street from our house. She sells peanuts, coffee, and sometimes boiled cassava all day, in the hot sun and frequent rain. She clears out her stall and packs up to go home around 6:30 PM. Whenever we need a trustworthy source to tell us about something happening in the neighborhood, we turn to her. When we were preparing for the big youth conference last year, she came along to show me where to buy corn in large quantities and make sure we got a good price. She provides food for her children and grandchildren – selling tiny bags of peanuts that cost 5 cents each. She has experienced plenty of hunger, want, and sickness, yet she is full of faith and hope and really has a gift for serving others.

Mulami Elizabeth at her stallMulami Elizabeth works her stall selling peanuts and coffee

This year I read a book called When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. Using principles gleaned from Bryant Myers’ book Walking with the Poor, they describe poverty as a product of broken relationships with ourselves, others, God, and creation. Our poverty and brokenness in those relationships manifests itself in the economic, social, religious, and political systems we create, which are often unjust and flawed. All of us are or can be poor…perhaps because of a flawed view of our inherent value as a person, perhaps because we don’t care how we are polluting the environment, perhaps because of old wounds in our family that still haunt us, or perhaps because we don’t recognize God’s existence and authority. I think this is an important principle…I need to realize my own poverty before I can really connect in a meaningful way with people who might be labeled poor because of their material status.

In the gospels, Jesus often says things that are unexpected or counter-cultural to his audience For example in Luke 6:20 Jesus says “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.”, and then in 6:24 “Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.” Some people have said that Jesus is proclaiming a “reversal of fortunes.” In the midst of all the evil and injustice in our world, this is hopeful news! There are unique blessings and gifts that God has and will give to those who have gotten the “short end of the stick” in this life because of where they were born or what happened to them. Those who are suffering, oppressed, or materially poor have riches to share!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Congolese Refugees

God is our refuge and strength, and ever present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46: 1 – 2, 7)

Fifteen days ago we sat in the General Secretary’s office on a Thursday afternoon.  We were advised by a missionary colleague to inform him of our forthcoming trip to Rwanda.  We explained to him that we have many friends in Rwanda whom we were planning to visit during our forthcoming vacation.  Dr. Mulumba, the General Secretary, lovingly but directly told us that going to Rwanda at this time was a bad idea.  He warned us that to do so would cause ANR, the Congolese security forces, to track us and suspect us of being spies upon our return.  Deflated and feeling shell-shocked by his advice, we sat below our apartment on a cement block, wondering what to do.  Of course, we could just go to Kenya and not beyond (to Rwanda), but that just felt lackluster and gave no appeal.  We toyed with some ideas over the weekend of how to re-present our case to Dr. Mulumba. On Monday we realized that it was a lost cause when Larry Sthreshley, a veteran missionary colleague based in Kinshasa, affirmed Dr. Mulumba’s fears and advised us not to visit Rwanda at this time.  He told us that relations between Rwanda and Congo are the worst they have been in ten years.  Our decision was made, we would not go.

The next day the city of Goma (1 million people) fell into the hands of the M23 rebels, a group reported by the UN as being supported by Rwanda and Uganda.  The next day Larry emailed Dr. Mulumba from Kinshasa, informing him that M23 was threatening to forge alliances with the political opposition and possibly march on Kinshasa.  Dr. Mulumba acted quickly, advising Larry to inform a group from Charlotte (NC) to not come to Congo at this time.  He also advised us to start our vacation early, catching the Saturday plane for Kinshasa, so that we could leave the country the following week.  His concern was that if we waited, Kinshasa might be a mess in a week or two.  Three days later we were in Kinshasa, and by late afternoon Monday we found ourselves in Nairobi. 

Right now we feel like “Congolese refugees,” though our plight is nothing like the one faced by half a million Congolese in Eastern Congo who have had to flee their homes, now living in internal displacement camps or makeshift living arrangements.  I have read accounts of families living in tents, with wet mud as their floor as the rains have begun.  I have read about M23 killing randomly and at-will in Goma, causing the population to live in fear.  It is the sad, familiar story of Congo.  A corrupt government which isn’t able to protect its people finds itself challenged from inside and out.  The story of Rwanda and Uganda using proxy militias to enforce their own selfish aims and objectives in the volatile east, with almost no outcry from the international community.  A story which may continue with more suffering, more displacement, more killings, more injustice, and more stories of heart-wrenching sadness.

Congo, displacement in the East
Woman with child, displaced in Eastern Congo 

**photo from BBC article, Nov. 30th 2012

In the midst of this upheaval and tumult, God has given us His peace.  He has provided us a place to stay in Nairobi, and we are feeling grateful.  We continue to pray for Congo and we hope we can return as planned in early January.  Our long-term prayer for Congo is that she would experience lasting peace and good governance.  That prayer feels almost like an impossible prayer, as current events seem to sabotage this land once again.  We trust that God will work out his plans in the midst of the messiness and utter pain so many are currently experiencing.  We, too, are feeling the pangs of being displaced, and we can only trust that God will use this time according to His sovereign plan and purposes.                      

Monday, November 19, 2012

Creative attempts to help

We are surrounded by very real physical needs. There are often people who come to us asking for help – sometimes people we know, sometimes people we don’t know. We do want to interact with individuals and show compassion, but we realize that sometimes our attempts to help could be harmful – to the person we are trying to help, and/or ourselves. Here are a few testimonies of people who we are trying to help in constructive ways.

Tatu Mbuta showed up at our door one day asking for help. He looked extremely thin and obviously poor. He said that he attended the same local parish we do, but we did not know him. We helped him once with a little food, but knew that was not the answer. After he had showed up several times, we started asking about his family and asked for verification from a trusted source who knew his family. His mother is a widow, and neither he nor his mother are physically able to do much manual labor, so they struggle to put food on the table. They do attend our local parish, and she receives a tiny amount of support from the church along with some of the other widows there.

One of the elders we consulted suggested we give Mbuta some occasional work to do as a constructive way to help them. So…we gave him an empty plastic bottle that had been used for cleaning powder, and a sample pastoral collar. He very successfully cut up the bottle to make 4 white strips that could be used for pastoral collars. Lots of times, we have heard pastors request help in getting “vestments” (pastoral shirts, collars, robes, etc.) These are not so commonly used in the U.S. anymore, but they are still seen as important to church life in Congo. We have wanted to find a way to locally produce the collars (pastoral shirts and robes can hopefully be made locally too!). So – he helps us to meet a need for supplies for pastors, and we help him and his mother meet the need to eat.

