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.