A letter from Ruth Brown in Congo
Muoyo wenu (Life to you!)!
“Follow the energy!” This was advice given by Doug Welsh, former missionary in Congo and former staff with Global Missions of the PC(USA) to a new missionary to Congo who was inquiring about how to divide his time between all the good causes and all the pleas for assistance in the Kasai.
To follow life-affirming energy is to follow the evidence of God’s presence, that active, creative, life-giving power, enabling love, justice, and mercy. The church in Kasai recognizes God as a force of energy. In Kananga, we have a church named SNEL Presbyterian Church. The name, SNEL (pronounced “S-Snel”), is the name of Congo’s Electric Power Company!
During the last couple of months I have witnessed life-affirming energy in the efforts of the Christian Health Evangelism (CHE) team, ASADECO, in the efforts of two pastors working to promote women’s rights, and in the zeal of a local pastor for the care of street children in Kananga. In this energy I have recognized that “the Lord is the strength of his people” (Psalm 28:8).
In this May’s newsletter I wrote about twins who were severely malnourished. When the CHE team visited the mother of these twins they found her refusing to believe that her twins’ condition could be related to food intake. Instead, like so many family members of malnourished children here, the reason for the children’s condition was believed to be related to a curse. The twins’ mother told the CHE team that family members had placed a curse on the children. The mother subsequently left Kananga with the twins and returned to her home village, reportedly, to have the curse removed. When the twins and their mother return to Kananga, the CHE team plans to continue to follow-up with the family. In the meantime, in an effort to better assist families who are accepting of their support, four members of the CHE recently visited their local health clinic, taking their notebook of children’s arm measurements and home addresses with them. Clinic staff was impressed with the CHE outreach and records of measurements, agreeing that their findings of malnutrition in more than a quarter of children less than 6 years of age were a grave concern. Together, clinic staff and CHE volunteers discussed how these families could obtain nutrient-rich peanut meal at the health center until the children’s conditions improved. Through their own initiative, the team made this effort to visit the health clinic, and this is a positive step forward.
Positive, life-giving energy is also evident in the work of two pastors who are promoting women’s rights in rural Kasai. Pastor Christine Ngangula and the Rev. Dr. Aime Kabwe are working together to uphold human rights by training church leaders to promote marriage certification as a means to protect widows property at the time of their husbands’ deaths. In early September this pair led discussions on human rights with 50 church and community leaders in the first of seven synods on their training agenda. They were well-received, with over half the attendees pledging to complete applications for marriage certification before beginning to reach out to churches in their presbyteries. Training included how to permanently incorporate Biblical support for human equality and a review of Congolese laws protecting families into the curricula for children’s Sunday School, into plans for youth leadership events, into local literacy classes, and into couples’ Bible study meetings. Additionally, Dr. Kabwe will be visiting each Pastoral Institute (rural sites of instruction for lay pastors) to give guest lectures on the Bible’s emphases on human rights, explaining Congolese laws that protect women, and promoting marriage certification. These two pastors returned to Kananga feeling much encouraged by the positive reception of their training. Several pastors in that first training group planned to bring a request before their Presbyteries for a stronger role of the church in preparing couples for marriage . The pastors described their sense of God’s presence in the overwhelming reception for promoting justice through greater use of marriage certification.
Also, during this past month, I had the privilege of meeting several times with a small group of people led by Pastor Andre Manyayi. This quiet man has personally taken on the cause of caring for Kananga’s street children and seeking ways to re-establish them into their family homes. Doggedly determined to create a momentum for success, this quiet pastor has delivered his seminary thesis on this topic of caring for street children to his local presbytery and has established a committee of the presbytery to address the needs of the street children. On behalf of his committee, Pastor Manyayi approached the CPC’s Community Development Program (CPCDP) for assistance. The CPCDP is helping to guide planning with the committee members, seeking to establish a sustainable system of care. During these meetings I noted Pastor Manyayi’s steadfast resolve to relieve the suffering of these children. His is a weighty resolve, his perseverance fueled by a great faith.
Thank you for all your support of the work of the Church in the Kasai. Please continue to hold in prayer the Presbyterian Community of Congo where God’s powerful energy is moving within people, propelling them forward and outward in love of neighbors.