, pastoral collars

Tatu Muanda works in our home – doing laundry (by hand!), mopping floors, and doing a little cooking. He has been a quiet, hard-working, and trustworthy presence in our home for almost 2 years. One of the things we appreciate about him is that he never complains and rarely asks for anything beyond his normal salary. His wife, however, who returned from her home village last year, is a little more outspoken. When we see her, she always mentions the old roof sheeting on their house that is full of holes. She animatedly exclaims “Is this a house? No! It is as if we are sleeping outside! When it rains, we don’t sleep; we get wet!”

We mulled around what to do. We did not feel right purchasing a new roof for him outright, but we know that his meager salary coupled with limited financial tools for the poor make saving for a large purchase nearly impossible. In mid-October, we proposed to him that if he felt getting a new roof was a priority, we were willing to help him save by deducting a small amount of his salary each month. Then, we would “match” whatever he had saved toward the purchase of new roof sheets a few months from now. He was appreciative of the idea, and said he wanted to start the next month. At the end of October, I paid him his salary. He carefully counted out 10,000 Congolese francs and handed it back to me. “Getting a new roof is a good idea. I want to start this month!” So – we’ll see what the outcome is – but we are grateful to have the hope of a better home for him.


Kristi stands with Monique, Tatu Muanda’s daughter, in front of his home.
André, her oldest son standing in front of her, died a few weeks ago.

The needs around us far outstrip our creativity and resources. However, seek to empower the church in their efforts to help the poor, and also be sensitive to God’s spirit and available to try to engage with individuals ourselves in constructive ways.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why did Tshituka die?



A few weeks ago Kristi wrote a blog post about some friends of ours who lost two children within one month.  Tshituka, their two-year old daughter, died only weeks after Mamu Vicky gave birth to their son.  Their son died right after delivery; doctors told them that their son died due to malaria.  

But why did Tshituka die?  When a calamity happens in the Kasai of Congo, the important question is generally not “how” but “who.”  Their worldview is one of cause and affect.  In my western mindset, Tshituka probably died because her body was weak from malaria.  Being young, malnourished and already sick, her fragile body could not handle their long trek to the village.  Is my hypothesis correct?  Well, yes…according to me.

Others have different notions.  Mulami Simon’s son Victor tells us the reason Tshituka died.  He says that Mamu Vicky’s older brother caused Tshituka to die because Mulumi Simon hadn’t helped him buy a goat for the dowry he needed.  Mamu Mbuyi of Kananga 1 parish has another idea.  She says that Tshituka died because Mulami Simon took some things from the church when he stopped worshipping there.   

Who is right?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that it is easy for me to quickly pass off such notions.  In doing so, however, I miss a learning opportunity.  I miss out on understanding how relationships work here, and the tension people face when death and disease come knocking.  Please note that this cause/effect way of seeing things is not limited to Kasaians.  In the Old Testament, Job’s friends assumed that Job must have done something wrong to deserve such gross affliction.  Of course they were wrong, but his afflictions were caused by someone.  In the New Testament, Jesus’ disciples believed that a man born blind was suffering either because of his sins or the sins of his parents.  Jesus, in reply, says neither.  Jesus says the man was born blind so that “the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9).  In each of these cases, there is the notion of cause and affect.  Even Jesus seems to acknowledge this principle.

It is possible and probable that Tshituka died because of malnutrition and sickness exacerbated by their journey to the village.  However, I find it important to listen to the perspective of Kasaians.  In ministering to and caring for our brothers and sisters here, it is important to know what they think and how they feel.  It is important to know what they value and how they see the world around them.  Tshituka died, and that is a tragic reality.  When Mulumi Simon and Mamu Vicky return from the village we will sit with them and grieve.  Whatever reason they give for her death will be sufficient.  Our role is to love them, to stand with them, and to pray for them.  As people of faith, we believe that despite this awful tragedy, the work of God has been and can be displayed in Tshituka’s life.



Thursday, November 1, 2012

Let’s get together…

Congolese culture is a “warm” (relationship-based) culture that thrives on relationships, interactions, and interdependence in the community. We enjoy that aspect of culture in Kasai, and we know that spending time celebrating relationships is what helps us to connect and belong in this culture. Here are a few highlights from last week, a “social whirl-wind.”

On Monday afternoon, we went to the home of an older woman to pray for her. She had stopped us after church the day before, and expressed that some of her grandchildren who live with her were sick, and that she wanted us to come. On the way home, we stopped at the home of another church member who has been in mourning from the death of her mother a few months ago. We enjoyed a good conversation with them, and expressed how much we missed receiving her gift of teaching in our weekly cell meetings. On Wednesday, we went to our neighborhood cell meeting, and were pleased to see that she came, and that others were encouraged by her presence.

On Thursday, after our Tshiluba lesson we hosted our language teacher, Mukulu (Elder) Muamba Mukengeshayi for lunch to celebrate his 75th birthday! We, along with our colleague, Ruth, enjoyed beans, plantains, and moringa leaves – no cake since he is diabetic! He brought Christmas music to listen to (“music about birth!”, he said), which made it a festive atmosphere.

birthday lunch w Mukulu Muamba

Thursday afternoon, we piled into the Land Cruiser with the Christian Education curriculum committee that Bob is on, to visit one of their committee members who recently had a baby. As we enjoyed holding and celebrating baby Ndumba, we learned from his mother, Pastor Charlotte, that someone had come to tell her that the baby had appeared and spoken to him in a dream. The message was that the baby did not want his parents to stare at him or examine him closely. It is not uncommon in Kasai for a baby to “appear” and communicate a message in someone else’s dream. The traditional understanding is that sometimes a baby is a reincarnation of another person who has died. Our colleagues explained this to us somewhat sheepishly, “This is the culture of Kasai…”. Because we don’t want to dismiss some of the deep-rooted beliefs of this culture lightly, we asked our colleagues, “In a situation like this, what do you do?” “Ah, we just pray for the child,” one pastor responded. He continued “traditionally, people say that the child’s face should be marked with chalk to cleanse him/her.” At the end of our time with the family, they asked Pastor Kayembe to pray for the child. He held the child and asked God’s blessing and protection on his life. In his prayer, he declared the power and grace of God, and said that the blood that Jesus shed for us is the “chalk” that marks and cleanses this child.

Pastor Kayembe praying for baby Ndumba

Friday, was an “end of the month laity meeting” at our parish. All of the neighborhood cell groups come together for a joint meeting at someone’s house. Our “cell” was hosting this time, which meant preparing a meal for everyone. We sat outside, grateful for the evening breeze and the shade of a large tree while we enjoyed a lively time of worship and a great teaching about Jesus healing the man by the pool of Siloam.

