Local Support

We have had a busy few weeks since returning to Kinshasa.  I can’t begin to explain how having a vehicle changes what we do.  Thanks to Toyota engineering and 4 wheel drive, we have been able to climb some steep hills and gingerly move through deep water.  But we are reminded, as we move around more freely than before, that many who support these ministries locally, are less mobile.

Last week, Aaron and I visited an orphanage in the Kinshasa suburb of Munga Fula.  This orphanage is west/southwest of the city and takes about 40 minutes to drive there from “downtown.” They have 57 children and one girl who grew up in the orphanage, who is now attending university.  The property is uphill, and overlooks one of the valleys that feeds into the city.  From this home you can see out over thousands of rooftops and dirt roads.  The building is clean and neat, but the rooms are small, with as many as 12 children sharing a bedroom.  Innocent took us here so we could see the need for the mattresses we spoke about in an earlier post.  Our hope here is to find ways to have bunk beds built locally for the mattresses.

While we were there a young woman, whom we had passed on the long drive up the hillside, came walking into the compound carrying a 25 kilo bag of rice.  As it turns out, she had seen the television report on Innocent’s orphanage “Christmas Party” arranged with the help of the MONUSCO Ghanaian troops last December.  After watching the program she decided she needed to make a contribution to the orphanage in her area!  No small gift and no small effort to get it to these children.

The children all attend school, thanks to support from a farm managed by Jacob, the Mennonite leader who runs the orphanage.  The farm is located east of Kinshasa which means the properties are about 4 hours apart, in good driving conditions.  When the crops are good, each hectare is producing $1000 to $1200.  His good stewardship has been helping keep these kids in school since 2001.

Everywhere we go, we see people living out their call to care for orphans and widows and those who are in need.  Although we hope to connect them  to needed resources near and far, we are acutely aware of the work that is already being done and thank God for this local support of the ministries of the church.

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Is there something TANGIBLE?

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We are back in Kinshasa and spent our first full week back meeting and talking to many people.  Mary and I spent time at a program to train youth leaders about democracy, attended a program on SBGV and family planning,met with a member of the Regional Health board, and spent time with missionaries representing the Mennonites and Presbyterians. Now that we have the Mission Vehicle we also visited both a Vocational school for girls in Kinkole and a Methodist clinic, church and food program in Mpasa.  Both Kinkole and Mpasa are south of the city and serviced by tracks rather than roads. We are so thankful to have a reliable 4 wheel drive!

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I will talk about the Kinkole Vocational School supported by the Protestant Federation of Women in a later post. Stay tune because it will become a very important ministry for us to be involved with.

Today Mary and I would like to respond to several requests that we’ve received since the New Year. ” Is there something that we can do that is TANGIBLE?

Much of what we do is not tangible. A lot of what we do is listen, encourage and help others connect the dots locally and sustainably. And yet in meeting with people already serving in their ministries, we find tangible things we can do that give that ministry a needed boost.  So I want to answer your question with a YES!

Mary and I have noticed at our orphanages and at the vocational schools for girls, there is a great need of mattresses . Many of the children are sleeping on the concrete or dirt floors with no mattresses or the ones that do have a mattress are very old.

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We would like to provide these facilities with new mattresses. We think we will need about 250 mattresses to get these kids off of the floor and onto a proper place to sleep.  This will also enhance the health and sanitation efforts at these schools, enormously.

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I went to the market and have negotiated a price of $35 each for twin vinyl covered mattress. These will be produced locally at a factory in Kinshasa. I have already purchased a sample for you to see.

I would like for you or your  congregation to consider providing a mattress or a dozen.  Funds can be sent to the “Rural Congo Support” advance number # 3022293 or if you send me an email I can explain credit card donations or make other arrangements.

Mattresses are $35 each

Rural Congo Support Advance #3022293

Thank You for helping in Congo

 

 

Return to Kinshasa

Greetings to all of our friends and supporters and Happy New Year!

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Rift Valley, Kenya

Mary and I spent 6 weeks in Kenya during the recent political crises and last week have returned. We are so happy to be in our home in Kinshasa and look forward to beginning the New Year and again doing the work that God has for us to do.

Please continue to pray for the Congolese.  The current government and political opposition parties have an agreement to hold a Presidential Election during 2017. Pray for a peace and justice during the coming months.

Mary and I completed our first year in the Congo last week.  What an incredible year.  I have to say that we spent most of the year learning. Learning and understanding so much about the country, geography, languages, politics, history, religions.  There is so much to learn about a culture,its languages, people, families, customs.  I’d have to say the one word that describes our year is “LEARNING”.

