God is amazing and has the ability to change mindsets, in doing so entire nations can follow. It has been a blessing to minister before so many churches and congregations. They range from Charismatic Anglican to Union Baptist to Pentecostal.We try to make every message empowering and touch on spiritual disciplines like praying, studying the bible, fellowshipping, etc. Over the past week, our schedule has been full-full!
For this past week, we’ve had three speaking engagements nearly every day. Our day has been starting at 5:30AM for a morning service, then ministering somewhere else in the morning/early afternoon, followed by a late-afternoon or evening service. In between speaking engagements we’ve had meetings with other pastors and church leaders.
Even when we’re “not on the clock” we meet other pastors and church leaders. After finishing from an early morning speaking engagement we were at a Christian bookstore. (By bookstore, we mean a 20-foot by 20-foot room with two shelves and a few bibles, hymnals and devotions on them.) But while there, we coincidentally ran into a man who does community development.
It has been our prayer to find someone who has a practical community development curriculum relevant to the Congolese. By relevant we mean sustainable models that can be duplicated amongst all Congolese regardless of location or background. Well, it appears we found a man who has a practical curriculum for community development.
Community development is so important. There has been a great migration of village people to larger cities. In the process the precious village way of life is slowly evaporating. Almost everyone we’ve met is from the village. Most of these people even admit they like village life. However, if there is nothing in the village: no school, no infrastructure, no church, nothing; there is no incentive to stay. Combine all of this with lack of safety and you can see why those in remote areas are forsaking village life.
This man we met, Fataki Mastaki, has many successful projects in Burundi and Rwanda. He would now like to implement work in the DR Congo. Fataki has prepared community development programs for almost every initiative one can think of. With these Bible-centered programs, communities will see how God desires to see His people live a holistic and blessed life.
Ministering the word of God in spirit and truth is absolutely essential for God’s Kingdom to be advanced on earth. With holistic, Bible-based community development models entire regions can be impacted. God’s word must accompany community development and likewise, long-lasting development will not come apart from the Word of God.
In the last few days, Andrew has taught at the Brotherly English Center about American English. In the DRC the main languages are French and Swahili, but many Congolese very aware of the world around them. They know more about American politics than most Americans themselves; they know a lot about current events and they understand that English dominates the world economically. For this reason, many of them are spending the little money they have to learn English—not British English but American English.
We have also visited schools for the deaf who are also learning American Sign Language. Recently, we were able to minister at an English School which is not Christian based. Andrew spoke about how knowledge without wisdom is puffed up, and only wisdom can come from the Lord Jesus. We said the prayer of Salvation and encouraged them as believers as well as English students.
The water purifier we have brought with us is an amazing tool specifically in the area of medicine. The sickness here is so great, but the supply of pure water is little. Hospitals are struggling to produce purified water for surgical procedures. In some hospitals, access to water is also a problem. How can they purify what they don’t have?
We have used the purifier to reuse what little available water there is for hospitals. We don’t have the finances to provide these hospitals with a purification system like the Vortex Voyager, but while we are there, we encourage the patients and filter as much water as we can for the hospital to use for surgeries.Hospital directors are amazed at what this purification system can do. We pray that we can visit some more hospitals to help out. I pray that God would give us the opportunity to minister to the patients while we purify the water.
Many of these patients are not only suffering from preventable diseases but also physical issues directly related to the war: women raped and deliberately mutilated in the vaginal areas, people with missing eyes, or dismembered by machetes.
The war is truly affecting everyone… even NGO workers. You can tell that many workers have become cold to the atrocities. They’ve lost their idealism and are just trying to do what they can, but in their hearts they have no hope for the people they’re helping. We need the Lord to penetrate the hearts of the western workers, lest they get burnt out and bitter.
Monday through Wednesday this week, we held a conference for pastors and women at EPCAC (Peace Christian Church) in Goma. The pastor’s conference lasted for two days. Over 50 pastors came from around the city. Moreover, some pastors from the IDP camps just outside the city found out about the conference and sacrificially came. A look of spiritual hope rose from the faces of these spiritual leaders.
