A letter from John Fletcher in Congo
As Dorothy said, “Toto, I’ve an idea we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Nor are we in Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, or any of the other 23 states we visited during our recent Interpretation Assignment in the U.S. Being back in Congo has given us the opportunity to do some reverse interpretation, telling our Congolese colleagues and friends about all of the amazing, warm, generous, devoted Presbyterians we met across the United States who are praying for and supporting the ministries of the Congolese Presbyterian Church. (CPC)
Thank you all for your warm welcome, your sincere interest in our Congolese brothers and sisters, your prayers for them and for us, and your financial support of God’s work here in Congo. We not only returned with full hearts, we also returned with 1,200 pounds of donated medical equipment and parts for the IMCK hydro renovation project. The medical equipment and supplies will support the medical ministries at the CPC’s eight hospitals, and the hydro equipment will help keep the lights on at IMCK. The financial gifts so many of you have given for scholarships, teacher training, new school buildings, and textbooks will make it possible for the CPC to continue its work educating and growing Congo’s future.
The question we were most frequently asked when visiting in U.S. churches was, “How can we help?” The answers to that question are many and we plan to talk about all of them, but right now we’d like to highlight just one—you can consider coming to Congo on a short-term mission trip. When we tell people that, the response is often, “But I’m not a doctor (or teacher or engineer or pastor )—what could I do? And the answer is—plenty! I mentioned that we returned with full hearts and a boatload of medical and hydro supplies, but I didn’t mention what else we returned with—a real, live volunteer! Tom Cawood is a recent college graduate, All-American tennis player, and medical school applicant with a servant’s heart. He wanted to see medicine in the developing world and he wanted to share his gifts at the same time. He does the former by making rounds, observing surgery, and interacting with the doctors, nurses and medical students at the hospital. He does the latter by teaching English at the two nursing schools during school hours and teaching tennis and basketball after-hours. Tom has never taught English before, but he speaks it like a native J and realizes that one doesn’t have to be “qualified” to be useful. He has come to give, but he is also open to receiving and to building relationships. In Congo there is no better gift than the gift of relationship. We’re always glad to have medical professionals who want to contribute their skills at the hospital or education professionals who want to share their talents in the CPC schools, but we are also glad to have people who may not come to do a particular “job” but who come with open hearts and minds, eager to learn, make friends and build cross-cultural bridges.
We North Americans tend to think of generosity in terms of giving, but in a world of such great disparity in material things, there is also generosity in receiving non-material gifts from those who have nothing to share except their hopes, dreams and friendship. So give it some thought—maybe God is calling you to serve through experiencing your Congolese brothers’ and sisters’ reality. We can promise that if you do, you will return to the States with a new view of God’s world and your place in it.
Now that we are back in the thick of things in the Congo, we look forward to resuming our regular communications with all of you. Please note that the best email addresses for us are these, in addition to the links at the end of the letter to our pcusa.org e-mails:
John & Gwenda
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 102
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 110