Congo Mission: Hope for health and hunger

Congo woman feeding child

Nutrition for children is the main focus of the Mpasa Nutrition Center and Clinic, which the Congo Partnership team visited, is a ministry of the United Methodist Church, and feeds about 350 children and their families.

Bishop Peggy A. Johnson invites you to download the CONGO POWERPOINT PRESENTATION that was used at all district days.  The Congo Partnership unites the Central Congo Episcopal Area, the Peninsula-Delaware Conference and the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference in an effort to bring renewal and restoration of spiritual and material ministries for the whole Church and especially its children.   

By David Ryan*

Fourteen airplane landings and takeoffs punctuated a sixteen-day trip of the Philadelphia Area/Congo Partnership team to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).   

Bishop Peggy Johnson, as well as Rev. Michael Johnson and Rev. David T. Ryan of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, and Rev.  Jonathan Baker, Bill Innes , Karen Morgan, and Jackie Onwu of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference made up The Philadelphia Area team.  The Central Congo Episcopal Area hosted our visits to schools, clinics, hospitals and local churches to find ways in which the team might partner with their ministries.

Over the course of the sixteen days, the group was privileged to take part in two different annual conferences in Kananga and Wembo-Nyama, as well as a university graduation ceremony and the service of ordination.

The team delivered life-saving medecines and encouraged the spirits of pastors and lay leadership by our ministry of presence. We shared worship glorifying God and developed a deeper appreciation of our partnership.

The first leg of the journey began in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, and to the  Mpasa Nutrition Center and Clinic. Singing children, served by the Center, greeted the team with lively singing. Just 25 cents a day provides a meal for each child, and, when there is enough, food for their families. The clinic, under the direction of Dr. Yohadi, meets the needs of about 350 children and their families.

Operations in the clinic are done by the light of a window and hand-held flashlights. So, a major need for the clinic is solar energy, as there is no electricity in the area, and because the cost of fuel for running a generator is very high.  In response to this need, the Northeast District of Eastern Pennsylvania Conference is already raising funds to provide solar power for the clinic.

In the clinic, the team met a woman who had no family and no money for medical care. When the doctor operated on her, it was discovered that her body was full of infections. The partnership was able to provide the money needed for her care.  With a Bible was laying on her bed, she shared how she came to know the love of God began to trust her life to Christ through the experience.

The team visited several local churches in Kinshasa.  One local church needs a new machine to grind corn or nuts as a way for the women of the church to support the ministry of the church, and a new cart so that the men can raise funds by moving goods from one part of the city to another.   Another church needs adequate housing for their pastoral team of four. The team visited the property where the Central Congo Conference hopes to build a Conference Center. The property is strategically located across from the nation’s parliament. The high visibility of this center could influence government leaders and help missional projects of the church move forward. The partnership also explored expanding technical training opportunities and took a 500 mile round-trip journey to visit and bless a 15 acre tract of land owned by the United Methodist Men of the Conference.

The next stop for the team was to the Kananga Conference area.  A large crowd of pastors and lay members of the annual conference waited several hours in the hot sun to greet our delegation with singing, rejoicing, drums, and waving of palm branches.  We shook thousands of hands.  Our team was struck by how thin many of the pastors are. Many work with little or no pay. At the annual conference, each of the pastors received a used shirt and pair of pants to help with their personal needs. The team visited several clinics sponsored by the United Methodist church, and were encouraged by the progress made by one school and clinic which was begun with partnership funds. Though located in a very poor area, there was a wonderful sense of community spirit.

The team was struck often by the joy of faith of the Congolese men and women of God. We met with the lone woman pastor of that conference and learned that there was a great need for bibles and song books in her congregation. The area, like many others, is still recovering from devastation caused by invading rebels. A window of one room was still shattered by a bullet that was aimed at one of our Congolese national women missionaries, where she was held captive. The bullet hit one of the bars on the window and ricocheted off, saving her life. There has been no money to repair the window and so it remains a reminder of that close encounter.

Children in Wembo-Nyama enjoyed balloom hats made by Bishop Peggy Johnson and Rev. David Ryan.  According to Rev. Ryan, the children put on a very straight face for a picture, but were full of smiles afterward.

After Kananga, it was time for the first of several flights in the small five passenger plane operated by Jacques Umembudi, a pilot with “Wings of Caring.” Jacques flew the team to Wembo-Nyama, which many regard as the heart of Methodism in the Central Congo. Begun as a mission compound back in the 1930s, Wembo has produced many leaders for both the church and nation. The greeting the team received here was overwhelming. Huge Wembo style drums echoed in the crowd.  Our Bishop, now known as “Mama Eveque” was lifted by six men and carried in a chair attached to poles, borne on their shoulders.  Musicians and singers progressed with the parade. It was in this village where members of the team were privileged to be among those who handed out diplomas to graduates of the United Methodist University there.

About $4,000 of medical supplies were purchased in the capital and flown in with the team.  On the first night, the doctor had to come and quickly find the medicines from the boxes needed for an emergency cesarean section. The next day the group had the privilege of greeting mother and child, who may well have died had those medicines not been available that night.  Flights took to team to the areas of Mingo and Tunda where they visited schools, churches and clinics. In each place, the team shared in worship, learned of the needs, offered encouragement and prayer.   Elderly women of the village of Wembo received gifts of bags of salt and soap with deep gratitude and great rejoicing and thanksgiving to God.   A group of eight clergy widows came to sing for Bishop Johnson and bring greetings.

Our bishop made known her special concern for the deaf. Over the next several days, deaf children and adults came to our bishop for her blessing. One family walked 12 miles to meet her on the last morning she would be in the village. The hope is that eventually some sort of schooling and training will be available for the deaf community there.

Two of the team, Revs. David Ryan and Michael Johnson had the privilege of preaching before the annual conference gathered there. The team dreamed of a Christian education program for the area of Wembo. Currently, none exists. There are no materials, no classes, no songs or games for the children.  The team estimates that for just $150 a month a program can reach more than a thousand children. Bibles are also a great need. Not even every pastor has a bible or song book. The partnership will work on seeing that these are available not just for the pastors, but for the laity as well. The team ended their visit to the village by participating in a service of ordination. Twelve persons were ordained – some as elders, some as deacons, some commissioned towards orders.  One of the team commented that there were few smiles on the faces of the ordinands. A local pastor responded that rarely do you see smiles on the faces of those being sent out to the battlefield. These pastors often serve without pay and in difficult conditions, yet with a passion for sharing the word of God and meeting the needs of the communities in which they are sent.

Over and over again, the delegation from EPA and PenDel emphasized the benefits of the partnership. A true partnership is needed. Those in the Congo need our prayers and encouragement as well as funding for their ministries. But we also need the prayers, encouragement and fellowship of our Congolese brothers and sisters. We have much to learn from them about faith, perseverance, hospitality, and the simple joy that comes from trusting your entire life to the Lord. The team came away with a new sense of what a privilege it is to be able to share in this partnership between our conferences.

*David Ryan is chair of the Congo Partnership Team.  Invite a Team member to share an inspiring presentation of photos and stories of faith in your church by contacting Rev. Ryan:

Would you like to be a part of the Congo Partnership Team?

January 10, 2011  (Also April 11 and June 13)

EPA Congo Partnership Meeting  at the EPA Conference Office, 980 Madison Ave, Norristown, PA  19403.   Meeting of the EPA Congo Partnership team at 7:00 pm. Open to all who have a interest in the Partnership and the ministry of the Central Congo Episcopal Area.  Contact: David T. Ryan, 717-713-2614 or