Laik meeting sm

Saturday was a big day. We were hosting our friends, Pastor Manyayi and his wife, Mamu Biabanya, along with their children, for lunch. We deliberated all week about the meal: local food, or American food? Find someone to cook the greens for us, or do it ourselves? We finally decided to make bidia, the local staple, even though I was nervous about making it for that many people. I also decided I wanted to try making the greens myself – and God answered our prayer, and both the bidia and the greens turned out well. The day felt a little like Thanksgiving to me – cooking all morning and eating all afternoon! Bob made plantain chips, and I made a mango cobbler, in celebration of the mango season we are in. Their 1-year old is named after me (Kristi), and she kept everyone on their toes while she ran around the house and explored with her curious spirit.

Lunch w Manyayi family 1

Lunch w Manyayi family 2

On Sunday, Bob preached on Reformation Sunday at a parish across town. It was our first time to worship with this parish, and they gave us a very warm welcome. We enjoyed the heart-felt worship and the spirit of the people. On Reformation Sunday, CPC collects contributions from all of the parishes for UPRECO, the Presbyterian university and seminary in Kananga. We enjoyed lunch with the pastor after the service, and talked to the student from UPRECO who had come to collect the parish’s contribution. We came home mid-afternoon, grateful but exhausted.

B&K at Malandi Central

We reflected on our week – while it feels draining sometimes (for this pair of border-line introverts), we do feel blessed by these connections with the people around us. So much learning and growth happens in the every-day social interactions!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Congo, “The Wild West”

Several weeks ago we were preparing for a trip to East Kasai.  Part of the preparation always involves fixing and maintaining the Land Cruiser.  One day Tatu Sammy (the driver), Tatu Tshibuabua (the mechanic) and I were driving to town to have some parts repaired.  We stopped at one place but they weren’t able to help us.  On our way to the next place, driving along one of the major arteries in Kananga, a police officer waved for us to pull over next to the large market.  To my chagrin, Tatu Sammy evaded the police officer’s instruction and kept driving, egged on by Tatu Tshibuabua in the back.  In vain, I tried to convince Sammy to heed the police officer and pull over.  It was too late.  We were gone!

Less than a kilometer later, we made our second stop, not too far from the large market.  Within a few minutes, two police officers arrived on a motorcycle, both donning their large riot helmets.  As you might guess, they were not pleased with us and a heated argument ensued.  Tatu Sammy played it cool, acting as if he hadn’t done anything wrong.  Tatu Tshibuabua accused the police officer who attempted to stop us of being “a foreigner” and always stopping people for no reason.  Somehow, the welder whom we had come to see became the arbiter of our dispute, as both parties were defending themselves to him.  To complicate matters further, our vehicle was now blocking the side road.  A motorcycle with three passengers tried to squeeze by, but failed.  The motorcycle tagged the side of our car as the driver unsuccessfully tried to pass.  Thankfully all three passengers were okay, but to the driver’s misfortune, he was then harassed by the police for not having a driving license.  The police took possession of his motorcycle.  By God’s grace I was able to stay calm in the midst of what felt like growing chaos.

Eventually I got out of the Land Cruiser and sat with the others outside of the welder’s compound.  Tatu Sammy pulled me aside and asked for 5,000 francs (about $5) to appease the police.  Feeling that we were clearly in the wrong, I suggested instead that we go with them to the police station.  Tatu Sammy roundly rejected this idea, stating that going to the police station would only complicate matters.  I gave Sammy the money, but told him that he would need to pay me back.  He agreed.  Tatu Sammy went to make amends with the disgruntled police officers, but they wouldn’t comply.  They wanted $20, which we flatly rejected.  I pulled Sammy aside and asked him if he had his driving license.  He said that he left it in the vehicle of the Legal Representative, the car he normally drives.  I gently chided him, asking if that was the reason that he evaded the police.  Humbly he acknowledged that yes, that was the reason.  He also informed me that Tatu Tshibuabua had gone to see the chief of police of the entire province, a probable advocate since Tatu Tshibuabua regularly works on his vehicle.  Apparently Tshibuabua had told Sammy that we shouldn’t have to pay anything.  About ten minutes later Tatu Tshibuabua arrived on a motorcycle taxi.  With an air of unadulterated confidence, he handed a note to the two police officers.  They read it and dutifully let us go.  We were scot free. 

Driving away there was a palpable sense of victory amongst our small band.  We won our little quarrel with the police.  On the exterior I couldn’t help but bask in the victory, but inside, I knew that we were at fault. Tatu Sammy was in the wrong for not pulling over.  He acted to save face, thus getting us into more trouble.  Yet, here we were, driving away with no fine, no penalty, no consequence.  Sometimes living in Congo feels like living in the Wild West, where laws are bendable and what matters most is “who you know.”  In this case, we knew the right person and we were thus exonerated despite our guilt.  The next time I drove with Sammy, the first thing I asked him was, “Do you have your license?” 

Tatu Sammy, Lubondai, Oct 2012Tatu Sammy, Lubondai (Oct 2012) -
our driver; we recently learned
that he is also a traditional chief!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


We know that Congo has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. We know that common sicknesses like malaria, typhoid, and measles are often the cause of death for both children and adults. But when it happens to someone that we know, and when we walk with them through this tragic process, the statistics take on a face and it weighs on our hearts.

For the last two years, we have consistently attended the neighborhood worship gathering on Wednesday evenings with our local parish. Each week, Mulami (Deacon) Simon has been our guide to show us the house that is hosting the meeting. During our first year in Congo, Simon invited us to be part of the celebration when his wife came home from the hospital with their second daughter, Tshituka. The women sing as they dance down the street to the house with the new baby, and then everyone is served beans and rice – a joyful celebration!

DSCN3999Mamu Vicky (right) at the celebration of the birth of Tshituka in 2010

Since then, we have enjoyed getting to know their family and have eaten beans and rice with them many times at their house and at ours. Simon has escorted us all over our local district (neighborhood) to visit people in the church, pray for people who are sick, or to support those who are mourning the death of a loved one. Simon and Vicky lived in a house next to the church, and the church gave him a small stipend for watching the church building. Simon seemed to know where everyone lived and was always our first source of information about events going on in the parish. We have been grateful for someone we can count on to help us learn the back paths and help us to connect to people in our neighborhood.

