Gustafsons Accept New Missionary Role with Congo

Post a Comment » Written on February 26th, 2007     
Filed under: News
By Rick Lund

LYNWOOD, WA (February 26, 2007) – Keith and Florence Gustafson, longtime Evangelical Covenant Church missionaries to the Democratic Republic of Congo, have accepted a new position with the Department of World Mission that will allow them to continue serving as missionaries to the African nation while living in the United States.

The Gustafsons have served as Covenant missionaries since 1984, most of that time in Congo. But continuing political unrest in the country in recent years has made it difficult for missionaries to remain there.

GustafsonsBecause of that country’s instability, coupled with Florence’s desire to be near her parents at Covenant Shores Retirement Community in Mercer Island, Washington, the Gustafsons decided to resign from mission work last October.

The resignation was short-lived. Three days after advising World Mission Executive Minister Curt Peterson and Pete Ekstrand, regional coordinator for Africa, of their decision, the Gustafsons were asked if they would consider a “special assignment position” that will enable them to work as liaisons to Congo while living in their Lynnwood, Washington, home.

“The details of what we will be doing are still being worked out,” says Keith. “I will be making three to four trips back to Congo a year, so that means up to three months away from home.

“We’ll also be working with groups that could go to Congo for short-term mission trips,” Gustafson adds. Previously those generally have been medical mission trips, but may include educational trips in the future.

Modern technology makes the new position possible. “We’ll also keep up email and telephone contact with Congo Covenant (CEUM) leaders, planning with them,” Keith says.

The Gustafsons currently are on a one-year home assignment, having returned to Lynwood last June. Their new position will begin in July, but Keith already traveled to the country in January and will make another trip in March.

For the past three years, the Gustafsons have divided their time between living in Bangui, Central African Republic; Karawa, Congo; and Yaounde, Cameroon. “When we left Africa this time,” says Keith, “we got rid of a lot of our things because we were leaning toward staying in the U.S.”

“Living as one of the only Covenant missionaries in Congo has its strains,” he adds, noting that there are no Covenant missionaries currently in Congo.  The couple’s youngest son, Eric, graduated from high school in Cameroon last June, and all three of their sons and a daughter-in-law now live in the United States. The accompanying photo shows the couple with son, Eric.

The situation in Congo has been tenuous for Covenant missionaries since 1994, when a massive inflow of refugees fleeing the Rwandan genocide sparked ethnic strife and civil war. More than four million Congolese have since died due to violence, hunger and disease.

The bloodiest conflicts began in 1998, shortly after the government of Mobutu Sese Seko was toppled by a rebellion led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila. Kabila was assassinated in January 2001. His son, Joseph Kabila, was named head of state and last year won election as president.

Editor’s note: this is an edited version of an article written by Rick Lund that originally appeared in the North Pacific Conference newsletter.

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