At the opening ceremony of our visit to the Central Congo Conference Center 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. They are a touring evangelistic group that shares Jesus around the area in testimony and song. There will be a church in the future because of this next generation of young people who are on fire for the Lord.
Our Congo Team visited two feeding programs: Mpasa and Miriam’s Table. Bishop Daniel Lunge of the Central Conference joined us and encouraged the young people to follow God and to praise the Lord at all times. The children each received a bowl of a protein mush and a piece of bread. This is the only meal they will receive all day. I marveled at their patience as they waited for hours for our arrival. I pondered with thanksgiving the money that many of our churches had sent to these programs that is literally a lifeline for these children who are for the most part refugees from civil uprisings. May we never grow weary of well-doing as it is truly the heart of Jesus to feed the poor.
The Congo Partnership is an example of our Connectional system at its best. 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.
It is so difficult to put this mission into words. The hospitality of the Congolese far exceeds anything I have ever seen. Bishop Lunge met us at the airport with a delegation. Pastors from the Congo Episcopal area have traveled to be with us.
One our first day we saw the Mpasa Clinic and the new pediatric surgical center. Dr. Yamba Yamba showed us the equipment and shared that a baby had been born and was placed in the incubator as he needed additional care. He told us stories of what it was like to perform surgery prior to having the ultrasound machine. “Can you imagine not being able to know what was happening to the mother?” Dr. Yamba Yamba asked. “Far too many women died as the surgery was too late. Now I can see and know. This ultrasound machine is saving lives.”
On our second day, we looked at the next Partnership project involving transportation and economic development. This work involves the refurbishment of a barge to enable resources for churches to be shipped upcountry. Currently there is no viable way to bring resources to the rural areas.
During an evening reception, each of the team members were presented beautiful handmade gifts. The women pastors and a female district superintendent presented Bishop Johnson with gifts and told her that she gives them hope and reminds them that women have an important voice in ministry. They remembered when women were not allowed in ministry and then said: “And tonight we celebrate a strong episcopal leader in you.”
The young adult representative presented Ann Jacob with a gift and celebrated that our delegation contained a young adult. “Do not forget the youth and young adults,” he said. The conference lay leader and UMW president presented Tony Barnett with a special gift to celebrate the laity who are the church.
District Superintendents and the DCM (Director of Connectional Ministries) of the Congo Episcopal Area presented each DS, Rev. Joe Archie and Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, and the Pen-Del DCM, Rev. Vicki Gordy-Stith with presents, calling on us to “Go into the world and do not get tired!”
Pastors from the Congo Episcopal area traveled to be with us to make presentations to Rev. Bob Wilt and Rev. David Ryan. How beautiful to see Pastors from the Philadelphia Episcopal Area sharing fellowship and a Congolese feast with Pastors from DRC.
We had a day to see the beauty of Congo. So many people have images of the Congo that don’t capture its full potential. But our time here reveals more than simply the difficulties. While there are many challenges, we have also seen a place of hospitality, a people filled with grace and a country overflowing with beauty.