Friday, January 25, 2013

And off we went!

Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33). 


A loud “pop,” causing our vehicle to limp to a standstill, signaled all was lost.  It was our third flat within the span of the first 38km of our trip to Mutoto.  We had already borrowed a spare from the lead car, and our spare which just blew already had issues.  We were simply hoping we could make it far enough where we might find someone with a pump who could help us.  I had had confidence that we would make it to Mututo this day, but now all seemed in question. 

Without delay, our friend and colleague Pastor Mbikayi admonished Kristi and I to join the International Rescue Committtee (IRC) vehicle which had been guiding us.  Taking the reigns of leadership, Mbikayi told us to go on ahead and call for help when we reached Mutoto.  He and Pastor Manyayi would remain with the vehicle in this small village of Luanyanya until help would come the following day.  Kristi and I jumped into the front seat and five  of the youth from the Kananga youth choir squeezed into the small space remaining in the rear.  And off we went!

Our troubles, however, did not abate.  The road, if you want to call it a road, became worse and worse.  Finally, we found our rear right tire lodged deep in a 3-5 ft. foot hole.  After an hour and a half of tireless digging, together pushing the Land Cruiser out of the hole with all our strength, wedging small branches we had cut under the tire, and pushing with all our force, we were free.  And off we went! 


pushing with all our strength!

Pushing the vehicle out of the hole

pushing to get out!Pushing forward with all our strength!   


Another 10 kilometers down the ‘path called a road’,another major obstacle presented itself, almost mocking us and our goal of reaching Mutoto.  A large tree hung silently across the road, horizontally suspended about five feet in the air.  According to local villagers, it had just fallen.  There was simply no way to pass.


What to do now

What to do now?  (tree in the road)

Without delay, the driver and several youth split up and went in each direction, looking for an axe.  Twenty minutes later the group that had gone ahead came back with a small axe.  Ten minutes later the other party returned with a second axe.  With a youthful display of vigor and strength, the driver and youth took turns hacking our silent foe.  Fifteen minutes later the youth were pushing the fallen tree out of the ‘path called a road’, and off we went! 

cut it down!Cutting down our silent foe

P1170207 Pushing fallen tree out of the ‘path called a road’


Night fell.  We hadn’t reached our destination.  We were still 3-5 kilometers from our prize.  The unforgiving ‘path called a road' had one last taunting barb to send us.  We tried plowing through a spot of loose earth and mud.  Our efforts and the strength of the vehicle were not enough.  We found ourselves high-centered on a mountain of earth.  Quickly we disembarked with our flashlights and began digging.  The resilience and buoyant spirit of the youth energized us.  After twenty minutes of hard work and calculating how to dislodge ourselves, we pulled free, and off we went!

Around 8pm we arrived at Mutoto.  A trip which we expected to take 2-3 hours took 6 hours, and not all of us had arrived.  The remaining youth walked 27 kilometers and many arrived the same time we did.  We gave thanks and praise to God for seeing us through.  Upon arrival I called for help, and our colleagues and friends arrived the following day.  Sunday worship was amazing!  On the mountain top of Mutoto we recognized afresh that though troubles will inevitably come our way, Christ has overcome the world.  Thus we can take heart, and press on.  And off we went!                


Youth choir in MutotoThe Presbytery of Kananga Youth Choir  

P1170202Kristi, posing with villagers along
the ‘path called a road’

Friday, January 18, 2013

Remember your leaders

Two weeks ago, we had the opportunity to visit CPC churches in Kinshasa (capital of DRC). The leadership there escorted us on a visit to see 16 of their parishes in just a few short days – quite a feat in the congested and sprawling city of Kinshasa! We visited several families in their homes, participated in a seminar for church leaders and laity, and were able to get a taste of the life of the church in Kinshasa.

One of the highlights of our visit was a service organized by the women of the church. Every year on January 4, all the parishes in Kinshasa come together in one place to present gifts to their pastors. Isn’t that a wonderful idea? This tradition began about 10 years ago, when the leadership of the women’s department decided they wanted not just to pay their pastors and help with occasional food, but also to provide clothing and other items to help their pastors and their families.The salary for a pastor here is usually painfully low, and they often struggle with one or two extra jobs to make ends meet.

Pastor Ngalula teaching

The service began with some energetic worship and a teaching by Pastor Marceline Ngalula, the director of the CPC Department of Women in Kinshasa. She challenged us to find more ways to show love to the people around us in this new year. After that, each parish was announced in turn and its pastor would come stand at the front. Members of the parish would then enter from the back, dancing and singing as they processed down the aisle to show appreciation for their pastor and present gifts to them.

