“We Serve for Peace”

This has been an interesting week in DRC.  I know, we say that a lot.  Technically, the week started in South Africa, so I guess I will begin with that.  Aaron and I spent 6 days in Cape Town mixing some work and some rest time at one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Surely the colors, the sounds and the people are still all mingling in my mind and I continue to be thankful for the time we had there.


On our journey back home to Kinshasa, we had one of those unexpected encounters in a long airport line.  Our new friends turn out to work for a major Christian publishing company in the US and were very interested in our ministries in DRC.  Would we be interested in staying connected with them and possibly finding ways to print and distribute free digital publications from their press?  Why, certainly we would!  And wouldn’t you know 2 days later in Kinshasa, we met with someone who was looking for printed resources to share with youth in Bandundu.  Always amazed when these things happen.

Back in Kinshasa a day later we took a lunch break with fellow missionary, Innocent Afful, so we could catch up on the latest news at the office and around the city.  But our friend is always “present” and in the moment, and the first thing he noticed at the cafe was this sign:


After engaging the waitress in an interesting conversation about why the sign was in English at a Lebanese cafe in French/Lingala speaking Kinshasa, he turned to us and said, “We need this sign on all the street corners in Kinshasa.  For God’s love is indeed all we need.”  Amen.

On Wednesday, we were able to be with Innocent and Pastor Sylvain and Mme. Celine as we toured an orphanage in Makala, and witness God’s love in action.  One of the parishioners at Pastor Sylvain’s church is making a home for 7 orphans in a small compound, and with few resources.  Our hope and prayer is that Innocent will be able to find ways to help the church develop this ministry.


And then today we had the honor of being at the medal presentation for the Ghanaian Peacekeepers with the UN here in Kinshasa.  This is not the first time we have been with these amazing people who have a very difficult position here in Kinshasa.  They are often at the orphanages, helping to provide food, clothes and other material assistance, not to mention, singing, dancing and much laughter.  “Love is all you need.”  The leader of the Ghanaian Delegation visiting from Accra, reminded the soldiers that they were indeed here in Kinshasa above all to bring hope and that they serve for Peace.  The prayers from the chaplains, one a Christian and one an Imam,  brought home the need to keep sharing this love wherever and however we can, through unexpected encounters, to the hard intentional work of being peace keepers in challenging times and places.


May we all continue to serve for Peace, wherever we are.



People of the Morning


Greetings from Kinshasa, Today is Weds.(Mercredi) Sept. 28th. Since my last post things have been quite in this city. It appears life and business continues as before with a little bit of tense anticipation. A little uncertainty and anxiety .  The dialog has been delayed, President Kabila has gone to see the Pope and other leaders.  The ministers are present  in Washington  and in Europe. The Congolese have returned to normal life… HOWEVER everyone knows that little was accomplished in regards to election and these issues will return to be revisited.          BUT WHEN????

Mary and I are back to work, walking though the neighborhoods. This is the best part, greeting everyone. The men working on the trees, Jean who looks for us every morning at the end of the street. We greet the armed guards who are guarding a compound, and the man picking mangoes. Vincent comes to talk about his medication and recent operation. The Moslem couple that has the bread stand, she is waiting with our bread. The young man who always wants to shine my shoes.  THESE are the people of the morning. They are the ones that we missed last week and wondered about,and they were concerned about us.    It isn’t important that we all speak different languages,we talk anyway,we somehow communicate and most of all we smile and then…God smiles back.


Dance of Sadness

A couple of years ago I read a book titled ” Dancing While  Standing Still”.  Two weeks ago I order the new book by Richard Rohr ” Dancing with the Divine”.  I  understood for quite some time that my life is a dance.  I dance with the God of creation, I dance with my wife, I dance with creation.  Sometimes its slow, sometimes a very fast dance. Sometimes dancing with God’s creation is happy but today?  It IS SAD.

I have written in for the past nine months about the amazing people and situations that Mary and I have had a chance to dance with. These are God’s people who live in the neighborhoods of Kinshasa. We are here to dance with these who are created just like we. These who live on the margins of society and in some of the poorest areas in the world. They live, they work, they laugh, and OH do they dance.They survive the diseases,the rain, no power, no water. They dance with the cruelty of life.  Today we dance together in sadness.


