A letter from Ruth Brown in Congo
Monday, November 28, 2011
Election Day in D. R. Congo
Merry Christmas and Muo.yo wenu! (Life to you!)
During recent weeklong visits in the homes of two pastors and their families in Kananga, West Kasai, I attended 6 a.m. worship services each day. At almost every service there were readings from both the Old and the New Testaments. Many times passages from the prophets were read. At one Sunday worship service before the presidential election here a pastor chose Zephaniah 3:8–12 as his sermon text. The pastor read: “… For then [God] will return to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent. [God says,] From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, will bring my offering…for then I will take away out of your midst them that rejoice in their pride, and you shall no more be haughty….The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies: neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.” In his sermon the pastor spoke of the hope of a people preparing to vote and awaiting the election results. The pastor spoke of the hope of the Congolese who have waited a long time for conditions to change.
By the time you receive this letter the results of the election will likely be known. Whatever the outcome, the Congolese will be beginning the next term in a spirit of hope and praise. Praising God is a daily, public occurrence here. Youth and adults can be heard almost any hour of the day and night, raising their voices in praise to God, singing rounds in perfect harmony, with drums, tambourines, blocks of wood, and whistles. These Christian people have already begun meetings to plan and to practice the music for the Christmas season. And prayers here usually begin in thanksgiving, “Tatu wetu, Tuasakadia…” (“Our Father, Thank you…”).
Dear PC(USA) members, through your prayers and with your Thanksgiving gifts to honor God through the Thank Offering you are supporting a very helpful women’s education program here in Kananga. The program provides high school girls with after-school classes in English and computer skills. Because of your gifts, 40 girls will receive four hours of additional training, five days per week, nine months per year for the next two years. The subjects, English and computer science, should assist these young women with obtaining gainful employment.
The English classes are led by two Congolese men, Douglas Beya and Willie Lushimba, who, on whatever day I see them, are a witnesses to me of faith, friendship, and joy.
Douglas Beya was born in Tanzania and, with the help of Voice of America staff and Christian missionaries, he learned English and traveled in Europe and South Africa. When his Congolese mother died in 1997 he returned that year to Congo and moved next door to Kumayi Church in Kananga and began searching for work.
The other teacher, Willie Lushimba, was born into a family with close ties to several PC(USA) missionaries in Congo: Joseph and Maxine Spooner and Bill and Effie Rule (and others!). At age 10 Willie became very sick and was paralyzed by polio. Dr. Rule encouraged Willie’s father to continue his son’s education by telling him the story of how a man paralyzed with polio, Franklin D. Roosevelt, became president of the United States. Willie’s father did decide to continue his son’s education, and Willie has developed a keen and inquisitive mind! Whenever I see him, Willie flips out a small notebook in which he’s written down questions about several English expressions that he’s picked up in his daily reading.
According to Willie, his first English teacher was my cousin, John Metzel. Willie further developed his English language skills through his relationship with and special instruction from Marsha Whitney-Schenk, a PC(USA) mission volunteer from Chicago. Later Willie became a Tshiluba language instructor for mission co-worker Gwenda Fletcher. In December 2009 Willie used the money he had saved from teaching Tshiluba to establish a home for himself in Kananga, where he hoped to begin teaching English to more students.
In January 2010, while praying in Kumayi Church (a daily habit of his), Willie overheard Douglas speaking English to someone nearby. Willie introduced himself to Douglas, and the two became supportive friends and enterprising business partners. Many local business people and pastors have benefited from their English classes, and now 40 teenage girls are also benefitting from their excellent teaching skills.
Willie and Douglas’ enthusiasm for life and learning and their care for each other is a joy to experience. They are supportive to everyone they meet.
With Willie and Douglas, you too are lifting up the women of Congo with your Thank Offerings. You are part of this team. You are providing education classes that will improve these women’s health and well-being and also the health and well-being of their present and future families.
In honor of Willie and Douglas and at this special time of year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I wish you all the joy and support of friendship and family.
Thank you for your support and love of the people of Congo and of me.
I wish you joy, love, health and peace this Christmas and always.
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 102
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