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May you experience God’s peace and joy this Christmas season and know God’s rich provision in 2021!

A Letter from Larry and Inge Sthreshley, serving in Congo

January 2021

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December 22, 2020

Dear Friends and Family,

Larry and I wish you God’s peace this Christmas and his many blessings in the new year to come!

Thank you for your prayers and your financial support this year that have enabled us to work here in Congo and for journeying with us. It has certainly been a challenging year for all of us as we have experienced this global COVID pandemic!

In October, Larry and I discussed whether we would travel back to the States to spend Christmas with family. But as we read the projections on the increase of COVID-19 cases and deaths, we opted to just stay put in Kinshasa. A warm, green, tropical Christmas season works for me, but I do miss being with our children, Lisa and Michael, this time of year. Over the past couple of months, I find myself thinking back to what we were doing this time last year and last Christmas
and how things have changed with this pandemic.

Christmas 2019 was our “Christmas of the Five Rivers.” Our son Michael and his girlfriend came to spend Christmas in Kinshasa with us, as did Larry’s brother, Charles. With family and friends, we crammed into the car and took a road trip to Congo Central Province to enjoy the beauty of Zongo Falls on the Inkisi river. Then we hiked down the little picturesque Lulofu river with its many cascades that ends up flowing quietly into the Congo river. The majestic Congo river never ceases to amaze me! After a few days’ rest, we took another road trip into Bandundu province and spent time on the deceptively “lazy” Kwilu river at Vanga. And, on the way back to Kinshasa we stopped for a night at Bombo Lumene Reserve and got some time to float down the fast and refreshing Lumene river.

Then the first week of January, Lisa came to Kinshasa and we were all together for a few brief days (just missing Hugh). All this family time brought much joy to this mother’s heart!!

I am so glad we had that time together at the beginning of the year. I hold on to those good memories as this has been a challenging and rough year. With the COVID pandemic and the boarders closed to international travel in the summer, we had to close the Methodist Presbyterian guesthouse and layoff the staff. Soon afterwards our good friend Clay Dunn, who helped manage the guesthouse and who was doing renovations and maintenance, died from complications from malaria and dengue fever. Even as we celebrate his life and service, we are still grappling with his loss. Clay and his wife Cindy, who returned to the USA, have left a big hole in the hearts of many here in Congo.

Our face-to-face interaction with friends and colleagues has been limited due to the COVID pandemic. The closure of the airports and limited charter flights out of Kinshasa in the early months of the pandemic heightened our sense of isolation. Like many of you, we have been working mainly from home and have had to get use to a more “online” work style. Through UKAID funding, IMA World Health (IMA) has been able support 15 health zones in Kinshasa serving 4 million people to receive and treat COVID patients. As in much of the world, the number of cases here in Kinshasa are increasing. IMA also received a one-year extension from UKAID for the Appui au Système de Santé en RDC (ASSR) health program that supports the Congolese Ministry of Health in delivering medical care to around 10 million people in 50 health zones. Needless to say, the COVID context has made carrying out this program more complicated.

So, it has been a year of losses and unforeseen challenges, but also a time to reflect on what is important and a time to find new ways of doing things and new opportunities. This picture of Michael swimming in the Kwilu river around the canoe we were in, reminds me that sometimes you just need to get out of the boat and “play in the river” and enjoy the journey. So, we are going to take a break and do just that!

May you experience God’s peace and joy this Christmas season and know his rich provision in 2021!

Blessings, Inge

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