“We are God’s ambassadors.” That’s how the Rev. Jonathan Baker described the faithful leaders working to better the health, education and lives of people in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). That includes him and Donna Baker, both United Methodist Global Ministries missionaries there, the indigenous staffs of life-saving UMC mission enterprises in the area and the annual conferences—including Eastern PA—that support their work.
It also includes the UMC’s new Central Congo episcopal leader, Bishop Daniel Onashuyaka Lunge. In early November he visited our conference and others in the U.S. that are part of the Bishop Peter D Weaver Congo Partnership, a remarkable mission collaboration. Interpreting for the French-speaking bishop was Dr. Adolphe Yamba Yamba, who functions as the Mission Coordinator for the Congo Partnership.
Bishop Lunge and Dr. Yamba Yamba visited Eastern PA Nov. 1-2, before attending the UM Council of Bishops meeting at Lake Junaluska, N.C. Their first stop was Lima UMC for a celebration of their successful relationship with Eastern PA. (The other two U.S. partner conferences are Peninsula-Delaware and Western North Carolina.)
“We feel the connection in the heart that we have with you in this partnership,” said Bishop Lunge in his grateful remarks, prior to showing slides and describing the often amazing work being accomplished. “We would like to have that connection be an everlasting thing.”
A small team of church and conference leaders will try to strengthen that connection when they visit and volunteer at mission venues in Congo for two weeks, Feb. 14-26, 2018. Joining the Bakers there will be: Bishop Peggy Johnson; the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm; the Rev. Bob Wilt, Lima UMC’s pastor; and Lima UMC members Tony Barnett and Ann Jacob, a seminary student at Boston University.
Also on the team are two clergy members serving in the Pen-Del Conference: the Rev. Joseph Archie, a superintendent; the Rev. Vicki Gordy-Stith, Director of Connectional Ministries, and the Rev. David Ryan, who is on-loan there from Eastern PA.
“Our hope is to further the relationship with the Congo Partnership as we plan for an Eye Clinic/Cataract Care facility in the Mpasa area,” said Taylor-Storm, South District Superintendent and team leader, whose district has raised over $150,000 to help build and furnish Mpasa’s new pediatric clinic. “I sense that all the participants will experience transformation as we learn from our Congolese sisters and brothers.”
The team will tour and participate in some of the work described by Bishop Lunge and Dr. Yamba. That includes:
They will also visit the Mama Tola Secondary School, which offers education for girls, and the Jack and the Renie Miner Trade School, both located in Diengenga, a small village in the remote Central Congo area. And they will teach local pastors school classes and join area clergy and laity in worship.
About 60 people attended the evening celebration at Lima UMC, which included lively music provided by the church’s praise team and a choir from the Clearview UMC in Philadelphia.
“It’s always special when a congregation can meet missionaries and leaders who represent United Methodist ministries that they support,” said Wilt, Lima’s pastor. “It makes the connection more personal and increases the commitment to faithfully give witness to Christ. We are eagerly preparing ourselves to witness the spiritual awakening and phenomenal church growth happening in the Congo.”
“What moved me most during our celebration,” recalled Taylor-Storm, “was hearing Dr. Yamba tell the story of the first time he heard a baby’s heartbeat using the equipment purchased for the pediatric clinic. Truly, our work with the Congo Partnership is enabling God’s people to have access to health care, many for the very first time.”
Climaxing the celebration was a dramatic, bilingual prayer by Bishop Lunge and Dr. Yamba to consecrate the mission team. Bishop Johnson described it as “a moment of Pentecost, demonstrating our multicultural awareness and our passion for reaching people for Christ.”