Simon, Vicky BobBob with Simon and Vicky, who is holding
their daughter Tshituka

Neither Simon nor his wife has a wage-earning job. They have a field of palm trees and can sell the palm oil. Sometimes Simon uses his bicycle to go to his home village to get Cassava or other staples that can be sold for a higher price in the city. Sometimes they are able to earn an income in casual labor or other jobs – but always unpredictable and insufficient. Usually they would eat one meal per day – on good days, they would eat twice. Frequently, they would share with us that they were unable to buy medicine for a sickness, or that they were hungry. Often, we would give them some food or a contribution towards one of these needs.

Unfortunately, a few months ago Simon had a “falling-out” with the leadership of our parish. He felt ostracized and hurt, so moved to a different house at the edge of town. He has stopped attending our parish and the cell meetings, so we do not see his family as frequently.

This year, Simon’s wife Vicky was pregnant with their third child. She experienced some pain and sickness during the pregnancy, and we prayed with them often for health for her and the baby. She delivered in early September, but the baby died a few hours after it was born. She was told it was because of malaria. When we heard the news, we went to visit them early in the morning. We grieved and sat with them, grateful to see that there were other friends who had come also to sit with them in their grief. We had brought a dozen doughnuts to share, and I think their two young daughters, Ntumba and Tshituka, ate half of them, slowly but eagerly eating them in small pieces and crying for more when they were finished.

Two weeks later, we learned that they had gone to Mama Vicky’s home village because of a disturbing conflict in her family. While there, their daughter Tshituka, who had been sick, died. She had been thin and may have been malnourished or had worms… we are not sure. They have not yet returned to Kananga, so we have not seen them to hear more of what happened. But we grieve that this tragedy has overwhelmed their family – losing 2 children in the same month. Because of their recent move and the falling-out with the church, they no longer have the social support in Kananga of neighbors and friends during a time of grief like this.

Please pray that God’s shalom would continue to be known in Congo. We long to see people have healthy relationships, healthy bodies, and to know the peace and fullness of life that only Jesus can provide. Pray also that God would make us people of hope in this environment of discouragement and suffering.


Tshituka, in April of this year

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Nsumuinu (Proverbs)

In the Congolese oral culture, proverbs are as plentiful as mangoes falling from mango trees.  To emphasize a point or to infer an idea, a Congolese will invariably toss out a “lusumuinu” (proverb).  For instance, Pastor Kabasele heads an organization in Kananga called CEPRES, providing vocational skills and job training.  Recently he told a group of young people seeking jobs to be patient as they waited to hear from CEPRES about the training start dates.  To buttress his point, he emphatically stated, “"Kabwa ka lubilu kakashila nyama panshi,” meaning, “the small dog who runs fast forgot the animal he left on the ground.” 

During our orientation, before coming to Congo, we were advised by missionary veterans to learn the proverbs.  We were told that the best missionaries know the local proverbs.  They know what makes people laugh, and they know what makes people cry.  One of the first proverbs we learned relates to our language learning - “Kakese kakese, nyunyu wakamana disua diandi,” meaning, “slowly by slowly the bird builds its nest.” 

DSCN3200 Kristi, with bird’s nest and
our language teacher Mukulu Muamba (left), Tatu Sammy (right)

Recently we travelled to an old mission station called Lubondai.  It is a beautiful, tranquil setting with plenty of mango trees.  On trips, evenings are a time to relax and converse with others.  One evening in Lubondai, a group of us were sitting in the guesthouse - we moved inside because it has become a bit cold.  Staying at the guesthouse with us were a couple of young men from Kananga who recognized Kristi and I.  One young man casually mentioned that our Tshiluba was probably about as good as his English, not a very good compliment.  A colleague of ours jumped in and said, “Actually, their Tshiluba is quite good, and I’ll bet they know more proverbs than you do!”  The die had been cast, the bet had been made, and now it was up to us to try to live up to this bold statement!

For the next hour or so we traded proverbs back and forth.  We began playing a game where one side would begin a proverb, and the other would have to finish it.  Or, one group would say a proverb in its entirety, and the other group would have to explain the meaning.  According to a young man who travelled as part of our team, Kristi and I actually won the contest.  I think we all had more laughs and fun, however, than worrying about who won or lost.  Kristi and I were amazed at how many proverbs we have learned, and later that night we lamented not sharing other proverbs that we forgot in the heat of the moment.  We were also glad to learn a few more “nsumuinu” from our two new friends and others who enjoyed playing this fun little game.  

The key to a proverb is using it at the right time.  A deftly delivered proverb is like a Joe Montana pass thrown across the middle for a touchdown.  It strikes, it delivers, it makes a point, and the crowd erupts.  We are enjoying learning this art and this skill.  It is as ingrained a part of Kasai culture as is eating bidia, the local staple.  A Congolese colleague and friend recently said, “Nsumuinu ya bantu idi ileja lungenyi ludibu nalu,” meaning, “proverbs indicate the intelligence of a people.”  Well, perhaps we are growing in our social and cultural intelligence here in Congo.  I sure hope so.  We are trying our best to follow the advice we received on a cold winter day in Louisville in January 2010, a place where there are no mangoes.   
children picking mangoes, LubondaiChildren pick mangoes from the ground under large mango tree -
early morning, Lubondai, Congo (Sept 2012)    

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Grateful for answered prayer

Before our recent trip in East Kasai, we asked many people to pray for God’s provision and protection over the journey. It felt like there were a lot of things that could easily go wrong and make the journey a miserable experience. While there were several things that did NOT happen “according to plan”, and we did not make it to all of the anticipated destinations, we definitely saw God’s hand in the orchestration of events on our journey. We are grateful to all of you who prayed with us for this trip and for God’s work in Kasai. Here are a few of the notable things we are grateful to God for:

1. Safe travel. We traveled more than 1000 km on this trip, and did not have to pull out the shovel even once. That might be a record!

View from the Land Cruiser

2. All of us were healthy, overall. We discovered that after traveling very long days on Congo’s roller-coaster like roads, Bob experiences some motion-sickness. Fortunately, that happened in places and at times when he could take a day to rest and recover.

3. We were traveling with Tatu Shambuyi, a driver who is also a good mechanic. He was able to make needed repairs to the Land Cruiser when we were in cities where parts could be found. (and twice the repairs needed on the Land Cruiser provided the opportunity for a ‘rest and recover’ day that we needed!)