On Monday Kinshasa erupted in violence.  In response to the government not scheduling an election, and in response to the overwhelming belief  that the President intends to continue his rule and not step down as mandated by the countries constitution, 1000s of people took to the streets in protest. The police and military responded with live ammunition.  Reports are of  between 40 and 100 already dead, buildings set on fire and total chaos.

Mary and I have been at home since Sunday.  The various embassies have warned ” not to go on the streets”. We are safe, the other UMC missionaries and their families in Kinshasa are safe.  We have food and water.  Currently we have intermittent power and internet.

Mary and I wonder and worry about all of those that we know and have met in the neighborhoods. How are they coping? How have they been effected? When will it be safe for us to return to God’s people in Limete,Yo Lo Sud, Petro-Congo, Lingwala, Cemetrie. A short time ago these places, these people did not exist to us.Now we wonder? Now we worry. Now we mourn.


Information is that tomorrow and through the weekend the protests resume and the government opposition believes will continue until a new government is elected.

This feeling, this worry, overshadows everything else. Pray for the Congolese.

This weekend we dance to mourn the lost and a dance of sorrow. We dance for a better tomorrow.


Apres (After) Work Hours

When God called us to be missionaries, the lines become blurred between personal and work. Mary and I are grateful to find opportunities to continue to serve outside of  our “normal” work, building relationships and transforming lives. Over the last couple of weeks we have found opportunities.

Mary and I have a guest bedroom purposely to honor our call for radical hospitality. What a blessing it is to have had our new Methodist Missionary friends from Switzerland a few weeks ago  and to host Mark Dawson the visiting Mennonite Missionary while he was in Kinshasa.

We have hosted small group studies, as well as missionary meetings in our apartment. Occasionally Mary and I are both asked to preach and attend churches and this week I was asked to fill in for the Bishop and speak to a group of Kinshasa pastors for their monthly meeting.

Mary and I are always eager when we are asked to host, greet,or just be present with  visiting “anglophone” guest who frequently visits from a variety of English speaking countries.


Last Sunday, I believe to be the most unusual event for a Methodist Missionary.  Mary and I received a formal invitation to attend the Installation of the new Anglican  Arch Bishop of Congo and the new Bishop of Kinshasa.


This was a very important event for the Anglican Church. This Mass  was held at the Cathedral of Saint Pierre. Filled to capacity with tents outside and TV screens for additional attendance. This installation mass was “High Church” which lasted over 6 hrs and a formal dinner to follow. The mass was filled with music and Arch Bishops, Bishops from around the world.

Adding to the adventure in between the Mass and dinner, Mary and I connected LIVE via Skype to the Reno First United Methodist Church service. What a beautiful site for us to see our downtown  Reno church filled with smiling faces. We look forward to continuing this connection with the DRC.


Mary and I are grateful  to witness God working in so many ways, transcending denominations, cultures, countries and time zones.

This Missionary is humbled to witness LIVE…   Sunday ending in Congo and beginning in Reno,10,000 miles away with the smiles and laughter of His children.


Cimetiere Orphanage KIN LO-5069

Last Thursday we went back to the Orphanage in Cimitare with the two new mattresses that we had at our apartment along with treats for the kids..  It was clear that rather storing them until we had children visit again, they could be better used by these children.


While there we had a discussion about the needs of the young disabled boy who appears to be a polio victim. Mary and Innocent are looking for help for him at Handicap International and other NGOs.

It’s forever interesting to me, how are purpose can change in a moment.

On Friday we were visited by Thomas Wetshi, Director of OPURR a local NGO that works fro Peace and Reconciliation. We affirmed our interest and hope to go with his group to a future  event in the interior.

On Sunday we attended church at the MANUSCO, the UN military base with the soldiers from Ghana. We had worked with them before at the orphanages when they do service projects for the neighborhood. What a joy it was to worship with our “West African” friends. The choir was great, a brass band played the hymns and everyone danced during the offering.  The Post Commander was the preacher of the day. What a great message delivered by a humbled man of God.

