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A letter from Christi Boyd on home assignment from Cameroon, returning to Congo

Summer 2013

Dear supporters, friends and family,

The Boyd family in 1996, during their first assignment to Zaire which was soon after renamed Congo. (L to R - Jeff, Christi, Matthias, Salome and Naomi)

Finally, the pieces have fallen in place! As we visited churches Stateside during this period of Mission Interpretation Assignment, Jeff and I have been in discernment with our World Mission colleagues of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) about their request for us to move back to the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the place from which we relocated to Cameroon 14 years back, after two successive rebellions in as many years had forced us to evacuate and seek more stable conditions to ensure the safety and education of our children. Since Naomi joined Matthias and Salome as college students a year ago, we are less restricted by their needs.

Meanwhile, PC(USA)’s mission endeavors as a denomination have increasingly become concentrated in countries where the needs are high and Presbyterians in the U.S. have joined the efforts of our global partners in collaboration with World Mission and its deployed mission workers to collectively engage strategic initiatives through Communities of Mission Practice.  For Central Africa, Congo stands out as such a high need and high constituent engagement country.  After prayerful consideration, we believe that the Author of all good things had not yet finished that earlier chapter of our lives and are preparing to return to Kinshasa, the capital city of Congo.

Some of you are well familiar with the history of Presbyterian missions in Congo, from the early American Presbyterian Congo Mission to the emergence of our two partner denominations and the various theological, educational, medical and social ministries they run. For over a century the Church and its communities have weathered grueling colonial atrocities, decades of kleptocratic dictatorship, and regional conflicts fueled by mineral wealth and marked by violence against women and children as a war tactic. Against this backdrop, the Church understands God’s mission to be holistic, in which addressing root causes of poverty and violence becomes evangelistic witness and outreach to both Congolese and American Presbyterians.

The Boyd children today, Matthias, Salome and Naomi (from left to right)

In our new context Jeff continues his role as Regional Liaison, acting as representative for the PC(USA) in conversations with our partners in Congo, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea; resource for their Presbyterian counterparts in the U.S.; supervisor and pastoral care provider for mission co-workers; and collaborator with colleagues of the Presbyterian Center in Louisville. Christi has shifted into a new ministry as Facilitator for Women’s and Children’s Interests in Congo, Niger, Rwanda, Madagascar and South Sudan. She will accompany partners’ initiatives in light of World Mission’s strategies for Critical Global Issues in solidarity with women and children. Besides encouraging transformational pastoral training for women, these include tackling gender disparity in educational, economic and vocational opportunities, and abusive cultural practices against children and women. By engaging in multidimensional conversations between Africa-wide partners, mission co-workers, U.S. congregations and presbyteries, Presbyterian entities like Presbyterian Women, and PC(USA) staff she will seek to nurture collective expressions of solidarity, curbing practices that perpetuate marginalization, and enabling sustainable alternatives that improve the well-being of children and women.

And so, with our children having embarked on their own journeys, the two of us return to Congo. Before we take off, we would like to take a moment to express our gratefulness for the support Presbyterian World Mission and its predecessors have surrounded us with throughout these years of mission service, in particular with regard to our children’s well-being. After the evacuations the Church provided expert-led debriefing activities for the children to process the events and their sudden loss, and in other times of trauma and grief it ensured counseling sessions. Last but not least, the PC(USA) afforded quality basic education, which allowed us to serve as its mission co-worker family without compromising our children’s ability to develop their own God-given potential. All three are now in college, Matthias studying Digital Forensics, Salome Community Development, and Naomi International Medicine. Without Presbyterians sustaining Presbyterian World Mission, this could not have happened. In the name of our children we want to express therefore our deep gratitude to those of you who have participated in this joint mission effort! Our thankfulness also extends to all who have surrounded us with prayer, stayed in touch by e-mail or Skype, sent cards, or in other ways demonstrated partnership in shared mission. These are vital expressions of support, so please, keep it up!

Jeff and Christi are moving back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

With this gratefulness in our heart and on our mind, we feel compelled to more intentionally go about expanding our mission support team. One would think that after 23 years of work and life in Africa our financial base would be secured but the truth is far from that. Since our commissioning in 1990, denomination-wide support patterns have reversed with only a fraction going to Shared Mission Support, which traditionally ensured the PC(USA)’s global witness through mission workers. Nowadays the ensuing gap needs to be made up with designated gifts, which is why we make the unusual move to directly invite those of you who haven’t yet done so, to join in. It is our goal that by July 1, 2014, we’ll have increased by a third the financial support from individuals, congregations and presbyteries on our team. In light of her new role, Christi particularly welcomes Presbyterian Women circles to participate! Would you help us do that?

We thankfully embrace this privilege to start our new assignment back in Congo. The socio-political context is not an easy one and by the Grace of God we hope to find different ways to meet our emotional, physical and spiritual needs, be it through a church community, personal friendships, playing squash together, and whichever means modern technology will allow for us to stay connected through the worldwide web of supporters, friends and family!

As we continue our journey, we are comforted by God’s faithfulness as expressed in Psalm 139:9-10:

9If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast."

In Christ’s service,

Jeff and Christi

The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 100
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