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A letter from Ruth Brown in Congo

March 2014

Muoyo Wenu!  (Life to you all!)

It was wonderful to visit so many of you during my Interpretation Assignment in the States these last several months.  Thank you for welcoming me into your churches and for your warm hospitality around tables in your homes.  Thank you for your support for me, personally, and thank you for your interest and support of the Congolese people. 

Christian Health Evangelism (CHE) volunteers study God's instructions to care for creation

On Sunday, March 9, I flew into Kananga, where leaders of the Department of Women and Families and Community Development Program representatives welcomed me with a feast of goat, chicken, manioc, and rice!  My heart was warmed later that day, too, when a special friend, Mamu Terese, an elderly woman who works in a nearby market, brought gifts to my door of bananas and a dozen small bundles of peanuts.   I am so grateful for such a supportive church family on both sides of the Atlantic!

This past Saturday I joined the regular monthly meeting of the Christian Health Evangelist (CHE) group, ASADECO (Action pour la Sante et le Developpement Communautaire/Action for Health and Community Development), an ecumenical group of 30 Congolese residents of Kananga, the capital of West Kasai.  This group (mostly elders in the Presbyterian Church of Congo) has been trained to use Bible stories to begin dialogue with neighborhoods in five geographic areas of the city.  Through the use of the CHE methodology, the Christian message is shared, and through dialogue, people also discuss community needs, make plans to change unhealthy conditions and practices, and work together to implement these plans.

Our CHE meeting began by reading Genesis 1 and 2 and discussing Adam and Eve’s roles as caretakers of God’s creation.  An ongoing concern for ASADECO are the many children under 6 years with arm circumference measurements indicating malnutrition. ASADECO members discussed new plans for caring for these precious and vulnerable children who are all created in the image of God.

Happy school days not an option for thousands of children working in mines

Beginning in April, with funding from the Presbyterian Hunger Program, ASADECO will plan together with PRODEK (Programme Development du Kasai/Agricultural Development Program for Kasai), the effective agricultural program and member of the  Community Development Program of the CPC(Presbyterian Community of Congo).  PRODEK and ASADECO hope to form agricultural coalitions that will include the families of the malnourished children.  PRODEK staff will provide agricultural support to the community coalitions, and ASADECO members will visit the families to  encourage healthy feeding, clean water, and sanitation practices.  For the first time PRODEK and ASADECO will be working together to assist the same population: the families of vulnerable children.  This work addresses a critical global initiative of Presbyterian World Mission:  To eliminate the root causes of poverty, particularly where these causes affect women and children.

Another critical global initiative for Presbyterian World Mission is to work for reconciliation and justice in cultures of violence.  The CPC’s Community Development Program (CPDC) is currently managing two programs that seek justice and reconciliation: (1) raising awareness about illegal child labor in diamond and gold mines in West Kasai; and (2) reconciling 20 families with the children that those families had cast out of their homes, usually because of beliefs that the children were cursed with witchcraft.

In the eight-month “Minors in Mines” project funded by Christian Aid International, the CPC’s Community Development program assists with program evaluation, collecting counts and descriptions of children working in West Kasai’s diamond and gold mines.  A team of 40 community volunteers, many from local Presbyterian churches, received observation and recording skills training by leaders of 10 different community organizations in mining areas of West Kasai.  The findings will be reported to national and local government leaders and to mining operators.  Leaders of several targeted territories have already begun planning meetings, noting the documented needs for schools, clean water and sanitation. 

This past December Pastor Sylvain Kazadi, the Coordinator of the Community Development Program, accompanied community volunteers into Demba’s diamond mines to observe and record working conditions of children working in the water and mud for long hours each day.  Children were quoted as saying,

“For long days there is nothing to eat.”

“There is no clean water to drink and no latrines.”

“I would like to go to school, but there is no school anywhere nearby.”

During this project’s first four months, in all of the six West Kasai territories targeted in this study 6,929 boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 17 have been counted as laborers in mines.  According to national laws of D. R. Congo, no one under the age of 18 years may work in mines.  We are hopeful that this work will result in more enforcement of child labor laws in mining territories of West Kasai.

I’m also happy to announce new funding by Presbyterian Women’s 2013 Thank Offering for a pilot program to develop an ongoing support system by CPC churches for families who will accept back into their fold one of their own children who had formerly been cast out of the family.  During the next two years 20 children will receive a temporary home together while church leaders from 30 churches in Kananga plan and implement a program of spiritual, educational, and agricultural assistance to the families of these children.  As this program develops, I hope to “introduce” you to several of the children, sending you photos and descriptions of church activities supporting their families.

Please view more examples of work for justice on PC(USA) “Congo” website: See the short video of Pastor Ngalula explaining how marriage certificates prevent gender-based violence (http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/global/democratic-republic-congo).

Thank you for your prayers and financial gifts in support of our work with the Church of Congo. Your donations and prayers are helping to bring messages of justice, health, and hope to the people here. 

At the ASADECO meeting this past Saturday everyone present gasped and exclaimed, “Thank you!” when I told them that many churches in the States were praying for their (ASADECO’s) meetings on the last Saturday of every month.  As we were meeting on Saturday, some of you were praying for this team of volunteers and their care for hungry children.  Thank you for this!  You are truly giving encouragement to community development workers here.  We are united in and through God’s love and care for the people of Congo.

With love and thanks,
Ruth

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