Grateful for the Congo Partnership
By Bishop Peggy Johnson
I returned in February from a 10-day mission trip with an eight-person team of clergy and laity from both the Eastern PA and Peninsula-Delaware conferences. Our Philadelphia Episcopal Area has been in partnership with the Central Congo Conference for over a decade, and there is much to celebrate.
This was my third trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and my second trip to the Central Congo Conference. Each time I continue to be amazed at the work of God that is happening among faithful people there. What did I see?
The tribal chief (left) of the city of Wembo Nyama DRC, joined Bishop Johnson in planting a tree of peace there. His great-great-great-great-great grandfather welcomed the first Methodist missionaries to Wembo in 1912 and allowed Christianity to be planted there. “We saw the graves of his ancestors,” Bishop Johnson said. “Very touching.” Ann Jacobs photo.
- I saw a deep respect for The United Methodist Church, its mission for souls and its appreciation for missionaries who began the work there over 100 years ago.
- I saw passionate worship in song, prayer and sermon. People of all ages gather to worship God in great numbers. The material lives of these people are meager, but the Spirit of God in their souls is the sustaining fire for life.
- I saw people working very hard in schools, seminaries, hospitals, farms, clinics, trade schools and churches to improve and build up the lives of the people and the community. I saw them being witnesses for God’s love.
- I experienced radical hospitality in hospitable accommodations, bounteous meals, and gracious and generous gifts from those who honored us. Whole towns came to greet our plane singing, dancing and waving palm branches. People who had nothing gave us generous and sacrificial gifts of clothing, rice, goats, chickens, carved wooden crafts and jewelry. Bishop Daniel Lunge and his team went all out to show us the utmost respect and make us comfortable.
- I experienced their concept of mission as the work of starting new churches. They collected money for that purpose so more might know the love of Jesus. Many pastors start these new churches with no salary whatsoever. They do it out of their love and desire to serve Christ.
- I saw many improvements since my last visit. There were much needed hospital repairs, e-readers for seminary students, new churches erected, a new well dug, a children’s program that started with a few children now increased to 1,000 children and 43 teachers, a new pediatric clinic with modern equipment and solar power, a second refugee children’s feeding program, bed nets in every home to prevent the spread of malaria and improved maternal health.
- I experienced the amazing work of Rev. Jonathan and Donna Baker, our UM Global Missionaries, who have labored in the vineyard there for the past three years bringing untold resources and wisdom for the upbuilding of this partnership. They are responsible for promoting and executing many of the projects listed above. In addition, they operate a cataract eye surgery clinic every year that literally gives sight and hope to the blind. They will be retiring at the end of March as GBGM missionaries but not retiring from the work of the Partnership.
I am grateful for the Congo Partnership and to all who graciously supported this mission trip with prayers and financial support. There is still much work to be done, and even the smallest gift goes a very long way in the Congo. I encourage every church to consider putting the Congo Partnership into their budget as a regular line item and watch God work!
This is a solid project with a long track record of faithfulness and productivity that all of us can be proud to support. As God blesses us, let us continue to be a blessing to the people in the Congo.