Lots going on this week but on everyone’s mind is the elections and the  14 day “Dialogue” which began on Friday. Theses are talks related to the elections by opposition parties and the government.

Pray for the DRC during these talks. Pray for a peaceful resolution.

Esengo and Bolingo!

Lingwala Savings Group LO-5291

We have frequently mentioned the small savings groups which are being developed here in Kinshasa and around the DRC through the work of Pastor Jeff Sikabwe and other volunteers here at Eglise du Christ au Congo.  Martin, Clauvis and Serge made up the team that went to Mushie this week to introduce the program to two groups of women and men who are disabled.  Aaron and I visited the training session on Tuesday so we could have a closer look at how the process works.

Lingwala Savings Group LO-5282

One of the things I like most about this program, is that it starts by talking about how the participants are all created in the image of God.  The program allows people who are often overlooked and without much representation to see themselves and their relationships through a very different lens.  As we watched the trainers guided the 2 groups as they determined how each one would make decisions and develop a constitution.  They then voted in a secretary for each group.  They also decided on the name for each group.  One is called “Esengo” which means joyous and the other is called “Bolingo” which means love in Lingala.  Joyous love!  Both groups were so engaged in the process and their discussions were intense.  The trainers kept things moving but stepped back to let things flow.

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Back in the office today, the trainers were putting together the documents each group needs to take on the beginning steps of the savings groups.  Steps that will help them grow their small businesses and support their families.  At the same time, the financial skills, and organisational skills they are learning will go a long way toward transforming their lives and their communities.  We hope and pray for these two groups – Esengo and Bolingo!

Lingwala Savings Group LO-5314


Living with Silence

Ahhhh The power of SILENCE.


For the past 10 days, we have  had a respite from silence.  We have had wonderful house guests. The Hofers, Daria, Roman, Noah (2) and Jael (5). All UMC Missionaries from Switzerland serving in Lubumbashi, DRC. What a joy to have “littles” in the house.  It’s been so much fun playing with the kids and playing board games after bedtime. Our apartment is filled with small voices and at least three languages, I am amazed to read bed time stories in French, German and English. Jael and Noah are learning ALL THREE. Then to top out our joy, our Election lawyer friend, Mark from Bukavu also moved in with us on Tuesday for a few days.

Ahhhhhh the NOT so silent

Most of this week Mary and I have been researching programs to introduce to our partners in Kinshasa on Coaching and 50/50 partnerships. We are understanding the need to implement this type of sustainable ministry here. We have also been learning how Global Mission Fellows could be utilized in the various ministries and mission sites that we come into contact with.

Our surprise this week was when a man came into our office to talk with Rev. Sikabwe. Last time on this blog we talked about his Micro-Financing programs for women. Mr.Ikaka wanted to discuss Micro-Finance programs for the disabled in area.

In the city of  Kinshasa it is quickly apparent that there is a large number of functioning disabled people.  There are many bicycles that have be fitted with hand peddles instead of using one’s feet.  Many people getting around by other means than using their legs. Many street corners have vendors who are survivors of some medical condition which impairs their movement. I don’t understand all the situations but it appears to me that many childhood diseases exists  that have apparently been eradicated or treated in the west.

Mr. IKaka has a community group that has about 40 people in it that are disabled.  They are looking for a better way to make a living and believe Micro-Finance training may help this community.  He had arranged a location at a school but it is only available for two more weeks.


The agreement was made Rev. Sikabwe would hold a special training next week for this disabled community. He clearly stated that they are all working hard and are “also God’s children”. His only stumbling block is the $250  cost of materials and refreshments.

These are the times when God is clearly at work.  Everything has come together without planning or labor. Everything except the part that WE are to do.                    Mary and I advanced the funds for the costs knowing that a partner will step forward for this group of hard working Congolese.

” Send Me!!




