Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Healing of our wounds

We are broken people. Most of us know that, but we have ignored or hidden our wounds for so long that we don’t realize the way that a festering wound affects the rest of the body. And how can we get healed if we don’t even realize that we have a wound? Last week we and our colleagues facilitated a workshop called “Healing the Wounds of Ethnic Conflict” in the rural village of Kabeya Kamuanga. Church leaders – pastors, elders, and deacons, came from five different presbyteries to gather for the three day workshop.

Pastor Mboyamba started by introducing God’s original intentions for humankind – His love for people and His desire that people reflect the love of God in their relationships with each other. Elder Kalambayi then talked about prejudice, and how the evil of prejudice poisons our thinking and relationships, and seeps out to poison others, including our children and grandchildren. We talked about the ways that we as people can be wounded emotionally – by our families, communities, or experiences. When we have been wounded, it is easy to blame others, and then become suspicious of them, especially when they are different from us in some way. Bob taught about God’s heart of love for us, even in the midst of our suffering and pain. And then we looked at God’s plan for redemption – that Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins, but also to bear our pain and bring healing (Isaiah 53:4).  This is a truth that we often overlook.

Skit carrying burdens

Elder Kalambayi (right) picks up rocks and carries them in his backpack
in a skit that illustrates how we hold on to pain rather than giving it up to God.

Bob also taught about God’s vision for the church, and the way that the church often fails to be the salt and light of the world that God intended. In Christ, we can be made new and our minds transformed (2 Cor 5:17, Rom 12:2). But, that doesn’t happen automatically. On the second day of the workshop, each person was invited to share some of the deep wounds of their lives with one other person, and then pray for each other. Each person wrote these sources of pain on a piece of paper. People then came forward to nail the piece of paper to a large wooden cross – effectively giving the pain over to Christ. We took the cross outside, and burned all of the papers, encouraging each person to let Christ heal those wounds and replace them with life.

Nailing wounds to the cross 1

Burning wounds at cross 1

The following morning, people were invited to share if there were any specific ways that they had seen God provide or answer prayers in the midst of their struggles and pain. One woman shared that she had struggled with back pain for many years, but had noticed that morning that it was significantly reduced. Another man, Tatu Labai, shared that the struggle he had written on his paper was that he did not have good relationships with his sons-in-law. They did not respect him or talk to him or come to his house when he invited them. That very morning, Tatu Labai was preparing to leave home for the workshop when two of his sons-in-law showed up to talk to him. He was about to dismiss them so that he wouldn’t be late when he realized that their coming was an answer to his prayer – that God was bringing healing to this wound that he had given over the day before.

Rabai sharing testimony

Tatu Labai shares his testimony of healing

We praise God for His promises and for meeting and healing His children in these ways. We were careful to explain that the action of nailing our wounds to the cross was not magic – just a symbol of our giving up those things to the cross of Christ rather than holding on to them. When we accept both the salvation and the freedom that Christ offers, God can use us to shed light for others and open the doors for healing.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Consecration of Lubi II Parish, Tshikaji

A week ago Tuesday our friend Pastor Tshiyoyo came to our offices.  He delivered an invitation for the consecration of the Lubi II parish in Tshikaji.  Finally!  We had been waiting for this event since we returned to Congo in early 2014.  Some of you will undoubtedly remember that the church building of this parish was destroyed in August 2010 by a terrible wind storm.  Here is a link which recalls that event.  The church was fully rebuilt in 2013.  Now it was time to consecrate this new church building.  Many churches in the US played a vital role in helping with the reconstruction of this church.  We thank you again!

Standing outside Lubi II parish on a foggy, August morning

It was a joyous occasion.  Pastors and elders from different parishes in the presbytery of Nganza came to join the local parish of Lubi II.  A choir from the local military academy came and sang several animated songs.  The local chief was present to give thanks.  Congolese Presbyterian Church (CPC) leaders spoke words of thanks to God and appreciation for the people of Tshikaji.  I (Bob) spoke on behalf of other missionaries and PC(USA), remembering the tragedy of 2010 and thanking CPC leadership, our department leadership, the local pastor, the contractor and friends and churches from the US for their unswerving commitment to stand with the people of Tshikaji and to help rebuild. 

Choir from local military academy sang with great fervency!  