For the two days, we spoke on leadership and vision. Monday, I spoke on Philippians 2:1-16 on how leaders must have unity, humility, put others first and lead by example. Amethyst came next and spoke about the importance of prayer and taught about Christ’s model of leadership: teaching, demonstrating and involving.
Tuesday, Amethyst spoke nearly the whole time! She spoke on the importance of vision, teaching out of Habakkuk 2. The pastors were so impressed with Amethyst teaching. Each pastor stared with an intent gaze: everyone was blessed with the eloquent message.
Both days, after Amethyst and I had finished teaching a Congolese national spoke about the importance of development. This man is a highly educated teacher specializing in the field of community development and planning. He tied the spiritual aspects into physical, practical application.
Wednesday was a blessing! Amethyst had the opportunity to speak to the women. Fifty were invited, over 80 showed up. Some mothers even made the 15 km trip from the IDP camps. The small church was at full capacity and for good reason. Amethyst brought a message including parts from Song of Solomon, Esther and Proverbs 31.
Some of these women heard words that proceeded out of Amethyst’s mouth for the first time. She gave a message telling them they’re beautiful, made for a purpose and created for destiny. Yet again a smile and glimmer of hope rose from the faces of these mothers: the mothers of Congo’s future.
After the meeting, Amethyst and I were standing in front of the church when a woman holding a young child got our attention, “Could you please pray for me?” Through our translator we found out that this grandmother was left with this orphaned child.
“I am a widow living in the IDP camp and the mother of this child left him with me. Please pray that the Lord will help to provide for this child.”
We began to pray and our heart broke. This woman, trying her best just to survive and through no fault of her own, was left to fend for another life. After a heart-wrenching prayer we asked permission to document her story. In the upcoming months, look forward to hearing the story about David and Grandmother Ines.
We were reminded of the hope for this country but amongst the radiant glistens of hope all things must still fight to live.
Listening to the Holy Spirit is sometimes difficult when there is so much to do. We can easily rely upon our logic and ignore “checks” in our spirit. In discipleship, leaders like Pastor Ottis, Pastor Steve and Pastor Rob told me, “Never ignore a check in your spirit.” A “check” in your spirit is an unsettled feeling, a lack of peace.
Recently, we planned on going to the village of Nyanzale a rural area at least 50 km from Goma. This 50 km journey is a big deal, considering the war rages only 15 km from the city of Goma. The pastors had prepared the ground before we arrived and many people in the village knew we would be coming to encourage the local church.
There was a lot of pressure on both Andrew and I to go. But for some reason, I had a reserve in my spirit. It seemed like everyone had a different story to tell about the road going there. We would hear form one person that there were skirmishes between FDLR and FRDC, other times we would hear the road was safe, sometimes we’d hear the road was impossible to travel without a 4x4 vehicle, other times we’d hear its fine. Too many stories . . . Andrew and I began to have a “check” in our spirit.
We had to be stern with the pastors we were working with and finally stand upon what we felt in our spirit. Some pastors were upset, others didn’t understand why we decided to cancel the trip. We simply said, “We have no peace about the trip, we cannot go.” To say the least, we felt like the bad guys for canceling, but we could not ignore inklings from the Holy Spirit.
Just a few hours after announcing we would not go, we happened to encounter a local who worked for World Relief who JUST finished driving down the same road we would be taking to Nyanzale. The first thing they asked was, “Do you still plan on going to Nyanzale?” We explained that we cancelled.
The workers immediately explained that they had just come drove into the city from Nyanzale, they took the same road we would be taking to get there. They explained that soldiers were hiding behind areas waiting to loot vehicles and that they passed many dead bodies on the sides of the road. They also explained that the vehicle we are driving may not make it down the roads. Breaking down could’ve cost us our lives.