We are United Methodist Missionaries and we are here, because we are YOU. We are your Missionaries doing the work YOU would do if you could be here. We are here to continue caring for God’s children. This is why it is so important for Mary and I to continue our connection and relationships with you and is so important to our ministry.

It is also important for us to hear from you and understand how we can expand your ministries into the Congo and know how we can pray for you and your church’s.mission program.

In 2016 with your help we have started to connect people and congregations. We pray that the connections that were established between Congo and USA continue to grow.

Last year  Gay Street UMC in Mt. Vernon provided funds for seeds that provides a sustainable source of income for a small school in Lingwala neighborhood. The children’s summer program at Gay Street UMC contributed scho0l supplies for the Orphanage school in Cimitare. Our partner in Andover helped us with medical treatment for two young polio victims and with your help we had many opportunities to provide bags of rice, beans and supplies to various schools and orphanages.

First UMC Mansfield during the  Advent season raised funds for new sewing machines for the Mitendi School for Girls. What a blessing it will be for this vocational and education facilities.

Last weekend, because of your faithfulness,  Mary and I purchased a used Toyota SUV to use as the Kinshasa UMC Mission Vehicle. We are again so grateful.  I can’t imagine the new opportunities that will come now that we have transportation.

Last year, Mary and I  were thankful for our Connected Churches;

         Gay Street UMC, Mt. Vernon, Ohio

         Reno First UMC, Reno, Nevada

         Kent UMC, Kent, Ohio

         First UMC , Mansfield,Ohi0

          Trinity UMC, Orrville,Ohio

  East Ohio 3Cs Mission Team

         Tuscarawas District, East Ohio

          East Ohio UMC Foundation

We are excited  thinking about 2017.  Mary and I plan to spend more time in the neighborhoods and congregations working with local programs. We hope to continue to work with the 11 orphanages, neighborhood micro finance programs, medical centers, and neighborhood schools. We hope to connect more with UMCOR and Global Health and continue to connect NGO resources with sustainable programs. We expect to continue to work with on gender issues, family well-being and early marriage issues.

These are the some of exciting programs to watch for but remember everyday we are presented with exactly what God has planned and typically it’s unexpected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hospitality in Cancellations

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Greetings to all of our readers from Nairobi, Kenya.Our journey has taken us to Kenya until the beginning of next year. I know, Christmas in Nairobi sounds like a Bing Cosby movie but it is our reality this year.

Traveling to Kenya from Kinshasa should have been 4 hrs but like other connections this year, it took a wee-bit longer,30 hrs to our guest house destination. Appropriate for Dec. there was “no room in the inn. We were provided with another location for the night, NO not a stable. Mary and I talked this morning about our cancellations this year… and we noticed on each occasion the hospitality.

During a cancelled flight from Brussels to the US, the Brussels Airline associates made arrangements, secured our bags and  escorted us to a Hotel at the airport.  The hotel provided a meal to 200 people, without notice and without missing a step or a smile.

Again same thing in Johannesburg in October from South African Air. Hotel,transportation, dinner all with smiles and radical hospitality under adverse conditions.

This week on Kenya Air, following an aircraft landing issue in Nairobi, the airport, hotel and transport associates all went above the call of duty to make everyone was comfortable in a situation that no one could control.

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We are Missionaries wherever we are.  In Brussels we met a man who worked for the World Bank and had worked in Liberia during the Ebola Crises to help the country recover. In South Africa we met 2 men from a Christian Bible and book publishing house who are very interested in expanding into French speaking Africa.  Yesterday we had breakfast with two ladies from Zambia, who work with human rights and gender violence issues. What amazing conversations and new friends these situations provided for Mary and I.

Each time that God provides us a delay… look for the hospitality and opportunity.

“We have the means…”

What does it mean to you, to be told, “We are all made in the image of God?”  How do you relate to your own self-image and to the others you meet, reflecting on this passage from Genesis 1:27?

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Often mission work focuses on the challenges in a particular place at a particular time.  We find ourselves absorbed in the “work” and less inclined to see the creation as God sees it.  To see each one of us as made in God’s image.  To seek and see beauty and truth.

Having the “veil” removed, or the speck of dust taken from out of our eyes or what ever we need to do to see ourselves and see one another as children of God, created in and for love, can leave us breathless and in awe.  Or it can be a devastating blow to our world view.  Either way, it’s a humbling opportunity to be re-united to God and one another – even for a brief moment.

The last two days in Kinshasa offered us some of those moments.  Tuesday gave us the chance to see a group from the Baptist Youth who have been working in the neighborhoods of Kinshasa to train young people who live in poverty.