Tatu Shambuyi repairing Land Cruiser - Muena Ditu smTatu Shambuyi works on the the brakes of the Land Cruiser

4. One of our prayer requests was for reconciliation in this region that has experienced painful division within the church. We attended a presbytery meeting in Kaniema, and a delegation came from one of the defected churches to greet us and show their desire for unity. While there is still a lot of division and animosity, we feel like this visit provided significant encouragement to the churches in the area and helped promote unity. (we wrote more about the need for unity in our April newsletter)

Pastor Tshibemba with delegation from Mbaya churchPastor Tshibemba (center) stands with church leaders and a
delegation from a church that has left CPC

5.  We were traveling with Pastor Tshibemba, the Legal Representative for East Kasai. This was the first time since he was elected Legal Representative in 2004 that he has reached the city of Kaniema, and they were VERY excited by his presence. We were grateful that this trip provided an opportunity to help facilitate some of his work of promoting reconciliation within the church, and also was a significant sign of support and encouragement for this distant region. We are also grateful for good relationships and communication within the team we were traveling with – partly facilitated by the clear leadership and authority of Pastor Tshibemba.

6. The church members in Kaniema waited for us for 3 days! There was a presbytery meeting being held in Kaniema and they wanted all the churches gathered for the meeting to be able to be there to receive our delegation. We were delayed in Muena Ditu because of car problems, so arrived later than projected. But, they waited faithfully and rejoiced with us at our arrival.

7. The rain held off – until the very last day. This had been a key prayer request, since we were traveling on the cusp of the rainy season, and the road is impassable once the rains start. We drove through the rain on the final day, and could see how thick the mud gets after a few days of rain. We were not able to make it to Kanyintshina, our final destination, because of the rain, but we realized that worked out for the best for many other reasons.

8. And, one other highlight, was that we had books of the church to sell (youth ministry, book of order, children’s stories, etc.), and pamphlets to give away. People in this region do not have access to these books, or to much reading material, so they were very grateful for these resources!

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” –Romans 15:5-6

Wednesday, September 12, 2012




It is early afternoon on a day in late August.  We are in the city of Muena Ditu, waiting as our driver/mechanic fixes the Land Cruiser.  We arrived in Muena Ditu two days ago, and car troubles have prevented us from continuing our important journey.  It seems enigmatic that our faithful Land Cruiser persists in troubling us these two days, especially considering the importance of this trip and the people who are waiting for us.  Two colleagues have gone out to get a couple of parts. Within the last two weeks before this trip we have taken our vehicle to our mechanic multiple times, painstakingly making sure all is ready.  And now here we sit…waiting.  Impatience creeps in.  The CPC Legal Representative, our de facto leader, suggests we call Mbuji-Mayi and arrange for another vehicle to come and offer its services.  As respectfully as I can manage, but perhaps with a twinge of impertinence, I squarely defend our department’s vehicle and request more time and patience.  I argue that even other vehicles inevitably have problems with these roads, and that our vehicle still has it.   

It…what is it?  In Tshiluba, the word they use is “bukole,” which means strength.  And yes, our Land Cruiser still has bukole.  Actually, it has “bukole bua bunyi!” (a lot of strength).  And here in Congo, muscular motor power is important, especially when you are stuck in a mud hole or are entrenched in sand, and you need more juice than Jose Canseco ever pumped into his body.  Thus, for this reason and because I have respect for our Land Cruiser, I defend “Tshikunda” despite the obvious mechanical difficulties that are impeding our important errand.

In Tshiluba ‘Tshikunda’ means “older woman.”  It is the name we have given our Land Cruiser.  She has racked up close to 60,000 kilometers on roads that simply kill the best all-terrain vehicles.  She has dents all over, and parts seem to regularly fall off, or fall into disrepair.  We are regularly at the shop, getting her prepared for the next trip.  We have become friends with our mechanic, which means we see him a lot!  Despite all these challenges, Tshikunda keeps trucking along, faithfully delivering us to the farthest edges of the two Kasai Provinces and beyond. 

In the Star Wars trilogy, Han Solo tenaciously defends the reputation of his spaceship, the Millennium Falcon.  Princess Leia, when she first lays eyes on it,  openly mocks “that old tin can.”  Solo argues that she is the fastest in the galaxy, has more to her than her battered appearance suggests, and trusts her to get him out of seemingly impossible jams he perpetually finds himself in.  His relationship with the Millennium Falcon is nothing less than affectionate.  My relationship with Tshikunda is beginning to mirror this relationship of Solo with the Millennium Falcon.  It will be difficult to part with Tshikunda someday. 

And what happened regarding our trip?  Within the hour the troubles were fixed and we were on the road.  Tshikunda delivered us 136 kilometers beyond, across the border into the Katanga Province.  She also brought us safely home the following week, with a repair job needed in Mbuji-Mayi, before the last leg home.  We estimated that we travelled 1,000 kilometers in eight days – not too shabby on Congo roads.  I took her to the shop today and minimal repairs are needed.  Praise God, and thank you Lord for Tshikunda! 

Next trip in less than two weeks…                

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Memories of Lusuku

We’re home in Kananga! We had an enjoyable and safe trip to Lusuku and Kaniema. There were some delays for car repairs and the anticipated schedule had to be changed significantly, but we look back and are grateful for God’s protection and the way things worked out.

I want to share a few of the memories from our overnight stop in Lusuku that stood out to me.

1. The warm reception in the dark, with singing, dancing, and lots of food.

Reception at Lusuku

2. Seeing the eager crowd at the back of the Land Cruiser buying books from Pastor Mukenge. One woman was very eager to get a book on women’s ministry in the church, so searched around asking all her neighbors and friends for someone to loan her 500 Francs (50 cents) so that she could buy the book.


3. Sleeping in Pastor Mulaji’s bedroom, and hearing a rustling in the night. Was it a mouse? It sounded close! In the morning, I heard it again, and searched with my flashlight until I discovered a duck hidden in the corner behind some bricks, laying on eggs in her nest!

4. Seeing all of the seven (!) CPC schools in Lusuku. I talked to one of the directors, and learned that some of the students in primary school are forced to drop out because of the cost of buying uniforms and paying the 450 Francs per month (about 50 cents) of school fees.

Lusuku - kids and school

Lusuku 1 schools

5. Hearing Mukulu (Elder) Kamadilu Pierre describe his long bike rides (400+km one way!) to church conferences. He says “ekelezia, mbujitu buanyi” (The church is my responsibility).

Lusuku - Mukulu Kamadilu Pierre sm

6. Being impressed with the thick walls on the new church building and their plan for purchasing roof sheeting by selling the bricks they make.

