All posts by vandersommers1

About vandersommers1

Mary and Aaron are United Methodist Missionaries serving with the Eglise du Christ au Congo. We are Living in Kinshasa,Democratic Republic of Congo.

The connection

This is a story about connections in mission. My friends, you can see from the photos the first delivery of mattresses. We are still waiting for most of our funds to be transferred to Congo but last week we received funds enough from the Reno United Methodist Women to purchase 15 mattresses for the Prokin Orphanage in Limete.

The one thing that stands out at Prokin is the number of older children and teenagers who live there. This is the age that many children drop out of school to work but here they are attending school, both boys and girls.  This makes Prokin a very special place.


I first heard about the Prokin Orphanage, not in Kinshasa but through an inquiry from Gail Quigg, the Global Missionary Liaison living in Columbus, Ohio, she had heard about Prokin from a couple in England. So I asked Innocent Afful, our United Methodist Orphan expert in Kinshasa.

Innocent visited the site and found a well established program that is supported by the local neighborhood with several sustainable programs. Prokin manufacturers soap and filters, bags and sells drinking water to help pay expenses and school fees. We have been impressed by how well they use what they have.


Innocent, Mary and I are excited to work along side everyone at Prokin to help create a healthier place for them to live. Innocent is working with the UN Peacekeepers from Ghana, to correct the rain drainage problems and remodel  a new dinning hall with tables and chairs

The children will not only be able to sleep on mattresses but Sebastian is also installing bed nets to further protect everyone from contracting Malaria.

So how far are we connected? The neighborhood of Limete, England, Ohio, a UMW in Reno, Nevada, and all the way back to Ghana and Kinshasa.

Now that is a connection!!!!




Just a Normal Couple of Weeks

Since I last posted Mary has returned from Thailand where she attended training on multi-cultural missionary coaching. She will discuss this more in future posts but lets just say she is excited to start implementing what she has learned in Kinshasa.  This week she has already scheduled 2 appointments to begin.


We are thankful and  always inspired by how all of you respond . As of this writing we have commitments for  132  Mattresses.  These come from across North America, Mount Vernon and  Rosco Village, Ohio; Georgia, Toronto Canada and Reno Nevada. In addition, next month the  Three Rivers District in East Ohio has committed the District Conference offering for Congo mattresses. Mary and I are also grateful to First UMC Mansfield for generously providing funds for new sewing machines at the Matendi School for Girls.

Mary, Innocent and I made the first delivery of 3 sewing machines today to Matendi School. We will make take the remaining machines along with fabric and thread next month on a return visit.


Innocent and I again are working with  Women’s Federation property in Kinkole to have the water well tested and see how conditions can improve.We also escorted a group from Mancusco ( the UN Peacekeepers in DRC) to help plan their Independence Day celebration  at the orphanage in Limite.

I also had the opportunity to go to the Orphanage in Maluku. This place near the Congo River about 30 miles out of Kinshasa.  It is ran and supported by the Federation of Fisherwomen. These ladies fish the Congo to supply an income and food supply for the 50 orphans that are there.  They hope to someday have a dormitory and a place to cook and eat. Their only source of drinking water comes from the river. We hope this can change.   Currently the orphans are divided up and return home with the dozen ladies that run the place.  I’m sure that we will be returning to learn more.


There have been many administrative duties including translations for a German NGO, becoming new board members for the Methodist Presbyterian Guest House, and attending clean water training with UNICEF and working on disaster relief projects for the Church of Canada.

Finally have been blessed this week with the arrival of Gad Maiga, a UMC Global Mission Fellow.  Gad will be staying with us for 2 weeks while he gets a work permit.  Gad will be serving in Bukavu, in the province of South Kivu. Gad is a agricultural specialist assigned to the ECC farm.

Gad, Clovis, Mary and Aaron

March is beginning ” like a LION”

Congo Support Advance #3022293

Back to the Farm


Mary and I went back to the farm recently. That’s the ECC farm in Lutendeli.  You will remember that we made a brief stop there last spring.  This is the farm that helps provide a food source and income to the 10 orphanages in Kinshasa through it’s relationship with fellow missionary Innocent Afful.

Mary and I wanted to go back and see how Jose Ngunga, the agriculturalist in charge, was doing. Our hope has been to be able to help him with his irrigation issues.  Now that Mary and I are working closer with Global Health maybe we could see this with new eyes.

United Methodist Global Health works with local partners to establish sustainable sources for clean water, proper sanitation  and local food sources.  It is believed that these are the elements to have long-term improvement on a populations health.

We had an interesting conversation using Clovis (who doubles as our driver) as interpreter. It began with us asking our farmer what his vision is.  This took him a while to answer because he was more accustomed to responding to what will be provided. We have learned that  his vision is most important. Mr. Ngunga has three priorities; an ability to pump water from a river nearby to use for the crops, expand his plantings form 2 hectares to 5 and find a source of clean drinking water.

Mary and I now are working on getting costs and plans for this vision.  We think the additional acreage will provide substantial increase in funds and food for the orphanages and also provide additional employment for the village.

This river is used for washing clothes and bathing. Pumping water up hill and  a few hundred of yards should not be to hard. We are waiting on the cost estimates now.

Extremely exciting would be the possibility of drilling a well that could supply a safe water supply not only the farm and his family but also for the village and at least 100 families.

How beautiful that will be. Stay tune






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.


Is there something TANGIBLE?


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!


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.


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.


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!

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


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.


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?


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.



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 🙂 )