Congo – A Place of Joy, Challenges, Opportunity

Post a Comment » Written on September 15th, 2009     
Filed under: News
GEMENA, CONGO (September 15, 2009) – Editor’s note: Curt Peterson, executive minister of the Department of World Mission of the Evangelical Covenant Church, is currently traveling in Congo on the first of three key mission trips planned before the end of the year. During each of the trips, he will meet with local church leaders, explore partnerships with other Christian organizations, encourage Covenant mission staff in various areas, and evaluate needs and potential ministry opportunities. Additional trips will include countries in Latin America and Asia.

By Curt Peterson

Greetings – I am now in Gemena staying at the CEUM (Covenant Church of Congo) guesthouse with Byron Miller, Keith Gustafson, Tom Lawson and David Williams. (Miller is executive director of the Paul Carlson Partnership (PCP); Gustafson, a Covenant missionary, serves as liaison to the CEUM; Lawson is a civil engineer from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is working with PCP and the Congo Church; and Williams is pastor of Abyssinian Covenant Church in Fort Collins, Colorado.)

Road sceneAfter two days in Europe with missionaries (in Paris and Antwerp), I arrived in Kinshasa on Friday night. I stayed at the Protestant guesthouse where Dr. Roger Thorpe (retired Covenant medical missionary to Congo) and I stayed after climbing over the wall in 2007. I am very conscious of the memory of every move along that road and into the guesthouse when I am in that place. Thankfully, I am very much at peace and grateful for the prayers that are supporting me.

Kinshasa is a crowded city teeming with people walking along the rugged highway. Arriving at night we saw mile after mile of little dots of light on the side of the road coming from little palm oil lamps at vendor tables. (Top photo shows a typical roadside setting.)

The public transportation is mainly Volkswagen buses with five to six wooden benches and 25 people crowded in the back.  I am always amazed that there are not more pedestrian accidents on these streets with no streetlights and cars and buses crisscrossing the undefined lane roadway. In one stretch of downtown there is construction that reduces traffic to one lane with people competing for limited roadway space – more than 150 died in accidents in just two weeks!

Tom Lawson and I arrived in Kinshasa together. Tom is here to survey, assess and recommend bridge construction in the Karawa/Businga/Gemena region. As our Covenant readers may recall, just a year or so ago one of the CEUM trucks carrying medicine for clinics and hospitals slipped off the precarious logs on one bridge and toppled into the river below. Two people died in that accident and many supplies were destroyed. Click here to read more about that accident.

WilliamsAn acquaintance of a member of Redeemer Covenant Church who has a special interest in Congo, Tom will be assessing bridge needs and construction options in hopes of improving travel and commerce on essential roads for the work of the CEUM and the communities they serve. Remember that these are red clay roads with ruts and holes caused by heavy rains and poor drainage, which limits most travel to 20-30 kilometers per hour at best. It took us three hours to go 90 kilometers today on a “good road.”

The Paul Carlson Partnership would like to invest in bridges on these roads – and generous donors have expressed interest in being partners in that effort. Earlier this year, Miller announced that the Paul Carlson Partnership is going to intensify its focus on developing infrastructure in Congo, one of the world’s poorest countries. To read more of the rationale behind PCP’s emphasis on developing infrastructure, click here.

When we arrived in Karawa on Saturday afternoon, we were greeted by the community at the airstrip and a greeting line of 300 pastors from the Karawa region who had gathered for a pastor’s conference. (Lower photo shows Miller at left, Gustafson and Lawson greeting pastors.) David Williams was a special speaker for that conference (at right in center photo) and talked about the “Conduct, Character and Cost of the Pastor.”

On Sunday we gathered at the Karawa church for worship. These churches are large open-air buildings with wooden benches and plastic molded chairs. The sound systems are set at high gain and electric guitars, drums, keyboard, singers and dancers lead the worship celebration. Four choirs sang during this three-hour worship, which welcomed many guests, received offerings and included much dance and music.

I preached on David and Goliath, challenging everyone to have the faith and courage of David – to take what each of us has had in our hand and, trusting the Lord in the power of the Spirit, to stand up to “giants” like poverty, addiction, spiritual darkness, tribal conflict, illiteracy, and inadequate education. I am always inspired by the faith, joy and courage of believers in Congo – they have much to teach us about sacrifice, suffering and faith.

GreetersWomen sat on one side of the church at this service and children worshipped at the doors and the open windows. CEUM President Reverend Dr. Mossai Sanguma (at left in the center photo) also spoke and led the church in prayer.  He encouraged the church to remain strong in their faith and to live their lives with integrity before God.

We traveled 50 kilometers from Karawa to Gemena in three and a half hours and were greeted at the Sanguma home for dinner around their dining room table. We especially enjoyed the eel and the squash “meatballs” and tamale-like corn meal. President and Mrs. Sabuli Sanguma are always such generous and gracious hosts.

It was also a delight to see how two-year-old Precioux has grown – this little one was “thrown away,” abandoned on the grave of his mother and rescued and adopted by the Sangumas. He was given the name Danu – meaning thrown away – by the nurses at a hospital where he was first brought from the cemetery, later renamed Precioux, because every child is precious to God, none are thrown away.

Covenant News Service will publish additional updates as they become available.

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