Transformed Lives in the DRC

We have touched on the small savings groups before in this blog, but I wanted to let the women of DRC speak for themselves today.  We know of several opportunities in Kinshasa, in Mbuji Mayi and coming up in Burundi where our co-worker Rev. Jeff Sikabwe provides training for women, men and orphans on the program provided by another Eglise du Christ au Congo partner, CMS (Church Missionary Society). Jeff works with Innocent Afful, and the Department of Women and Families to help locate, train and follow up with groups interested in transforming their own lives and their communities.  Here are some examples and photos from recent training events and follow up sessions.  Happy reading!


These women, by pooling their resources, financed each other’s businesses–soft drink, dress making, clothing store, soap making, ……. . Their saving group grant allowed additional investment in supplies and equipment to start, improve and scale up their individual businesses.”

savings group

Meet Élisée Tshibunda

From the saving group Mrs. Elisée TSHIBUNDA received a lump sum of $300. This amount helped her to purchase one new sewing machine and repair two and purchase other raw materials to expand her business. Now it`s a workshop of 5 dressmakers. Today, she is working with four trainees. Élisée is very happy to now be a self-sufficient woman. The saving group has not only helped her establish her own business and overcome many of her challenges as the breadwinner for her family, but it has also put her in a position to provide a source of income and inspiration to young women.

Savings group 2

Meet Nana Mujinga

Mrs. Nana MUJINGA received a lump sum of $50 from the saving group to increase her small business. She stands behind her table full of vegetables: tomatoes, onions, beans, spices, nuts, fruits, eggs… ready to welcome customers with an eager, bright smile.

Many people come to join their group as they see her progressing in her income generating activities.  Her unique creation helps to pay for rent, household expenses and school fees for her children.

And from our friends in Lingwala – Pastor Romain’s church a new group has started as of last week!



And from Masina – training by Rev. Jeff and Pastor Martin



To our friends, Jeff, Martin, Innocent and Rev. Berthe Nzeba – we thank God for their transformational work.

From the UN to the Orphanage and back again.

We frequently say we never know what our week will be like.  A few weeks ago, Aaron bought a white board so we could put our schedule up and try to keep our coworkers aware of where we might go next!  There are things that never make it onto the calendar, for example the unexpected presence of writers and illustrators for Christian comic books who came to church last Sunday and stayed to talk about their upcoming conference in Kinshasa.  Some talented and passionate young women and a young man!


On the schedule for Tuesday was a round table discussion with the UN Foundation and Congressional delegation from the US as they heard from representatives of the religious communities in Kinshasa.  It’s hard to describe the impact of the MUNUSCO presence in Congo in a brief blog post, but we keep learning about the work of these troops around Kinshasa and especially in the East.  To the religious community MUNUSCO represents the ability to overcome or at least address the huge transportation, communication and security needs of the upcoming elections.


Another way we know that the Ghanaian MUNUSCO troops are involved is their help with our Global Ministries Missionary, Innocent Afful.  Innocent works with us at Eglise du Christ au Congo, focusing on orphanages and vocational programs.  Friday we were able to visit Chero Orphanage in the Cimetiere area.  The orphanage is in a compound that rests along a ravine in a roadless area of Kinshasa.  The path to the orphanage follows the trickle of a stream that runs along the bottom of the ravine with hundreds of small dwellings on either side.  Madam Muyombo, who is the matron of the orphanage, accepts children of all ages and abilities.  While we were there we met one of the boys who has polio and have begun looking for ways to connect him to services in Kinshasa that he needs to live a more comfortable life.  As always, we are humbled by the workers we find serving the needs of the children.  In this case from an infant up to the late teens.  The MUNUSCO troops are also looking for ways to support Chero and other orphanage homes in the Kinshasa area.

Cimetiere Orphanage KIN LO-5076

A big bonus for us in the last week were visits from Global Ministries staff!  We were so thankful to have our Executive Secretary for Africa with us, Yollande Yambo!  Yollande and her husband Greg had dinner with the Afful, Zigbou and Vandersommers families while we shared our experiences in Kinshasa.  What a treat for us to have her visit not only our home but our office so she could meet our co-workers and neighbors as we walked home for a lunch meeting.  We are so very encouraged by her presence, her knowledge of DRC and her integrity.  As if that were not enough, Assistant General Secretary, Mande Muyombo also visited us on his way to Angola.  Feeling supported, which is no small thing!


