A letter from Ruth Brown serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo
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Muoyo wenu! (Life to you!)
This February I shared a dorm room with a young woman named Valencia, a name meaning “brave and strong.” She and one of her sisters are volunteers in the Community Health Education (CHE) program of Swaziland. Valencia and her sister are the only survivors of 10 siblings. Her other 8 brothers and sisters, and all of their spouses, have died of AIDS. “That’s 16 people in my family,” she explained. (In April 2015, CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] Global Health reported Swaziland to have the world’s highest estimated prevalence rate of HIV-infected adults [25 percent of people aged 15-49]).
Valencia described her reaction to her loss: “First I joined a team who cooked and fed people with HIV/AIDS. My sister helped, too, and we took meals to hundreds of people every day. Then I heard about CHE, and began to take the trainings. We have more than 680 volunteers using the CHE methodology to educate people about HIV/AIDS in Swaziland. We are recognized by the country’s public health system, and we give monthly reports about the work of CHE at the government’s health program meetings.”
Swaziland’s program was more developed than any other described during my recent CHE studies in Ghana. I accompanied Pastor Sylvain Kazadi, the coordinator of the Community Development Program of the Presbyterian Church of Congo, to Ghana where we reviewed CHE’s basic community development approaches and received many training materials for targeting women, youth, and people with disabilities. The CHE methodology provides a structure for the use of Bible study for encouraging dialogue to promote community intervention. CHE stresses that God’s provision of local resources together with community involvement can create and sustain a healthier life.
Valencia’s faith-filled outreach, even amidst her own personal trials, became a flame, igniting greater community involvement and creating a richer, healthier life for so many in her community! For Valencia and for all of us studying together in Ghana, the true miracle of Community Health Evangelism is the powerful sense of unity in the Grace of God when community members join together in Christ’s name and work to help our neighbors.
After months and years educating families, Valencia’s CHE volunteers tearfully yet joyfully gathered for the high school graduation of children living with AIDS whose parents had carefully followed the CHE workers’ guidance to ensure that these children received proper medication and regular clinical appointments.
And recently in Kananga I was speechless with a sense of deep appreciation for community CHE volunteers when they brought to me twins I had first met in early 2012, when their brachial arm circumferences measured 9 cm, marking severe malnutrition. After years of visits from CHE volunteers, both twins are healthier. Their aunt provides breakfast for them, daily, and they will be soon be starting school.
On Interpretation Assignment (IA) in the U.S.A. this Spring, I will also see church members in the U.S. reaching out in their local communities in meaningful ways: making nurturing home visits to inner-city disabled adults, tutoring in neighborhood elementary schools, transporting migrant farmworkers to prenatal appointments, preparing and eating a meal together with homeless families. You are God’s active presence in your communities, loving your neighbors, and Grace is prevalent!
This year I hope to learn more about your local mission work while also sharing with you news about Presbyterian World Mission (PWM)’s partnership with the Presbyterian Church of Congo, a partnership that uses the CHE methodology to address all three of PWM’s global mission initiatives: bringing the good news of Christ; alleviating the root causes of poverty, and working for reconciliation in cultures of violence.
Many of you are already involved with community development in Congo through your prayers of support, your donations to One Great Hour of Sharing and Presbyterian Women’s Thank Offering, and your donations to my sending and support. Thank you for this crucial help in our partnership with the Congolese people. Your prayers and gifts are making a difference in the lives of many families in Congo. If you have not yet supported this work, please consider making a contribution. I would enjoy meeting with you during my IA travels to explain any or all of the following programs with which I work:
Funded by PW’s Thank Offering:
2O12 – Promoting Human Rights in Rural Kasai: a program protecting the rights of widows and children
2O13 – Ditekemena (“Hope”) Program: a program nurturing street children and resettling them with families through local church support
2O14 – Pig-farming program to improve living conditions of women pastors
2O15 – Micro-Savings and Loan Program for Rural Women
Funded by the Presbyterian Hunger Fund:
2O13 – Promoting Child Nutrition in Kananga
2O15 – Promoting Effective Marketing for Agricultural Products, a program of PRODEK (Development Program in Kasai)
Please contact me to learn more about these development programs. Presentations are being arranged geographically:
May: Washington State, Montana
June: Virginia, West Virginia (where I did not present in 2013)
July: Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois
August: Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania
September: North Carolina
October: Western Tennessee, Western South Carolina, Atlanta area, Birmingham, Texas
Possible presentation opportunities: Sunday School classes, Sunday sermons, Minutes for Mission, Presbyterian Women groups, Hunger Action meetings, presentations at retirement homes, Bible study groups, college support groups, mission committees, church suppers, Alternate Christmas Gift committees, mission fairs, public libraries, and Rotary Clubs.
During these travels I will be on salary, and would not, therefore, be accepting an honorarium. However, our travel is not reimbursed by Presbyterian World Mission, so they request that we ask churches to support our presentation-related travel. If you are in one of the states listed above, travel expenses will be divided between all churches in your area.
At this time when PWM is working hard to solve shortfalls in budgets supporting mission co-workers, I would especially appreciate your prayerful consideration of how you might introduce me to a larger network of churches in your geographic area. If I present to four or more churches in your area, then World Missions will pay half the travel-related costs.
Thank you for your loving outreach that reaches all the way to Congo!
And this year I look forward to experiencing those arms of yours in a very tangible way!
Love and life to you!
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