Lusuku - new church building

We arrived late in the evening in Lusuku and left in the morning, but it was a refreshing and encouraging stop. We are grateful for their warm hospitality and their motivation and faith in seeing God at work.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

On the road again…

We leave today for another road trip in Kasai. This time, our primary destinations are Lusuku, Kaniema, and Kanyintshinyi (see if you can find those places on Google maps!). Please pray that it would not rain so that roads would be passable, and for safe travel. We look forward to meeting new people and seeing new places, and seeing how God is at work.

We have spent a few days with the mechanic this month getting various things repaired on the Land Cruiser. This Land Cruiser is powerful, but it is also getting old, and the roads in Congo are brutal. We are hopeful that nothing serious goes wrong!

About 40 km into our trip, we got stuck in the mud. But that was the only time, out of a total of more than 900 km!

This photo was taken in March, on the same route we will take on this trip.
We hope to not get stuck in the mud this time!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lake Munkamba

Lake Munkamba is a place of mystery and majesty.  It once never was.  According to popular myth, one day village boys found a spring of water.  This spring grew until it swallowed an entire region including a village.  Hundreds died while hundreds more fearfully fled.  No one braved the water until Muambi Mutombokatshi, a missionary evangelist/pastor, “softened” the harsh waters by traversing by boat and ceremonially laying salt, food, clothing and other offerings on the water.  Having invited all of the local chiefs to witness this “softening of the water,” he made the place hospitable once again.  Lake Munkamba has never looked back.  It has served as a refuge and retreat for missionaries for decades.  It symbolizes unity and reconciliation between two major tribes of Kasai.  Its pristine waters and tranquil environs lather one’s soul with peace. 

Lake Munkamba, early morning

Early morning dip

Kristi and I first experienced Lake Munkamba in March 2010 with fellow missionaries.  We then spent a month there learning Tshiluba.  Munkamba feels like our “home village” in Congo.  In Munkamba our names and our habits are remembered.  We feel like we belong to the Bakua Luntu tribe of that region.  The trademark greeting of Munkamba, “Songayi Wabo,” brings a smile to our face.  Munkamba is special.  One’s burdens feel lighter and a spring returns to one’s step.  The water is irresistible. 

In February, 2011, Christian Education Coordinator Pastor Mbikayi and I scouted out Munkamba with the hope of hosting our Evangelism Department Board Meeting there in April.  We sat with Tatu Willy, Mukulu Moises Bob and other community leaders.  We listened to them describe the destruction wrought on the Presbyterian Center at Munkamba during the protracted war between ‘98 - ‘03.  Zimbabwean soldiers encamped at the center,  eschewed all the villagers away, and generally left havoc in their wake.  Homes remain in disrepair, graffiti stains the gathering places, and the touch of a foreign army’s presence remains.  Yet, these resilient villagers of Munkamba long for a better tomorrow.  They believe that God can lift up the Presbyterian Center at Lake Munkamba, making it a place of refuge and retreat for God’s people once more. 

sitting with Tatu Willy and others (2)

Sitting with community leaders, February 2011


with Tatu Mufuta and others
Village Friends, pictured February 2011

Unfortunately, it was decided unwise to host our Board Meeting in Munkamba in 2011.  Our hopeful village friends would have to wait.  Yet, their prayers and longing hearts did not go unnoticed.  Just last week we were able to host a seminar in Munkamba, the first time such an event has happened in years.  Moreover, we stayed after the seminar to assess the needs of the place and pray.  We conducted a formal meeting to evaluate the situation and how to move forward.  We painstakingly visited each structure of the Centre, taking pictures and making notes.  We sat with community leaders again and listened as they shared their challenges.  We encouraged them and prayed for them. 

seminar participants, meeting roomSeminar Participants, August 2012

By God’s grace Lake Munkamba will be resurrected once more.  It will serve as a bastion of peace and crossroads for God’s people.  Meetings, seminars and conferences will be conducted.  Choirs will sing through the night, keeping fishermen awake on the lake.  Munkamba reflects heaven and has been singed by hell.  It is a  place of heart and home.  It is a place to dream and dance, to pray and sing, to look back and look ahead.


Sub Conseil, Munkamba

CPC leaders discuss future of Munkamba Center

with chiefPictured with local chief, Kayinda Mukendi Samuel -
his father was one of the chiefs present when Muambi Mutombokatshi
“softened” the waters of Munkamba

Munkamba…Lord hear our prayers!  Lift up this place and enfold us into your embrace!                  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

‘Tis the season for big meetings…

This is a ‘General Assembly Year’ for the CPC in Congo. The General Assembly is usually held at the beginning of August. Since so many leaders and church representatives have to make the arduous trip to Kananga from all corners of Kasai, it is an opportune time for other meetings, seminars, etc. to be held. So, the last few weeks we have participated in or helped to organize several of these gatherings. I thought we could give you a brief photo tour of the gatherings that have happened…

Women's conference

A women’s conference for the Synod that Kananga is located in.
We went to share a greeting and show our support.

B&K sharing at GA

Then, there was General Assembly (GA). We only attended the first day of the 3-day meeting, but were encouraged that this time we knew several of the leaders who were coming from other regions!


Then, a few days after GA, the Evangelism Department organized a board meeting for the 3 rural Pastoral Institutes. Each of the 12 synod leaders are included in the board meeting, so it was an opportune time for this meeting while all of them were in town. We helped with the logistics of this 2-day meeting, so we were exhausted by the end of it. But, it was a productive time and we are excited about the progress made toward equipping these schools.

…and now we are on to the final seminar of the season: A seminar for the directors of Christian Education of each Synod, with the intention of preparing them to hold regional youth conferences next year. This seminar is at Lake Munkamba, and Bob leaves early Monday morning with a car packed full of people for the 4-hour arduous drive through the sand. Please pray for protection, inspiration, and God’s presence to be evident to all!

Road to Munkamba sm

Our friend Rachael poses on the road to Munkamba in its current state

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Crazy Day in Kananga

In May Kristi made a post regarding a “typical day” in Kananga.  As she noted, life here is invariably unpredictable.  There is great need for patience and flexibility.  I will describe last Friday, July 27th.  Hopefully this post will give you another “picture” of our life here.  The times given are approximate. 