Procession at Womens gathering

Gifts to pastor Kabondo

In the first few parishes that were presented, the pastor received an envelope of money and sometimes a shirt or other item of clothing. I whispered to Bob “This is much more interesting in Kananga, where people come in with basins of flour, charcoal, and other physical items to present!” Shortly thereafter, though, the gifts in this service started to get much more creative. An ironing board, pants and a coat, shoes, a pastoral robe, and a large fan from the youth, were among the gifts. Other gifts, such as living room furniture, were announced “in absentia”. The most impressive gift was a laptop (turned on for the procession with a photo of the pastor filling the screen). This process lasted for a couple of hours for nearly 20 parishes, but it seemed to go quickly as we watched the appreciation on the faces of the pastors and their spouses and the joy on the faces of the participants. One older, wiry-looking pastor amused everyone by jumping and dancing as he greeted his parishoners.

women's gathering clock

Women's gathering fan

Procession with gifts for the pastor

Then, near the end was the biggest surprise! After all the parishes were done, they called me to the front. The leaders of the department of women then proceeded forward and presented me with a dress, made just the day before, out of material that is representative of the church. I was floored. What generous hospitality! They also presented Bob and Pastor Mboyamba with shirts a few days later, so now we have “matching uniforms.”

women's gathering Kristi

What do you think about this public way of giving gifts and tangible signs of appreciation to pastors? Would it fly in a Western culture? We know that throughout the church women are often the “energy” behind much that happens, and this service is a creative labor of love to help pastors know that they are remembered by their poor but faithful congregations.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

If I were a butterfly…

How many are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
~Psalm 104:24

Masai Mara reedbuck

During our vacation in Kenya, we went on a safari to the Masai Mara wildlife preserve. It was my (Kristi’s) first-ever safari, and I loved it! In the short 2 days that we had in the park, We saw lots of animals…some I had never heard of! Did you know that just within the antelope family, the hartbeast, the reedbuck, waterbuck, the dik dik, Thompson’s gazelle, Grant’s gazelle, and the Eland are all common in Kenya?? I was continually amazed at the variety in different species, and how the species interact with each other. We Masai Mara - Grant's gazelleobserved how the zebra and gazelle often graze together, and that the Topi can often be seen standing atop a small mound of earth (however small!) as if they are a sentry. We watched in fascination as a mixed herd of impala and wildebeast all stared intently and stood unmoving as a cheetah and her cubs walked by.


The word “safari”, in Swahili, simply means a Masai mara - Elandjourney….but for us westerners it has come to mean a journey with the primary goal of seeing wild animals in Africa in their natural habitats. Birdwatching is a new hobby for me this year, and I felt like I got to go on a “safari” for birds also when I joined the Nature Kenya society for one of their weekly birdwalks. I struggle to see and identify birds…often I find myself staring at a tree for 15 minutes at a time, listening to a bird singing and knowing that it is in that tree, but failing to locate it. Kids’ books might simplify a bird’s voice to something like “cheep cheep!”. But anyone who has listened to a thrush or a bulbul or a robin-chat in Africa knows that they have elaborate and melodious songs! The more birds I learn to see and hear, the more amazed I become at the variety in their songs, shapes, colors, sizes, and behaviors!

Masai Mara - bee eaterMasai Mara - Go away birdMasai Mara - Crested Cranes - wide 2

During our week in Zanzibar, we went snorkeling one day in the coral reef off the coast. We stared in wonder at the bright colors on some of the fish, and the variety in shapes and sizes. One fish was long and narrow – like an eel – and another had a string-like tail flowing from its top fin. Some zebra-striped, some with bold spots, some narrow and tall, others small and sprite. Why did God bother creating such extravagant variety?? We commented afterward that we felt like we had been on a “safari in the sea”.

Just on the grounds of the hotel in Zanzibar, I saw more than 6 varieties of butterfly. Zanzibar has more than 50 varieties of butterfly in its national park! Have you ever stopped to wonder why some butterflies have spots, others plain, and others intricate designs like a stained-glass window? Wow!

butterfly in Zanzibar 1

Butterfly in Zanzibar 4butterly in Zanzibar 3

We stand in wonder at the majesty of God as we enjoy the beauty of His creation. Imagine how much less interesting the world would be if there were only one type of bird, or fish, or cat, or tree…or if each person was the same. Enjoying these creatures was fun – but we realize that it is getting harder to see them as their habitats get reduced and more remote and many threaten to disappear. I was reminded of our calling to be responsible stewards of God’s creation – a task that gives God glory and also preserves our opportunity for seeing God’s fingerprints in the world around us.

What is the purpose of the earth and all of these amazing creatures? Are they just for our benefit? What is the impact of our every-day life on the earth? What will the earth be like in just 30 years if the devastating effects of deforestation, pollution and our level of trash dumping are not drastically changed? I just read a very helpful book called Redeeming Creation written by Fred VanDyke and others. It gives some grounded Biblical perspective the relationship between God, creation, and humanity. I highly recommend it!

…And if I were a butterfly, I’d thank you Lord for giving me wings. But I just thank you Father for making me, me!