Chief Kamenga of Tshikaji
came to express thanks

The consecration was timely in another sense.  Our Department of Evangelism and Church Life recently republished a book on “Liturgy.”  This book assists pastors and lay leaders as they lead and facilitate worship.  One section addresses how to consecrate a new church building.  Pastor Tshiyoyo and other leaders of the presbytery were greatly pleased to have this resource to guide them in the day’s events.  Let me describe some of the elements prescribed for consecrating a new church building.  First, we marched around the new church building three times singing songs of praise and adoration.  It felt as if we were the children of Israel marching around Jericho!  We then gathered in front of the church building where our colleague Pastor Mboyamba offered a prayer of thanksgiving.  He then cut the ribbon.  A leader of the presbytery entered and sprinkled water throughout the building, a symbolic act of cleansing.  Then we all processed inside and remained standing, again offering prayers of thanksgiving and petition.  After singing another hymn, the liturgist then offered a prayer to consecrate the building according to this scripture from 1 Kings -

Then Solomon said,
The LORD has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. 
I have built an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever.”  (see 1 Kings 8: 12)

Marching around church building, singing
the classic hymn “Tutumbishe” to the
tune of ”Glory to His Name”

Pastor Mboyamba, Director of Department of Evangelism
and Church Life for CPC, offers prayer

At the beginning of the service elements for worship were brought forward and the liturgist consecrated them by prayer.  These elements included:  a new communion set, baskets for offerings, a Bible and a hymnbook.  The rest of the worship service was fairly typical, and Pastor Mboyamba praised the liturgist afterwards for keeping the service orderly and meaningful. The evangelist of the synod preached from 1 Kings, emphasizing that the LORD’s house is to be a place of welcome to strangers and foreigners (see 1 Kings 8: 41 – 43). 

Elements brought forward to be consecrated

It was a full house and a captivated crowd! 

This choir of young men from Lubi II sang a song recounting the
process of rebuilding the church, noting the sacrifices
made by their pastor, the builder, and others 

Afterwards we were broken up into groups and went to the local school to enjoy a nice meal.  We commended Pastor Tshiyoyo for putting this event together.  It was truly a day of rejoicing and thanksgiving.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for all that you have done!

Our lunch group:  (left to right) Pastor Tshiyoyo, Pastor Mboyamba,
Pastor Tshipamba, Kristi, IMCK representative, Elder Shambuyi

Monday, August 10, 2015

Launching savings groups

On Friday we held the first community meeting to give people an overview of what savings groups are and how they can be part of one. We have selected the commune (district) of Lukonga that is just at the edge of Kananga. My colleague Victorine talked to all the government leaders and local pastors, and people were invited on just a few days notice (which is typical here). I wondered whether anyone would come. I wondered what the response would be. And we prayed together that God would open the right doors and draw the right people.

About 100 women showed up, along with several community leaders and pastors. It was “standing-room-only” in the community hall. They listened attentively as Victorine shared about the importance of savings in our efforts to combat poverty. She described how often people try to do some income-generating activity like selling charcoal or flour, but they end up failing because of a crisis that eats up their capital or because of some bad decisions. But, in a savings group, women can share experiences and advise each other, and collectively make better decisions in the interest of managing their capital. And they also have a ‘safety-net’ of the group in times of crisis. Although it does not amount to large sums of money, having a solidarity fund for times of emergency is a core part of the methodology of savings groups.

Victorine (left) presents the concept of savings groups,
with the support of the local government leader (right)

Women packed the hall, excited to hear about this opportunity!

We learned that in Lukonga, there was recently a scam where someone came posing as an associate of a mobile phone company and offered training in English and computers. They charged $8 for the classes, and collected fees and registrations from many people before absconding with the money and closing up shop. So, local people and government officials are wary of outsiders coming in and claiming to offer a service. We emphasized that we are not planning to keep people’s savings, but are teaching and empowering them to manage their own funds. Congolese people are often wary of each other, especially when it comes to money. In a poor environment like Congo, some people are not afraid to push others out of the way in order to get a little bit ahead.

The women are excited, and eager to get started. Now, the big challenge is keeping up with that enthusiasm! We have wanted to start slow, since this is still new and we know there are ‘kinks’ to work out. Next week Victorine will meet with the women in one of the neighborhoods to confirm the members of the initial groups and start training the first group. We are still scrambling to collect all of the materials needed – metal boxes, member pass-books, sacks for storing money, calculators, etc. Please pray for us as we jump in to this new phase!


The ‘kit’ that a savings group uses. The metal box locks,
and holds money,passbooks, and all of the supplies.