Mission tour reveals Congo Partnership’s lifesaving impact

By John W. Coleman

Want to learn more about this powerful, eye-opening, uplifting mission adventure? Read “Mission tour reveals Congo Partnership’s lifesaving impact” and also Bishop Johnson’s and the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm’s “Notes from the Mission Field.”

Also, view our 2018 Congo Partnership Visit Flickr album to see more photos!

“Now I can see and know.”

A smiling Dr. Adolphe Yamba Yamba, director and lead physician at Mpasa Medical and Nutrition Center in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), offered that exciting news of revelation to visitors about the new ultrasound machine they had helped him purchase.

He told them what it was like to perform surgery prior to having this essential medical equipment so common in the U.S but rare in areas of developing countries. “Can you imagine not being able to know what was happening to the mother?” he asked. “Far too many women have died when surgery was too late.  Now I can see and know.  This ultrasound machine is saving lives.”

Dr. Yamba Yamba’s visitors, leaders of the Bishop Peter D. Weaver Congo Partnership, a United Methodist joint-initiative, came from the Eastern PA and Peninsula-Delaware conferences to “see and know” the lifesaving ministries made possible by the support of many members and churches in their conferences.

Those ministries include a new pediatric surgical center with a new baby incubator and other lifesaving—yes, a word that bears repeating—newly solar-powered equipment. Dr. Yamba Yamba, who directs onsite operations of the Congo Partnership, told his guests that a baby had just been born there and placed in the incubator for additional, necessary care.

The eight U.S. visitors, led by Philadelphia Area Bishop Peggy Johnson and the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, a district superintendent in the Eastern PA Conference, spent nearly two weeks there, arriving Feb. 15. While Bishop Johnson departed Feb. 23 for a Council of Bishops meeting, the others were there till Feb. 26.

Also among the visitors were: the Rev. Robert Wilt, pastor of Lima UMC, and Lima UMC members Tony Barnett and Ann Jacob, a seminary student at Boston University; plus three clergy members serving in the Peninsula-Delaware Conference: the Rev. Joseph Archie, a district superintendent; the Rev. Vicki Gordy-Stith, Director of Connectional Ministries, and the Rev. David Ryan, a pastor on-loan there from Eastern PA.

Their hosts, in addition to Dr. Yamba Yamba, include Bishop Daniel Onashuyaka Lunge, the Central Congo Episcopal Area’s new leader elected in 2016; the Rev. Jonathan Baker and his wife Donna Baker, both United Methodist Global Ministries missionaries; and the many indigenous staff members of the various mission centers there.


“We are God’s ambassadors.” That’s how Jonathan Baker recently described all these servant-leaders working to improve the health, education and wellbeing of residents in this economically depressed area of the DRC.

“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, Superintendent of the South District, before the mission team’s visit. Her district has raised over $150,000 so far 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.”

From the moment of their arrival, the visiting team enjoyed exceptional, joyful hospitality—including generous gifts—and gained a humbling appreciation for the resilient faith and fortitude of their hosts. Despite the severe economic poverty, civil strife and other challenges they face, the people seem not poor in spirit but lavishly grateful for God’s abundant blessings.

“At the opening ceremony of our visit to the Central Congo Conference Center,” Bishop Johnson reported, “we were greeted by an enthusiastic group of young people who sang and danced, simultaneously proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. Accompanied by loud drumming, they praised God several times throughout the service, including at the end while the grown-ups were eating… There will be a church in the future because of this next generation of young people who are on fire for the Lord.”

“The hospitality of the Congolese far exceeds anything I have ever seen,” wrote Taylor-Storm.  “Bishop Lunge met us at the airport with a delegation. Pastors from the Congo Episcopal area traveled to be with us. How beautiful to see pastors from the Philadelphia Episcopal Area sharing fellowship and a Congolese feast with pastors from DRC.” Several of the U.S. clergy also taught classes for their hosts at an arranged Local Pastors School.

The joint Eastern PA and Pen-Del delegation divided into two teams to visit and volunteer at various mission sites, some in remote rural areas, including:

  • Miriam’s Table, a children’s nutrition program;
  • Wembo Nyama Children’s Ministry in Sankuru Province, serving an average of over 7,500 children per month in 45 different groups, “where children are learning to love Jesus and many are bringing their parents to Christ”;
  • The Cape Lodja Agricultural Project;
  • The Mama Tola Secondary School for girls;
  • The Jack and Renie Miner Trade School, and several other United Methodist schools and projects in Diengenga.

In one of many highlights, the Bakers and their visitors were able to witness the operation of “a new well they had worked very hard to dig for the town of Wembo Nyama,” reported Bishop Johnson. “There had been many attempts, and the ground was not right. But finally, a suitable vein of water was located, and the Bakers raised the funds through the Partnership. This is an incredible gift to a town that only had a river to depend on for water.”

Jonathan Baker dedicated the new well, which saves local residents in the Sankuru Province from having to trek to the river and use contaminated water for their families.

“Hallelujah!” Dr. Yamba Yamba rejoiced on his Facebook page. “We dropped to our knees with joy as we saw the water gushing from the earth!” Additional, much-needed wells are being drilled in Wembo Nyama and Tshumbe, thanks to the generosity of donor churches and individuals.

“We feel the connection in the heart that we have with you in this partnership,” said Bishop Lunge when he visited both Philadelphia Area conferences last fall to offer thanks and a report on the impressive mission work being accomplished with their support. (The Western North Carolina and Central Congo conferences are also part of the Congo Partnership.) “We would like to have that connection be an everlasting thing.”

Indeed, this historic visit may well ensure that the Congo Partnership does in fact become an everlasting thing, a long-term “connection in the heart.” For example, the visiting team learned about a new Congo Partnership project to provide needed transportation and rural economic development.

“This work involves the refurbishment of a barge to enable resources for churches to be shipped upcountry by water,” said Taylor-Storm. “Currently there is no viable way to bring resources to the rural areas.”

“The Congo Partnership is an example of our Connectional system at its best, observed Bishop Johnson. “Each of the parts does its part to lift up the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are honored and privileged to watch God at work on this Congo trip.”

Want to learn more about this powerful, eye-opening, uplifting mission adventure? Read “Mission tour reveals Congo Partnership’s lifesaving impact” and also Bishop Johnson’s and the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm’s “Notes from the Mission Field.”

Also, view our 2018 Congo Partnership Visit Flickr album to see more photos!