6:50 am  In the middle of morning devotions we hear a knock at the door.  It is Mamu Anna, the wife of our night guard.  Their daughter is scheduled for surgery this morning in Tshikaji, a long, bumpy, 15 kilometer ride from Kananga.  They were originally told they could travel with the hospital workers, but this morning they are turned away.  They ask for our prayers and help.  I call the hospital administrator, Bernard Kabibu, and explain the situation.  He encourages me to come to PAX (the hospital’s clinic in Kananga) with the family and wait.  We pray with the family below our apartment, and then I walk to PAX with Mamu Anna and Rita.  Bernard arrives.  He calls me over and makes room for Rita and her Mom on the worker-bus for Tshikaji.

7:30am  Everyone on the main street stops and respectfully watches the raising of the Congolese flag.  I wait at PAX to see the worker-bus set off for Tshikaji.   

8:55 am  After finishing devotions, prayer and breakfast, I head off to the bank to get funds for our next month and money for two new tires for the Land Cruiser.  Kristi heads to IMPROKA (CPC Print Press) to access and print a document from the internet for our 10am meeting.   

9:40 am  Having finished at the bank, I head for our office.  Quickly I call Kristi to ask her if she has seen Pastor Mboyamba at IMPROKA as we would like to connect with him.  She tells me that she didn’t see him, and that the internet is down so she couldn’t access and print the document.  I suggest that I go to a nearby internet cafe to try printing the document.  She agrees.  She informs me she has gone to pay our internet bill at the Micro-Com office.  She is on her way to the CAA office (airline) to inquire about tickets for an out-of-town visitor. 

10:10am  Having successfully accessed and printed the document, I walk to our office and try calling Mboyamba along the way.  No answer.  I also swing by his office.  He is not there.  I meet Kristi at our office for our meeting with Pastor Mukenge (who hasn’t arrived).  We call him and he arrives shortly thereafter.  We discuss with him a strategy for selling Christian literature which our department has recently purchased.   

11am  Kristi and I meet to discuss the program for the upcoming Conseil (Board Meeting) for our three Pastoral Institutes.  Pastor Mboyamba calls from Tshikaji to inform me that he cannot make our meeting the following day due to the graduation at UPRECO, the Presbyterian university/seminary.  He says he can meet us today at 2pm.  Kristi was planning to attend a meeting on a women’s justice program at 2:30 and our day is already full, but we decide this meeting with Pastor Mboyamba is important and we will make it work.

11:50am  Kristi and I go home to pray as we had planned.  We eat a little something around twelve thirty.  I send some important emails.   

1pm  Kristi and Ruth head to the governor’s office to deliver letters to James, an American friend.  He will give the letters to a group from Indiana who leave Monday.  Pastor Mukenge and I go to IMPROKA to pick up 250 copies of the “Dilongolola” (CPC’s Book of Order) which they had promised would be ready.  I greet Tatu Alan.  He tells me that they aren’t ready because of an order placed by the General Secretary which needs immediate action.  “Return Monday,” they tell us.  Slightly frustrated, we return back to 16 Lac Fwa (where we live).  Pastor Mukenge goes to deliver some important documents on behalf of our department.   

1:35pm  I sit on the balcony of our 2nd story apartment and work on some scripture I have memorized, enjoying fifteen minutes of peace. 

1:55pm  I head out the door for our meeting only to be greeted by Theo, “the bread guy.”  As I buy some bread, Kristi calls to tell me she is running late. 

2:20pm  I sit at the office alone for fifteen minutes.  Kristi arrives.  I call Pastor Mboyamba.  He tells me that he can’t make the meeting because he is still in Tshikaji at the Board Meeting for the hospitals.  He says he will stop by this evening.  I tell him we have guests this evening, but he can stop by briefly.  Sitting on the steps of our office, tired and frustrated, we wonder what to do.  We decide to call Pastor Mukenge and commence with the meeting.  He arrives shortly thereafter.  We meet with him for twenty minutes to discuss the program for the Conseil for the Pastoral Institutes.  

3pm  Kristi and I head home because we have guests arriving at 5pm.  I lay down for 20 minutes.  Kristi helps Tatu Muanda with the food preparation.  Pastor Mboyamba arrives, to our surprise.  He tells us he didn’t want to come when we had guests.  I sit with him for twenty minutes.  It is a productive time of connecting and planning.

4pm  I head out to a local restaurant with five empty soda bottles.  I buy seven 30-ounce bottles of orange soda for the evening festivities. 

5pm  Our guests arrive.  We are hosting a friend and her siblings for dinner.  Marthe has just finished her bachelor’s program in medicine.  Kristi went to see her successfully defend her “memoire” (final dissertation) on Wednesday.  She passed with great adulation!  Tonight we will celebrate.  Pastor Kabue, a mutual friend, joins us.  We had expected as many as 6-8 guests, but only 4 are able to come.  Marthe and two children from her deceased older brother arrive, along with Pastor Kabue.  We have a fun, relaxing evening after a long day.  We enjoy a classic Congolese meal of bidia (corn flower and cassava flour cooked with water), goat meat, potato leaves, fried sweet potatoes, beans and rice.  After stuffing ourselves, we enjoy lots of “bako” (orange soda). 

8:30pm  Kristi sends an important email.  I rest on the couch.  A few minutes later I bring in Jackoo and we go to bed early!  :)     

Marthe celebration with Kristi
Dinner in honor of Marthe, second from left

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pursuing God

Last weekend I took a 24-hour “personal retreat” to the Thabor Catholic Center in Kananga. Even 24 hours of stepping out of the normal demands of life and making time to rest, read, pray, and reflect make a significant difference! God knew that we needed a Sabbath.

I started reading the book The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer (thanks, Dad!). It felt like exactly the prophetic correction and challenge that I need right now. Tozer articulates with clarity and conviction God’s heart for active relationship with his people, and the ways that our sinful natures hinder us from recognizing and living into that reality. He says,

“Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and the servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all.” (pg. 13)

The “world of nervous activity” too often keeps me preoccupied, hindering me from the peace of God and intimacy with our Savior that God longs for me to have. On this particular retreat, UNICEF was holding a big conference with 100+ people at the Catholic center when I arrived. To get some space and quiet, I went farther out into the neighboring field than I have ever gone, and God provided each day a place where I could be alone and be refreshed by the beauty of creation and His presence.

Butterfly at Thabor

I felt like my eyes were being opened again as Tozer articulated ways that our sin blinds us and hinders us from becoming and doing all that we were created for. Through faith and by grace, we are made new in Christ – a new nature because the cross has broken the power of sin over us. In a poignant and powerful chapter called Removing the Veil, Tozer says “this rending of the veil [in the temple at the crucifixion] opened the way for every worshipper in the world to come by the new and living way straight into the divine Presence.”

