Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Visitors to Kananga

My (Kristi’s) parents came to visit us recently in Kananga. We were excited to introduce them to our friends and ministry here, and see things afresh through their eyes. It was fun to meet people on the street and introduce them, “This is Tatu Jim and Mamu Sherri.” Then we would tell the person they were my parents, and the look of surprise and delight was instant “Your parents! Come to visit you?” And they would have to shake hands all over again with renewed vigor.


God answered many prayers for their visit. One gift was that we were all able to stay in our apartment together. The largest tribes in Kasai have a strong taboo against a mother-in-law staying in the same house with her son-in-law. After discussing this with several people, we felt that out of respect for the culture it would be best if we stayed down the street at a guest house while my parents stayed in our apartment. The week before they arrived though, we discussed the issue with a couple of CPC church leaders. They said that we should definitely feel all freedom to stay together in our apartment, and that everyone would understand the differences in culture. So, with this recommendation and authorization, we scrambled to get our guest room ready with a mattress, mosquito net, and curtains. We were all grateful for the freedom and understanding given us by our Congolese friends!

Jim and Sherri were introduced to life and culture in Congo in more ways than expected. We drove with them to Tshikaji to show them around the IMCK hospital. Unfortunately the brakes on the Land Cruiser locked up just as we were approaching the guest house. A mechanic happened to be right there, watching as we tried to figure out what was wrong. He was incredibly helpful in unlocking the brakes and communicating the situation with our mechanic in Kananga. The determined solution was to release the brakes and drive back to Kananga without brakes, where our mechanic could replace the needed parts. As we set out the following morning, Bob turned to my dad and said “OK Jim, we need you to pray a muscular prayer for this trip!”. We drove slow and took an alternate route to avoid the hills and crowded section of Kananga. We missed a turn, and God provided some women to alert us that we were on an impassable road and where the correct road was. Bob was a valiant driver given the challenge, and we all got to experience the flexibility, courage, and perseverance needed when you make travel plans in Congo!

We were so grateful that Mom and Dad made the long trip to Kananga. It was a huge encouragement to us and also to our colleagues and friends. Anyone else want to come for a visit? :)

We went to visit Tatu Henri, who lives in a valley near our home in Kananga.

Trekking down into the valley to visit Tatu Henri

Jim and Sherri enjoyed some interaction in an English class for high school girls

Interacting with an English class for high-school girls

Jim and Sherri worshipped with us at the Kananga 1 parish

Worshipping at the parish we attend, Kananga 1

Saturday, June 16, 2012

MPH, the Methodist Presbyterian Hostel



It is a well-known hub to many travellers in and through Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and francophone Africa. It sits in the Ngaliema Commune of Kinshasa, perhaps encompassing 4-5 acres of quiet and peace, an oasis in a turbulent sea of urban freneticism which would make the average New Yorker’s head spin.

MPH feels like a veritable crossroads of the world.  Here you can find missionaries in-transit seeking respite, short-termers visiting from afar, African church leaders coming together, American families adopting Congolese children, and the children of former missionaries coming back to visit places dear to their heart.  Over breakfast, lunch or dinner, you are bound to spend more time than planned in spontaneous, stimulating conversation. You are bound to learn something from someone.  MPH is wonderfully managed and cared for by an American couple, Cindy and Clay Dunn.

lovely, outdoor grounds

Kristi and I recently made a trip to Nairobi, Kenya.  Travelling through Kinshasa we stayed at MPH as we have in the past.  We enjoyed the peaceful grounds, caught up on some emails, and enjoyed meeting and visiting with various people.  We saw Paul Law and met his wife Marti.  They serve with the Methodist Church of Congo and live in Lodja, a port city in the upper reaches of East Kasai.  Paul’s father was a pilot who was tragically killed during the Simba Revolution of the 1960’s.  Paul has lived in Congo for most of his life and fluently speaks French, Tshiluba and Tshitatela.  Paul likes to tease your mind with some question which only he seems to have the answer to.  Taylor Burton-Edwards, the Liturgical Officer for the United Methodist Church (UMC), has come to meet with Congolese church leaders.  Over breakfast one morning he and I have a prolonged conversation which includes:  the history of Methodism in the United States and Britain, how creeds and confessions inform worship and liturgy, the helpful writing ministry of Methodist bishop Will Willimon, and what it means to be a “global church.” 

Over dinner the following evening we have dinner with Jim Byh.  Jim and his family served as Assemblies of God missionaries in West Africa and Eritrea for 18 years.  Now they live in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Jim serves as the francophone Africa representative for One Hope, a ministry which seeks to bring the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to children.  Jim introduces us to some of their teaching materials which might be useful for our ministry in central Congo.  Lastly there is Tim and Kathy Rice.  They are active members of a PCA church in St. Louis which has a profound ministry to inner-city children and single Moms.  Their pastor is Congolese, and Tim and Kathy are considering long-term mission service in Congo.

Kristi and I board our plane Friday morning feeling refreshed and reinvigorated.  We are thankful for MPH.  While our goal is to live as close to the Congolese people as possible, MPH is a nice break and a good place to meet fellow “sojourners” on similar journeys. 

For your perusal, below are a few more pictures of MPH:

Dining Hall area, from second level

Spacious grounds for walking, prayer and meditation




Bob with MPH staff member Mulumba Louie Quatorze, who is from Kananga
(where we live) and wants to learn English