Rev. Pierre Ndonganani reminded the group of 40 participants that they are created by God and have been given such great resources – in themselves, their churches, their community and  in nature.  That within themselves, God has given them the means for real transformation.  These 40 will be taking the training they received over the past two days into the neighborhoods to train other youth on how to first appreciate their own God-madeness and then to creatively and systematically form enterprises that can not only lift them out of poverty, but also in fulfilling their own dreams they will help to transform their communities.

This gathering focused first on the spiritual foundation for transformation and faithfully responding to God by utilizing the gifts given to each of us.  This was followed by several sessions on the practical means of growing an enterprise from the seed of an idea or dream, into the reality of a sustainable business.

Seeing how this particular group of leaders volunteered their time and expertise to regularly train and follow up with the youth, brought to mind the words of  John Wesley: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”  We tend to find a lot of Baptists who remind us of Wesley in the DRC.

Wednesday was a very different kind of day.  We moved from the quiet, air-conditioned office space in Gombe (the business/government district of Kinshasa), to one of the neighborhood churches in Limete for an inter-religious gathering, “Non aux mariages precos et forces, oui a l’education des enfants.” or “No to early and forced marriage and yes to education for children.”

The Religions for Peace organized this event to discuss the importance of all faith groups promoting the end of early and forced marriages throughout the DRC.  A compelling take away from this event was the inter-faith interaction.

Wow, such a great witness to who we are when we reach out to one another.  We heard from a variety of faith leaders who, in unity spoke to the need to end these practices.  It was the young women from the Islamic, Bah ‘ai, Kimbanguist  and Protestant traditions who asked great questions and expressed themselves so eloquently, who moved me to see them – not as potential – but as they are, in that moment, created in the image of God, beloved and with real resources, not just in some future time.  We are blessed to live in a world with these sisters.  And how thankful I am for the leaders who are encouraging them.

May each of you see God today, in yourselves, your families, your neighbors and across what ever divisions – real or imagined you carry with you, and in all of creation.  We are all beloved.

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Broadcasting from Kinshasa!

As it cools down in the US, we are experiencing the beginning of the rainy season in Congo, with the accompanying heat and humidity.  No electricity at work for several days, so we have sped up the acclimatizing process.

Monday, saw us back at the orphanage at Cimetiere to check up on the progress of treatment for Kaya, a young boy with polio whom we hope to connect to a residential treatment program in Kinshasa.  This is a local NGO, with support from Stand Proud.  Our hope is that not only will Kaya receive the care he needs but that we can help our local groups connect for the future care of others.  We also helped Innocent Afful to deliver some much needed rice and “biscuits” for the orphans and children who attend school at the orphanage.

 

Yesterday we had an appointment with  Pierre Omadjela, Special Projects Manager for the United Methodist Communications here in DRC to discuss the United Methodist Radio station – Methodist Lokole Radio.

Together with Pierre, Rev Andre Masudi and Nico Munongo, we toured the station and talked about the role of the station in carrying out the four areas of ministry focus of the UMC in Congo.  1) Engaging in Ministry with the poor. 2) Improving health globally.  3) Developing principled Christian leaders.  4) Creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations.

 

The radio station in the past has given voice to the United Methodist Women and the United Methodist Men as well as the Youth and various agencies of the church, they have spread the Good News, provided needed information on health and sanitation initiatives in the areas they reach, as well as many other program promotions.  This work continues with a dedicated staff of 10, but unfortunately the transmitter, which is, “older than me!” according to Pierre, is not fully functioning and so their broadcast reach has significantly diminished.

While they await an evaluation of the transmitter, they look to a future with a sound studio and equipment that can be rented out in order to support the radio station operation and assist it to be self-sustaining.  The continued support from various local groups and individuals is expected to grow once they have a fully functioning transmitter.  We hope and pray that this will happen soon!  Stay tuned (sorry 🙂 )

 

 

Walking with Saints

Our unexpected language barrier gaffe led to one of our most amazing days yet here in DRC.  Last week Aaron was introduced to 3 women who came to the ECC office for some help and were directed to find, “Mama Mary.”  I wasn’t there that day, so Aaron arranged for us to meet them at their center “on the Matadi Road” on Tuesday.  Aaron thought we would be meeting with the three women to discuss what was needed to continue the work of their center for young mothers.  Instead this is what greeted us:

Our group from ECC, Innocent, Aaron, Clovis, Guy and I were were greeted by dozens of women from various districts of the Federation of Women who collectively fund a center for young mothers, as well as a primary school for local children who would otherwise not attend school.  The community is a little west of central Kinshasa in the midst of some small farms and rolling hills.  The young mothers come from all over the Kinshasa province and live at the center for 2 years (minus holiday breaks) as they learn a variety of skills as well as receive an academic education so that they can not only provide for themselves and their children through vocational skills, but will also be able to read, write and manage money and other resources with confidence.  The program has been supported by these women for several years.

