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