“God is working His purpose out!”

A letter from Ruth Brown in the U.S., on Interpretation Assignment from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

April, 2017

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Life to you all! 

“What are you doing here?” This question, God’s question, was the title of a recent sermon delivered at Columbia Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Ga., near where I have been living at Mission Haven. The Rev. Tom Hagood read these words from I Kings 19:9-15a, telling the story of Elijah and challenging us to hear God’s question in our own lives. This question has framed my thoughts since January, when I learned that two other mission co-workers and I would not be returning to Congo but would be in a period of discernment, seeking another placement with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), either abroad or in the U.S.

This change in placement is explained in the following paraphrase of the letter from World Mission staff mailed out in February to my supporting churches. You may read the letter in its entirety at the bottom of this page.

After being on interpretation assignment in the United States, I was anticipating returning to work with the CPC’s Development Program in Congo in February of this year. However, in late January the leadership of the Presbyterian Community of Congo asked that two other mission co-workers and I not return to service with them until there is resolution to the conflict dividing the Presbyterian Community of Congo. The conflict has been an issue for over four years and resolution does not appear in sight; therefore, in consideration of stewardship of human and financial resources World Mission, the other two mission co-workers and I are compelled to consider other opportunities for service. World Mission has allowed time for we three mission co-workers to discern opportunities for future service.

During this time of discernment, I am grateful for the support you have given to the Presbyterian Church of Congo, to World Mission, and to me. Thank you for continuing to donate to my sending and support. Thank you, too, for your encouraging letters, email, phone calls, and prayers. If I am deployed to a new region with World Mission, your funds will follow me to that post. Your funds also assist the World Mission office in all the support they provide to mission workers: placement, training, health benefits, international travel, and communication with our supporters. World Mission staff are few, and all are wearing many hats. We are all grateful for your continued donations and prayers for our work.

Many of you are continuing to support our partnership in Congo, and this is also much appreciated. Part of my work during this discernment time is meeting and presenting to PC(USA) churches how donations to World Mission, to special offerings such as One Great Hour of Sharing, and to Presbyterian Women’s Thank Offering are assisting health, education, and development programs in mission partnership all over the world.

During these past months, I’ve received communications from church members just days after visiting them. Enthusiastic messages come from church leaders planning to collect “Pennies for PRODEK,” a program for sustainable agricultural development in Kasai, three provinces in central Congo. These churches will be following the example of “Cents-ability,” the current 5-Cents-A-Meal program of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

PRODEK began in the 1980s when children in Presbyterian churches throughout North Carolina collected over $40,000 in pennies! With these funds, PRODEK purchased its first Land Rover, enabling its highly motivated Congolese staff to travel on Congo’s impossible dirt “roads” to reach whole towns of people to teach about collective farming. PRODEK has formed over 300 coalitions, towns learning the most effective, sustainable methods of farming and marketing.

Two new PC(USA) churches have begun this mission effort in the past few months! Val Neubauer of Westminster PC in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, sent photos this month of the tin cans she and her church youth are decorating for a monthly collection of coins for PRODEK. And the session of Eastminster PC in Stone Mountain, Ga., has just approved a new and ongoing “Pennies for PRODEK” mission for their church!

This March the hunger committee of the Presbytery of the James (POJ) met in Richmond, Virginia, to discuss the disbursing of funds coming from about 60% of the POJ’s churches. These funds come largely from monthly collections of the 5-Cents-A-Meal program, but they also come from special funds or direct gifts. This POJ hunger committee has supported PRODEK for four years and pledged $4,000 to PRODEK in 2016.

At this Easter season, please consider supporting programs of sustainable agriculture through gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing. This year, 36% of this special Eastertime offering will support the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP). In 2014 and 2015, PHP provided grants to PRODEK. These grants have provided agricultural training of community groups throughout the three Kasai provinces in central Congo, where half of all children under 6 years old are malnourished.

PC(USA) church members’ enthusiasm in beginning and sustaining such support for PRODEK is so encouraging to me (note: Enthusiasm = a word derived from the Greek enthous “possessed by a god, inspired”). Thank you all for being “possessed by God” to ensure the abundant life in Christ for our neighbors!

“What are you doing here?” Pastor Hagood gave me not only God’s question for thought and prayer, but he also gave me the passcodes for entering his church sanctuary so that I might practice the piano. At the piano, the haunting question of the sermon title finds a response in the powerful refrain of a favorite hymn with a running melody carried by single notes in the bass clef. In A-flat minor, a series of single, strong, majestic, mysterious, fortississimo bass notes carries the melody until the notes ascend at the end of the final chorus, where the music resolves into a major C chord, then immediately resounds to an even higher interval of the same clear, major key in “Amen!”

“God is working His purpose out! Nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea! Amen!” When trouble and doubt weigh heavily—the violence in Congo, particularly the tragic loss of life in Central Kasai this year, the division in the Presbyterian Church of Congo, the violence and uncertainty of our times, and the searching for directions for our own lives—in the midst of all this, the continued devotion of the faithful helps feed the hungry and feeds the flame of faith: “God is working His purpose out! Amen!”


P.S. The hymn “God Is Working His Purpose Out!” has been lost in recent publications of the Presbyterian Hymnal. You may find its lyrics by clicking on hymnary.org/text/god_is_working_his_purpose_out. Enjoy!

Original letter sent by World Mission regarding my change of placement:

February 15, 2017

We send greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Because you have faithfully and generously supported the mission of the PC(USA) in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we wanted to share this important update with you.

We are thankful for the conscientious and dedicated service of our Presbyterian Church (USA) mission coworkers Bob and Kristi Rice and Ruth Brown in DRC. Your support of their work in prayer, encouragement and financial contributions means so much to these mission co-workers, the whole Presbyterian World Mission family and the members and church staff of the Presbyterian Community of Congo (CPC) with whom they have worked.

Bob and Kristi Rice-Since January 2010, Bob and Kristi have served alongside members of CPC’s Department of Evangelism and Christian Education, as well as liaising with members of the CPC’s Community Development Program, seeking to meet the spiritual and physical needs of God’s people in Congo.

Ruth Brown-Since January 2011, Ruth has been working as a food security and development specialist, assisting coalition members of the CPC’s Development Program to address the root causes of poverty as well as spiritual needs through use of Community Health Evangelism methodology.

Bob, Kristi and Ruth, currently on interpretation assignment in the United States, were anticipating returning to their work in Congo in early 2017. However, in late January, the leadership of the Presbyterian Church of Congo asked that these colleagues not return to service in the Congo until there is resolution to the conflict dividing the Presbyterian Community of Congo. Because that conflict has been an issue for nearly four years and resolution does not appear in sight, World Mission, in agreement with Bob, Kristi and Ruth, feel that good stewardship of human and financial resources compels us to begin considering other opportunities for their service. We are currently exploring the best way to use the talents of these three and reassign them based on their individual skills as well as requests from other World Mission partners.

The ministry of other mission personnel currently serving in Congo will not be directly affected.

We are grateful for the continued commitment of Bob, Kristi and Ruth to the mission of our church. We ask that you accompany us in this reappointment process by continuing your prayers and support for the Rices and Ruth Brown. Many of you have contributed to the sending and support of these mission co-workers. Please know that, while these mission co-workers discern their next assignment and are reappointed to other countries, your gifts will follow them in their new locations. Please also pray for Christ’s reconciling power to bring healing and unity
to the Presbyterian Community of Congo.

Peace of Christ be with you!

Rachel Yates, Associate Director for Program

Tamron Keith, Associate Director for Administration

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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