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The president of the Federation, Madame Marie Louise, led us on a tour of the facilities.  Several classrooms, dormitory rooms, kitchen, and a bathroom are built around an inner courtyard and we met with all the women, the young mothers and several of the children as they described the programs and their history.

The women began as a Federation over 50 years ago when a nurse, Marie Mathie, traveled to Ghana and other African countries and met church women who were organized and serving in their communities.  She brought the concept back to Congo, and the Federation was born.  The group of women we met today have continued the tradition of serving the needs of the most vulnerable, including raising the money to buy the property for the Centre Marie Mathie Mitendi.

Currently they are looking for ways to provide more sewing machines and other materials for their vocational programs, fund the building of a compound on the property for the primary school children (they currently hold most of their classes outside), and augment the food they provide for the young women.  We were thankful to have Innocent with us to ask great questions about the vocational program and Guy to help us translate!  We are already looking for ways to connect them with some local resources for their teachers and will be seeking other ways to help walk with these Saints!  What a way to celebrate All Saints Day.  God is so good.

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Connecting Around the World

Transposed  from our newsletter Nov 2016.

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It was a year ago this month that Mary and I traveled to Kinshasa for the first time. What we have found are amazing people working very hard, struggling to improve their lives in a location that can be difficult.

Mary and I are realizing how challenging it can be to not dive into projects but instead to listen and learn more about what so many are already doing for their neighborhoods. We see pastors and servants who are aware of what is needed in their communities and modeling Christ at the margins. Many times these servants just need to be understood and encouraged but sometimes Mary and I are able to find a partner church, or a local or international NGO to work alongside. Many times we have learned that we serve best by listening, caring and loving and just being present.

We were told when we arrived a year ago to expect a long time of relationship building.  I believe that all we do is relationship building!

And from these relationships we have begun to identify programs that can be strengthened with a connection and not just in the DRC. Many congregations in the USA will benefit from connecting to our new Congolese friends here.

We have learned that our Mission is not only with the Congolese but also with Americans, Europeans, Cubans, British, Ghanaians, Liberians, South Africans, Ohioans, Nevadans, North Carolinians.

Being a UMC Missionary in Congo has provided the place for us to understand how connected the world really can be.

CONNECTIONS THAT WORK

Mary and I would like to thank all that are encouraging us in prayer and support. We especially want to point to some of the connections that have been made since our last newsletter.

We are so grateful for the support we have had from congregations in the USA.         Reno 1st UMC (Nevada) and Gay Street UMC, Mt. Vernon, Ohio both have held special events for our support and connection.

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Gay Street also had a special fundraiser to provide seeds for the farm operated by Pastor Roman’s school and congregation in Lingwala. The summer children’s program raised funds to provide school supplies to the UMC/ECC Orphanages.

Reno 1st UMC has not only agreed to be a Covenant Connected Church but has also raised funds for us to use in our ministries as we move into the interior next year. Reno UMW is in the process of connecting with a Small Savings group that supports individual street businesses through an Eglise du Christ au Congo program.

We have received support for a mission vehicle from Tuscarawas District, East Ohio Conference 3Cs Missions Committee and the East Ohio Foundation along with a large contribution from Gay Street UMC. The funds have been secured and we are waiting for their distribution to the DRC. This will enable us to answer invitations from Congolese partners to visit their ministries which have to date, been out of reach.

We are thankful for the support provided by Trinity UMC, Orrville, Ohio and the 1st UMC Mansfield. Mary and I are humbled each time we see our information and blog shared on your web sites and newsletters. We feel very much a part of your ministry and look forward to the time that we can share in person.

Most of you have been following the political unrest in the DRC. The last month has been difficult for the Congolese and difficult for us to move around Kinshasa.  We understand that the disagreements have not been settled and this leaves the population tense and uneasy. We pray for a resolution and understand that a settlement is still in the future.

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In the meantime, Mary and I continue to work within our ministry sites as best and safely as possible. We continue to work with the churches in the neighborhoods around Kinshasa.  Mary is trying to locate resources to help the orphans with polio and chronic illnesses to receive regular treatment.  We are looking at a vocational program in a village in a nearby province.  We continue to discern how to help the church in Yolo Sud with the community orphans.  Only this week we have been in talks about possible needs in the province of Kasai and Mary has been invited to meet with an ECC vocational program for young mothers this week.  There are many ways that congregations are serving their communities.

Giving Tuesday. Tuesday Nov.29 is the United Methodist special day for mission AND is also our wedding anniversary. Consider your Thanksgiving or Christmas gifts early and help Mary and I celebrate.

umcmission.org/give     Aaron-advance # 3022154         Mary-advance # 3022155

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“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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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

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LOVE IS ALL WE NEED!