And then today, we returned to the political, as Aaron and I attended the unveiling of the kits being used throughout the Congo, by the CENI (National Independent Election Commission) for enrolling voters.  The kit includes photo recognition, finger printing and other data to confirm the voters identity and eligibility in a specific community. Quite a fascinating process which led us right back to the discussion from the previous week about the huge need for transportation and communication as well as security and election education.  Big challenges.

Cimetiere Orphanage KIN LO-5080

And I preached this last Sunday, and as the photo shows – my hands were in flight.  God is pleased to give us the Kingdom – which is certainly good news!  We get that sense every day, many challenges and many blessings!


Do No Harm

Our number one rule as Missionaries, Do no Harm.

Mary and I had several conversations this week about our philosophy as missionaries about the new paradigm of mission work. That is to work WITH our hosts. Listen to what the communities needs, has, can bring to their ministries and understand better how we can work WITH them as a partner.  We talked about the new 50/50 initiatives and sustainable programs.

Missionaries  no longer bring a check book to a community.  We look to be present as the locals bring their talents and resources and connect other congregations to their ministries so that they will continue when Mary and I are reassigned or retire (again).

Looking for visitors;

Time was spent understanding what needs to be done to begin accepting teams here next year. We had a couple of calls back to the states last week, to understand better how we can connect US congregations to Congo.  I went and toured several guest houses to see about available housing, locations,and meal possibilities. Time was spent looking for at 4-wheel dive vehicles that will be needed to transport the groups. Many are available and it appears the price is dropping for election season. Now we just have to secure funding.

On Wednesday we announced the ECC team to begin a program called “Passage”.  It is a a pilot program in Kinshasa organized by Georgetown University, Tearfund (British) and USAID. “Passage” is a long term study and program to address gender issues, violence,early marriage and family planning in Congo. Theses are difficult subjects and so important to increase the safety and   opportunities for girls to be educated and become a respected part of society. I am humbled to be able to work on such an important issue.


On Thursday Mary and I were able to visit one of Universities associated with the ECC.  The campus of the UCKIN. The Christian University of Kinshasa.  A much larger program than I expected ( again with my expectations). On the campus is also a church,a primary and a secondary school and of course a very large football (soccer) field. UCKIN has a study program of Theology, Medicine,Law,Economics,and Conflict Resolution.

There were no classes in session.  We attended during the last two days of school when the senior were taking their oral exams. A big difference than in the USA. The families were also there. Eating, laughing. Everyone was dressed in their best, balloons, flowers. What a festive family affair. Mary and I  would love to see these devoted educators connected to the teachers,professors and theologians that we encounter in our journeys.

Following church yesterday, Mary and I met a group of Christen Cartoonists and artist from the neighboring country of the Republic of Congo. Affectionately referred to here as Brazzaville, Congo. They are attending a seminar in Kinshasa.  We talked about the United Methodist church in Brazzalville. She was very interested in having us come across the river a form a connection. I don’t think we have many United Methodists in The Republic of Congo and there are no Global Missionaries there.  It may prove to be an interesting connection.  God is always in control.

Congo Brazz lo-1253

Finally, Over a week ago, I had a conversation with a missionary about a need for a water pump on a farm.  The farmers haul water from a near by river, one bucket at a time for the crops,AND its the dry season. We could really need a pump to reduce the labor required.I listened, made a mental note.

Last Monday I had an email from a person in Reno, Nevada. She asked about supporting our ministry here. ” Oh, by the way I know a Hydrologist that has experience in Africa but not the Congo. If we ever need a water expert, let me know”.  I have never talked about water with this person. But there it was!!!!

On Friday, I received an unsolicited quote from a “farming engineer”( I think), detailing all of the parts and hoses along with labor. $2400 US,to install the pump on the farm. It seems that almost everything just came together without me doing anything. I like that!

Now, I’m assuming if I continue,my work strategy the rest will happen.