Now, back in the throes of daily life, I have tried harder this week to take a step back, at least in my mind. Recognizing that God IS, and that he is HERE, with me, makes a world of difference in the midst of the “world of nervous activity” around me!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Empowering the Laity, Lubumbashi (DRC)

Genesis 1:28 (NRSV)
God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."


Late June Kristi and I made our first trip to Lubumbashi.  Lubumbashi is the second largest city in Congo, behind Kinshasa.  Lubumbashi is the capital of Katanga Province, a region traditionally known for its copper and mineral wealth.  Katanga sees itself as different from the rest of the country; some refer to their province as the "Other Congo” (Rorison, 2008).  Katanga is a two hour plane trip from Kananga (where we live).  This large province sits on the southeastern corner of Congo.  In Lubumbashi we helped facilitate a Laity Seminar with Pastor Mboyamba, the Director of the Evangelism Department of the Congolese Presbyterian Church (CPC).  In 2007 at a church in Kananga, the city where we live, the leadership of the laity* of the CPC requested that our department sponsor and lead seminars to help them better understand their role in the church and the building up Christ’s Kingdom.  Since 2007, our Department has travelled to each of the 12 synods to conduct these trainings.  Lubumbashi was our final stop.

Evangelism Team Members with Synod Leadership of Katanga ProvincePastor Mboyamba (in blue suit), church leaders in Katanga Province, us  

A central verse for these seminars is Genesis 1: 28, with the central theme “You will have authority over the earth.”  This verse and theme empower delegates to know that God has given us authority to steward the resources and riches of the earth.  In a poor environment like the country of Congo, where church members often feel that something needs to be done for them or given to them, this theme reminds us all that God has given us creativity, intelligence and the ability to improve our surroundings and take responsibility for our communities.  We have taught on such topics as:  laity and the Great Commission (evangelism), the work of the laity in the church, responsibility of leaders in the church, HIV/AIDS awareness, why we give to God, laity and development, laity and song leading, laity and Christian Education, the priority of prayer, vision and goal setting, and laity and church order/procedure.  I have attended and participated in four of these seminars over the last 15 months.  I am always amazed to see how hungry church leaders are for knowledge, skills and empowerment.  We are always blessed to see delegates encouraged, strengthened in spirit, and further resolved to serve God and their communities.

Pastor Mboyamba, teaching on sin and transformationPastor Mboyamba teaches on a changed heart as the first step in development

Bob, teaching from Nehemiah on prayer  Bob teaches from the book of Nehemiah

The seminar in Lubumbashi was no different from other seminars.  About 100 delegates came from different parts of the large Katanga Synod.  They eagerly took notes, asked insightful questions, and engaged thoughtfully with the teachings.  There was a great balance of men and women delegates.  While many aid organizations focus on ways to help countries and communities develop, Pastor Mboyamba reminded us that “evangelism is the first key to development.”  People’s hearts must first be changed; our role is help people know God.  Kristi taught on the need for planned action, making SMART (e.g. realistic, measurable) goals.  I taught from the book of Nehemiah on prayer and leaving a lasting legacy.  Kristi and I have felt empowered ourselves in these seminars, as we have taught sessions and led devotions.  We have also had opportunities to sit with delegates and learn more of their stories.  We are always amazed by their self-sacrifice, travelling extraordinarily long distances by foot or bicycle to attend these seminars.

Delegates, taking notes Delegates taking notes

Exuberant singing!Exuberant singing!

Seminar Delegates, Katanga ProvinceSeminar Delegates

As is the case in all regions, the folks in Katanga want us to return to see them again.  Because Katanga is so far away and CPC church members in this region often feel overlooked, we hope to visit again before the end of this year.  We hope to travel to different parts of the Katanga Province, strengthening and encouraging believers.  May God lead us as we consider the ways in which we can walk alongside our Congolese brothers and sisters.  May God’s name be lifted high in Congo! 

Kristi exhorts youth, leadership of the future! Kristi exhorts youth leadership of Lubumbashi
at a Sunday afternoon meeting (the tail end of a very long day!)

*Within the CPC here in Congo, the laity include:  elders, deacons, church members, youth, children, and pastors (teaching elders).  Essentially, all who worship in one place and are members of the church are part of the laity.  Note that women also serve in leadership roles (elders, deacons, pastors).   

Monday, July 9, 2012

Finding refreshment

We recently returned from a short trip to Kenya. The primary reason for visiting Kenya was to attend a wonderfully stimulating conference on Manuscript Bible Study—but I will let Bob describe more about that in our next newsletter! Since we were “in the neighborhood”, we decided to visit our friends and fellow missionaries, the Klingforths, in Nakuru.

Travis and Lydia thoroughly blessed us with their hospitality, indulging us in some of the “luxuries” that we don’t have in Congo. We had a memorable adventure with them at the Thompson falls, where it started raining when we had reached the bottom of the falls, so we had a muddy trek back to the top.



We were given the privilege of watching their two boys Sunday afternoon, so we got to do some rare activities for us, like reading kids’ books, building with Legos, and playing catch with the dogs.

Bob reading with Meshach and Silas

We enjoyed several long conversations about life and relationships in Africa. It was so helpful to share and learn from peers in a similar context, who understand the challenges of poverty that the people around us struggle with. Nakuru and Kananga are similar-sized cities, but VERY different in character, primarily because of the lack of infrastructure (electricity, roads, etc.) in Congo. As a special treat, they took us out to a nice restaurant with exotic food (like lasagna, pad-thai, and sushi!). We had cheesecake for dessert—who knew you could find cheesecake in Africa??

P1130467At the restaurant – Bob holding his Cappucino

We got to meet some of their Kenyan colleagues, and visit a home Bible study in a poor neighborhood– a wonderfully encouraging experience! We also had our first ride on the “boda-boda” (bicycle taxis) in Kenya…even in a bit of rain!


Our last evening in Nakuru, Lydia made a “Thanksgiving dinner” – chicken (subbing for turkey) green beans, stuffing, and even pumpkin pie! Our taste buds had been thoroughly satisfied by the time we returned home to Kananga.


After our Thanksgiving dinner, we all watched a fun movie together that had all of us laughing to the point of tears…and we were still recalling scenes from the movie and laughing a few days later. Tuesday morning, we took the bus back to Nairobi to get ready to catch our plane back to Congo. We felt like it had been longer than just 10 days – we had experienced so much and been pampered far beyond what we deserved.


Posing with Kenyans in traditional dress – Bob, Lydia, Silas, Kristi