It was at that moment, I realized how important it is to rely on the Holy Spirit first and then the opinions of people. We said no, before we knew the disturbing information, because the Holy Spirit was telling us to. I understand now, more than ever why God sends the Holy Spirit to help us…
The word of God without the Holy Ghost kills, but the Spirit brings life and life more abundantly …
The days have been full and they have been long. Building a relationship with the locals can be such a blessing some days and draining the other days. African culture is almost completely the opposite of American culture at times. So just when Rew and I are ready to give each other a pat on the back for “cultural sensitivity,” we realize that there’s a whole lot more to learn: from handshakes to dressing to basic table etiquette. Creating a healthy relationship with the locals is so key to a long term work.
All over Africa there are different languages, dialects, etc. But so far, the only word I have noticed that remains the same through all languages is "myzungo". Myzungo means white man or person with light skin. It is no respecter of culture, or education, or wallet. It is blanket statement to everyone. There are two things you need to know about a myzungo, since most of you who are reading this are in fact “myzungo”. All myzungos are rich and all myzungos are powerful. Breaking this stereotype is probably one of the hardest obstacles missionaries face. A healthy relationship means getting past the idea the myzungo stereotype. Many Congolese pastors that mean to be pure hearted still find themselves hoping we’ll be able to pay for some church projects.
On our part, we’ve had to be genuine and loving but very stern at the same time. Getting the point across that there are no free rides, we are here for sustainability, not relief. Too often western missionaries have put a band aid over the gaping wound of Africa. We can’t allow our emotions to contribute to these poorly put on band aids.
The other day Andrew made this point very clear at a large gathering by explaining, “If I give you a biscuit today, what will you need tomorrow? Another biscuit… What happens when I run out of biscuits? We are all out of luck. I will fail you, because I can’t provide for the needs of the DRC. But God is your provider and I can direct you to him.”
It was so crazy, because after he was done teaching—It was like a revelation had taken place in the crowd. They all began rejoicing that they need not have faith in the myzungo, but in God. The gathering became a large prayer meeting. Evidentially there had been rumors being disbursed in the church about us giving things away to accomplish evil things. By Andrew saying simply, “We have nothing to give you but the word of God,” it disbursed ALL rumors.
When we told some of our colleagues that we would begin working in the DRC, one of them said… “You’ve seen that Zambians are beggars, Congolese are demanders. They will demand that you give them what they want.” I see how that can be said, but God has given us confidence in Gospel. That it is what needs to go forth first, not handouts: only then can we create a lasting relationship with the locals. Please pray that we can stay consistent and loving, continuing to build upon the relationships we are making with pastors, leaders and fellow aid workers.
The war in Eastern Congo has claimed over 5 million lives over the last ten years.Countless villages have been ransacked, leaving rural citizens with nothing. The UN has created IDP camps for these people. IDP stands for internally displaced people, refugees within their own country. Many of them have been placed in camps that have had to move numerous times because of the war. During our visit we saw people with severed arms and legs and other wounds resulting from the war. Many of these IDPs had agricultural businesses and a decent life as rural villagers. Imagine someone destroying your hometown, your business and all the memories you created there.
We visited the churches (which were made of leftover UN truck tarps), met pastors and prayed over many people. We pray that God would allow us to help these people in some kind holistic aspect in the future. It’s difficult, because the need is great, but together we can do something . . .
When you lean back, He will surely catch you. This is something we are experiencing here in the DRC. We feel all your prayers and encourage you to continue. God has been moving even in the first two days of being here. The Congolese are people who are hardened by their sufferings, but the Congolese church has gained much hope out of it. Within the last ten years not only the war has affected the life of every citizen, but also volcanoes, earthquakes and natural disasters.
I always say, it never hits me until I step in African churches that I’m actually in Africa. The same is true for this trip. Andrew was able to preach a powerful message from James 2:5 and we were we received by Peace Christian Church of Central Africa. During that meeting we were able to lay hands on the sick and exhort many believers. We will here testimonies from the church members this Sunday, however many proclaim they were healed. Later on Andrew also preached another message at Living Rock Ministries of Goma, a fellowship that focuses on discipling Congolese who want to speak English. Both churches are founded and grown by indigenous believers.
