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A letter from Jeff Boyd in Congo

Summer 2014

Dear friends and supporters in mission,

Warm greetings from Kinshasa, DR Congo!  It does not seem like it, but already nine months have passed since we moved back to Kinshasa after four terms of mission service in Cameroon.   Christi and I are adjusting well to life here.  Our  ministries require each of us to travel quite a bit, but it feels right every time we return to our home.  Like the small trees we planted in the beds of spinach, bitekuteku and flowers in front of our house, our roots have yet to go deeper.  But they are grounded in relations that go back to the time we briefly lived here in the late 1990s.  We each feel confident in last year’s discernment that led us to Kinshasa as the base from which together we now serve in seven countries.

For Sunday worship we’ve not yet settled on a particular church.  Often we go to a Presbyterian church that is just a 10-minute walk from our home.  Other times we join a large ecumenical congregation several miles away or some Presbyterian parish in town as we are invited.  Following an education board meeting of the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK) I recently attended, Rev. Anaclet Kabasele, a board member who pastors the downtown Kinshasa congregation, asked us to come the following Sunday to his church.  It was Pentecost and we were welcomed to a spirited worship service.  Our hearts were lifted by an endearing 4-year-old boy who danced with all his might, taking a hold of various percussion instruments and enthusiastically beating the most complicated rhythms that are so fascinating and typical for African music. You could see he belonged in this church!

As we were introduced to the congregation, Rev. Kabasele expressed the session's desire for a time of fellowship afterward, so we sat down for a wonderful conversation with the pastor, elders and deacons.  As they shared about their church, it became clear what was important for this community.  Not their lack of keyboard and electric guitars for weekly worship, or the need for repairs to their church building, but concerns for the vulnerable in the community were put forward as they tried to meet their needs—the orphaned children who had sought shelter at the church but can’t go to school and the elderly widows who struggle to meet their basic needs.  We heard them talk about their efforts to provide food and care, and the difficulties they encounter in doing so.  Moïse, the little boy who had such a part in our experience that morning, was lifted up as one of the vulnerable children taken in by the community.  The group expressed their dismay about the terrible toll divorce is taking on Congo's youngest generations, a problem we hear over and over again.  All too often it is the story of the mean stepmother, but rather than a Cinderella ending the hostilities at home, the children are driven to the streets. Blamed for their family's problems, some are branded as witches, a stigmatization that adds to the trauma of abuse and abandonment.

Charlotte Mansiangani and her husband José nurture young couples to provide loving and faithful Christian homes

A few months earlier, when we had Congolese friends over for dinner, we learned of their ministry to young couples.  We knew Charlotte from our first term in Kinshasa, when she worked with the church to ensure the disbursement of PC(USA) funds to partners in Congo at a time when there existed no functioning banking system. Since Charlotte and her husband José got married some 20 years ago they have taken under their wings a growing group of newlyweds who ask for guidance and support as they begin a Christian household. Every month these couples, nowadays 30 of them, get together at Charlotte and José’s home or that of another couple in the group.  They fellowship and discuss the blessings and challenges of marriage.  It is here that on a very personal level our friends are trying to prevent the breakage of families, which they see as one of the root causes of the increasing number of street children in Kinshasa.  The commitment of their family to Christ serves as an example to those they mentor.

We give thanks for faithful church members like Charlotte and José, who act in faith and discipleship by strengthening familial bonds, and we rejoice in the witness of Presbyterian communities like the downtown Kinshasa congregation, which provides a home for those who are left to vie for themselves. Both care for God's household, the one by tending to the faces of broken relations, the other by addressing one of the root causes.

While the Kinshasa congregation is trying to make the Word of God relevant in its context, the session and deacons impressed on us the desire to extend their church family by inviting a Presbyterian congregation in the U.S. to join in. A church-to-church partnership would provide them the encouragement they need to serve as the Body of Christ in a harsh, inner-city environment. Helping facilitate such connections is one of my tasks as the Regional Liaison for Central Africa, so I hereby relay to you their request: Would your church consider this invitation?

June marks the beginning of our 25th year of service as mission co-workers with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  Over the years we’ve been blessed by our partnership with the many churches, organizations and individuals in Africa and in the U.S. who have discerned God’s call to ministry and acted in faith.  We thank God for this privilege and for the growing circle of supporters who accompany us in various ways.  As we continue to invite others to join, we are grateful for all your prayers on behalf of our service, for our global partners, and for those impacted by the Good News expressed in word and deed.  We enjoy the encouraging letters, cards, emails and other meaningful reminders of our partnership.  Thanks also to the many of you who faithfully and generously contribute financially to our sending and support.

In Christ's service,

Jeff

The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 138
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