Since returning to Kananga two and half weeks ago, we have learned that many people here have been suffering in extraordinary ways. First of all, there is the pervasive post-election despair. Many Congolese had high hopes for change, and went out in large numbers to vote. Even the preparation process for voting wasn’t easy, requiring registering months in advance for a special vote card. Many Congolese feel that the voice of the people hasn’t been heard.
There is now also a financial crisis in Congo and many people in Kananga are hungry. The government has imposed an untimely and ill-advised “Value Added Tax” which bumps up the price of all goods by 16%. A close friend told us yesterday that a group of business people sought the audience of the Minister of Finance to plead on behalf of the people; their pleas were sadly rejected. So, the suffering continues. An artist friend here in Kananga, Tatu Albert, complains incessantly about intense hunger. This last year, Congo was rated last of all countries on the Human Development Index which measures standard of living.
In the midst of all these challenges, we witnessed such joy in worship our first Sunday back in Kananga. As people came forward for their third or fourth offering (two offerings were to help needy members in the church), I nearly broke down in tears as I witnessed such joy and confidence in the midst of adversity, pain and heartache. As a pastor, I was asked to give the benediction at the end of the service. I prayed my heart out, and listened as the gathered congregation acknowledged with me that we serve a God who listens, who does miracles in our midst, who can intervene as he did for Moses and the people of Israel, a God whom we can trust. Believing that God is powerful enough to act on our behalf, I then spoke words of blessing and peace to God’s gathered people. What incredible joy it was to greet these dear brothers and sisters in Christ after the service, having been estranged from them these last five months during our medical leave in the United States.
Habakkuk, the prophet of old, prayed thus -
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
(Habakkuk 3: `17 – 18)
Thank you LORD for the faith you give your people despite adversity, pain and heartache. We pray for those who suffer in Congo – please hear the cries of your people!