In the area of contacts, God has been so gracious to us. We have met with two pastors who we’ve been in contact with for the last few months and have been blessed by their genuine spirits. They have put us in contact in many important authorities who are Christian and are willing to work with us in the area of paperwork for us. We have also met indigenous workers many workers from World Relief, another organization who like us, have a vision for rural areas.
Getting indigenous leaders to work together can sometimes be disastrous for missionaries, but we have had great favor as we’ve met together with many of our key contacts. Some who wouldn’t have even known each other if we had not put them in contact. We have simply been sharing our heart and vision and asking them how their church vision can contribute to it. God is moving, not because of us, but because of the willingness of the people to receive him and each other.
Along with the great fruit we’ve seen in just a few days, we’ve also experienced struggles. The city is dangerous and exponentially more dangerous for women. Last night was difficult on both of us; neither of us got a lot of sleep. We found ourselves listening to frightening sounds of women being mistreated , drunk men and military trucks rolling along the bumpy roads all night and praying in tongues for at least 5 hours. At one point a strange light came to our door, examined it and then walked away. We have decided to find another place to stay where there can be greater security provided. It may have been one of the most disturbing experiences I’ve had so far on the mission field.
Ultimately, God is on the move and Satan can’t touch us if we are covered in the blood, but that doesn’t change the fact that he lurks. We need your prayers; the Congolese church needs your prayers. They were so blessed to know that folks in the USA are praying and fasting for their country.
Anyone who has rappelled before knows the feeling… It’s that uneasy feeling when you lean back in the beginning of a rappel to make the “L” formation with your body. The body sends strong signals to our brain when something “unnatural” is taking place, often triggering a warning. When a climber bends back for that initial rappel, that’s the often the hardest part of the whole rappel.
Why? Because it’s unnatural. The body and mind understand that leaning back into nothing is not normal and thus try to prevent you. Peoples knees cramp, tighten and buckle just before they lean back. Leaning back in rappelling is the defining moment on whether a person is really going to do it or not. . . *** So late tonight (actually early this morning) our place to stay in the DRC pretty much fell through, crashed and burned very quickly. You know God's calling you to FULLY trust Him when you’re going to a war torn country, the pastor doesn't want you to stay with him because he fears you'll be in too much a danger and so finally your left either sleeping on the street or forking up money that doesn't even exist in your bank account.
Andrew and I smiled at each other blankly; I really don’t think we knew what else to do, “Jesus, this is going to be interesting.” We kept our cool and just held each other, making phone calls till 2 AM. It was this early in the morning that we realized the costs in DR Congo may be more expensive than we thought. “Oh Lord Jesus,” was the uneasy silence filler as we stared the depleting Skype account on our computer.
Within a few hours after the dilemma we were able to find a guest house with a few sisters (nuns) along the outskirts of the city. In Zambia we often mentioned the term “TIA” (this is Africa) jokingly to each other as things often never` went as planned and always tend to get more complicated than they have to be. Today was the beginning of our TIA moments. . . *** An experienced climber understands his equipment and trusts it, that’s why he can lean back without thought or hesitation. His degree of faith in his equipment exceeds his bodies “warning” signals.
Over the past few years in the ministry, I have learned that there are things you do in faith that you share with people. Other things you just don’t, because if everyone knew they’d do more harm than good. Virtually EVERY ASPECT of our life has been tested in some way over this past month. From health to issues in the office to personal finances to schooling to trip funding to lodging to visas this list continues. Some areas we'd mentioned to family and friends others we refrained simply because we didn't want people to worry too much.
Despite all what seemed to be setbacks, God has broken taken care of everything. Not one or two things, but everything. Honestly, the testimonies are endless. He hasn’t let us slip off the mountain once and as long as we trust the equipment he’s given us, He won’t let us…
Now won’t you begin to trust the equipment God’s given you and lean back with us . . .