Complex Challenges, Profound Moments: My Trip to DR Congo

Mike King and Leticia

Leticia and her sponsor, Mike King

Traveling to DR Congo might not be an easy experience, but it is a deeply meaningful one. Redeemer Covenant Church Teaching Pastor Mike King shares what it was like to visit this remote area in northwest Congo and meet his sponsored child, Leticia.

Merci mingi. That’s how you say “thank you very much” in Lingala. It’s a phrase I said many times during my visit to the DRC last fall, and it’s a phrase that I continue to say as I think about the privilege of taking that trip.

When the invitation came to go to the DRC, I jumped on it. I traveled with a group of Covenant pastors to learn more about the work that Covenant Kids Congo powered by World Vision is doing there.

I’ve been on staff at Redeemer Covenant Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the last 13 years. And through those years Redeemer has maintained a great relationship with the CEUM (the Covenant Church of Congo). We’ve purchased new mattresses for the hospitals there, sponsored a clinic through Paul Carlson Partnership, and hosted CEUM leaders while they were in the U.S.

But until this trip, I had only known that work from a distance. Now I can do what John talks about as he opens his first letter, “That…which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).

A Vastly Different Country

When I sat down to write about the trip, I was trying to think about how best to sum it up. As I reflected on it, I went back to a conversation I had with my wife the morning after I got back. “Was it a good trip? Are you glad you went?” she asked. Hmm. How to answer that? Good? Glad? Yes it was good, but it wasn’t easy. Yes I’m glad I went, but it was deeply challenging at the same time.

It was a challenging trip because the DRC is full of incredible challenges. We have lived internationally in South America and have traveled to a lot of different places, but the DRC was vastly different than anything I’d ever experienced.

First off, Gemena is just so remote that it’s hard to imagine the work involved in getting there—and the logistical challenges that poses for World Vision and the CEUM. After a full day of travel to Kinshasa, you still have to fly four hours into the jungle on a Mission Aviation Fellowship plane. And then you arrive in a town with 350,000 people that has no reliable electricity, no clean water, and no paved roads.

Here’s a thought for you—you can’t get Coke in Gemena. If you know anything about Coke’s presence in the world, you know that you really have to be remote to have a city with 350,000 people and no Coca-Cola.

It’s a personally challenging trip because it gives you a firsthand view of where a country ends up after 1.) 200 years of Western exploitation and 2.) decades of Western-sponsored dictators who give us access to resources we want while bleeding their own country dry.

I heard stories from people of what was lost in the two waves of civil war that have swept through the DRC in the last 20 years. I saw buildings destroyed by war that have never been rebuilt. I had lunch with and prayed with a CEUM leader who shared his story of burying a child in the jungle as his family fled for their lives from different armed groups.

As Western Christians, we have a complicated relationship with the DRC. The trip fostered a real connection in my heart for the often difficult lives of my Congolese sisters and brothers.

And yet, as I finish this post up, I’ll send it in via email using my phone—a phone that only works because of minerals taken from the DRC. Minerals that the West depends on and that still leave the DRC in ways that often don’t benefit the people there. The trip raised many more questions than it answered. And that’s a good—but very uncomfortable—thing.

Deeply Meaningful Moments

But while the trip was difficult in some ways, it was also wonderful. Some of the strongest memories I have are of the people’s incredible faith. We had great conversations where we had the privilege of hearing how God is calling them to engage in the work of restoration of their cities and country. Great work is happening in the partnership between World Vision, the ECC, and the CEUM and other religious and NGO partners in the city of Gemena. World Vision is there with a well-thought-out and Congolese-led development plan. The child sponsorship we can engage in is a piece of that, and it also helps fund the larger, community-wide work of water safety, child protection, education, economic development, and women’s advocacy.

And it was great to be there and to meet Leticia, the little girl that our family sponsors. We have four children of our own and have sponsored kids in different ways over the years. It was a joy to meet her and her family. The partnership through CKC and World Vision is not giving Leticia a handout, but rather giving her and her community a hand up into a sustainable, long-term program that leads to God’s shalom in the Gemena community.

So it wasn’t an easy trip, but it was deeply meaningful. And now I’m better able to come back to our church and share “what I have heard, what I have seen with my eyes, what I have looked at and my hands have touched—this I can now better proclaim concerning the Word of life.” To share with them that the Word of Life is alive and at work in Gemena in the work of Covenant Kids Congo. To share that we—thousands of miles away—can engage in a meaningful partnership with what the Word of Life is doing by how we give and pray and love here.

Hear more of Mike King’s story. Listen to his Hope Sunday sermon about Covenant Kids Congo.

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