Democratic Republic Of Congo
For more than 100 years the Presbyterian Church has been engaged in mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a sprawling central African nation that is still struggling to overcome a history of colonial oppression and recurring civil strife. Presbyterian missionaries in the late 1800s were pioneers in evangelizing the vast Kasai region and in working to protect the Congolese against the brutal practices of the rubber industry and the slave trade. Mission stations sprang up in the early years of the 20th century, with teams of missionary evangelists, teachers, translators and health care providers. At the peak of the Presbyterian mission presence there were more than 200 Presbyterian missionaries serving in the country then known as Zaire.
The PC(USA) facilitates the work of two partners in DRC: The Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa, based in the capital city, and the Presbyterian Community of Congo. Health and development work remains an essential ministry with our partners. Parasitic and infectious diseases and malnutrition contribute to a life expectancy of less than 50 years. Less than 15 percent of the population has access to safe water. Health services are provided through hospitals and community health projects based at five of the historic mission stations: Bibanga, Bulape, Luebo, Lubondai and Mbujimayi, and at the flagship institution, the Christian Medical Institute of the Kasai (IMCK) and Good Shepherd Hospital near the city of Kananga. The IMCK health facilities include an extensive community health program and nursing and laboratory technician’s schools. Two urban health programs, the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa Clinics and the Kitchen Gardens project in Kinshasa, respond to the health needs in the nation’s capitol.
Mission personnel in DRC work to build the capacity of Congolese health care personnel through training and mentoring while also providing direct patient care. Dr. John Fletcher, a surgeon, and Gwenda Fletcher have returned to DRC where they were in mission service in the 1990s. Working throughout DRC is regional health consultant Dr. Larry Sthreshley, who grew up there.
Support for the PC(USA)’s mission in DRC is broad and deep among U.S. Presbyterians, reflecting the strong history of mission involvement and DRC’s critical long-term needs. Presbyterian Women awarded a 2008 Birthday Offering grant to strengthen ministries in education and nutrition, and PW groups actively support the income-generating Palm Project. Congregations, presbyteries and the Congo Mission Network are engaged in supportive partnerships. The International Health & Development Office and the Medical Benevolence Foundation provide funding for specific projects that address the priority needs of our partners.