The Beauty I Found in the Congo

Stacey Littlefield, lead pastor of Evangelical Covenant Church in Lafayette, Ind., shares what it was like to visit the Gemena community in northwest Congo last fall—and the overwhelming beauty he found there.

Stacey Littlefield CKC child sponsor

Visiting my sponsored child, Beatrice, and her family

While I have traveled and even lived overseas before, the thought of a trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo was both thrilling and somewhat terrifying. Congo would be a far cry from anything I had experienced before.

What I expected when I arrived was to be overwhelmed by the need. But I was more overwhelmed by the beauty I found there—in the land, the people, and the long-standing and ongoing work of God.

This past October, I was privileged to travel to northwest Congo with several other Covenant pastors on a vision trip. Our purposes for the trip were:

1. To get a fuller picture of the work of Covenant Kids Congo.
2. To gain a greater appreciation of the work of Covenant missionaries, who’ve been serving there for nearly 80 years, and that of the CEUM (the Congolese Covenant Church).

For the purposes of this post, I’ll focus on our experiences with CKC powered by World Vision.

Covenant Kids Congo in the City of Gemena

The work of CKC takes place in Gemena, a city of about 350,000 people in the northwest part of the country. Gemena sits in the middle of a rainforest and has no real infrastructure to speak of. The dirt “streets” are nearly always crowded with people walking, riding motorcycles (taxis), and selling goods—plus chickens, goats, and the occasional pig. All along the streets, children were playing, waving, and shouting as we drove by. We were quite the sight.

We spent most of our days seeing the work of CKC powered by World Vision. As difficult, costly, and slow as the work in this remote area must seem at times, it was quite impressive. Covenant Kids Congo powered by World Vision, in partnership with the CEUM, the Free Church (CECU), and the Catholic Church in Congo, are off to an encouraging start.

When we were there, for example, two of three deep-water wells were in operation and were scheduled to be fully solar-powered within the next month.

The Difference Clean Water Makes in Congo

Between these wells and a couple of other capped and filtered natural springs, women can now access clean water within a 10-15 minute walk. They used to walk for more than three and a half miles roundtrip, three times a day, carrying about 55 lbs of water on their heads. And even then, the water wasn’t safe.

The two wells we saw feed fountains that reach over 16,000 people. When you factor in other new water sources, a total of 24,000 people in Gemena now have access to clean water. More wells are planned.

Granting access to clean water in a place like Gemena can cause an immediate, drastic drop in infant and child mortality. These projects and others like it are a part of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene efforts, or WASH.

In other areas of the city, we were introduced to groundbreaking efforts in women empowerment through savings plans and microenterprises (such as fish farms, cooperative farming initiatives, and sewing groups). We also learned about education initiatives for gender equality and protection of women and children. All of these projects and more, and the training necessary, were initiated and launched by CKC powered by World Vision and our partners in Congo.

Hope for the Future of Congo

There is a long way to go, but the progress and the sense of hope for the future there was tangible. The pride of the people in their ability to contribute to their own needs, the social and spiritual transformation at work through these projects, and the long-term prospects for a sustainable trajectory out of poverty filled me with gratitude. I am grateful that my church and I get to take part, and for all the other CKC partners and sponsors back home.

My wife Kim and I sponsor two children in Congo, and I was privileged to meet both of them. It was a moving experience, one not everyone is able to have, I know.

But as someone who has seen some of the work firsthand, let me encourage you. If you are already sponsoring children, please continue. If you or your congregation has not yet taken that step, please do so. It all makes a difference—our efforts combined with the efforts of many others on the same journey, from World Vision volunteers, to the members of the CEUM churches in Congo, to the Congolese people themselves.

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