One in the Spirit!

A Letter from José Jones, serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Spring 2022

Write to José  LaMont Jones

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Dear friends,

The setting sun outlined the puffy clouds that covered the city with a rust-colored glow. As my plane rounded for its final approach, the bustling metropolis of Kinshasa, Africa’s second largest city, came into view as a tapestry of sprinkling lights. And so, I thought to myself, the journey finally begins!

For more than two long years, the Coronavirus pandemic had arrested commerce, travel and life in general. As a new mission co-worker, I have been working remotely with my partners here in the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK). Now I would finally meet, in person, some of the faces that had occupied those little Zoom boxes on my computer screen.

Airport welcome by Rev. Frederick Bopali.

So far, my travel to Kinshasa had been uneventful, as I carried with me six suitcases of what I thought I would need (two years ago) and stepped into my new existence. Several thoughts crowded my mind. Would I recognize the individuals with whom I had been meeting? How would they know it is me? Well, after suffering through the surprisingly smooth passport and customs check, at least I’d be easy to spot. I would be the one with the desperate “Where is the bathroom?” look on my face! Ha! Ha!

The following moments passed like a well-oiled machine. I was met by the CPK 1st Vice President, Rev. Frederick Bopali, who greeted me with great warmth as though we had known each other for years! As my bags were rounded up, we sat in the visitor’s lounge and chatted about the flight, my hopes, Kinshasa, and many other things. I was incredibly grateful to Madame Nellie Yandjo, my French tutor, for the excellent preparation in French! I was surprised how well, although my French is far from perfect, I was able to understand and be understood. Of course, Rev. Bopali was very patient and considerate.

Finally, after my luggage was collected, I was able to meet Jeff Boyd, my immediate supervisor and PC(USA) Regional Liaison, after two years of Zoom Meetings and WhatsApp conversations. He seemed taller than the Zoom square would suggest but very familiar. He was accompanied by Rev. Pierre Tavunda Mutombo, CPK Administrator.

My first “landing” accommodations were at the Catholic Welcome Center here in Limeté, walking distance from the CPK Administrative offices and the CPK Health Administration office. I have come to meet Rev. Dieudonne Tshimanga, CPK 2nd Vice-President, Dr. Samy Ntumba, Director of CPK Health Services and, of course, Rev. Isaac Kalonji, President and Legal Representative of the CPK. Rev. Kalonji has been afflicted by back problems of late and I ask for prayers for him and his wonderful family. In fact, I ask for prayers for all the wonderful individuals I have met since my arrival. It is so nice to be among fellow Christians who it seems like I’ve known for years. And it gets better!

Meeting Madame Nellie Yandjo, my French tutor, after two years of WhatsApp lessons.

I’m a church boy and I have anxiously awaited worship with my Congolese sisters and brothers. The similarities of the worship experience have been phenomenal. In spite of the difference and distance, the distinct elements of worship are comfortably familiar with some of the same songs and rites. I am at home. Although the songs were sung in French, Lingala and Tshiluba, the tunes were recognizable, and I was able to sing along. The preaching was powerful, and the services were spirit-filled!

This Sunday, Rev. Paul Dimukayi at CPK Limeté preached from Genesis about Abraham following God’s guidance. His angle of looking at this familiar story was to see Abraham as a missionary; sent to a far away place and blessed to be a blessing to the nations. This way of looking at our calling to God’s mission is similar to the perspective of the Kairos class I began taking while worshiping in Santo Domingo. This course, which began at 1:00 a.m. here in Kinshasa, has been a true blessing to me. It is clear that here in Kinshasa, it is understood that we are blessed to be a blessing. Our blessing to others is the sharing of God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice. The consistency of God’s work was serendipitous.

It was fortuitous that I would arrive for the confirmation of Madame Nellie’s youngest, Venuskan. She would often say hello when Nellie and I were finishing my lesson. I nick-named her “Chiquita” (little one). She wanted me to attend the reception/family gathering at her house. I was able to go and witness that this family gathering is just like my family gatherings with lots of laughter, good food, good music, lots of family and friends! It was good to get to meet Nellie in person, and fellowship with her family.

I am hoping that Nellie’s son Grace, a recent college graduate in Computer Science, will be interested in helping with video production/editing/subtitling for CPK and Congo Mission Network. Grace studied in India and speaks and writes English very well. Isn’t it funny how God provides?

As I write this missive, I anticipate my formal welcoming and commissioning as a mission co-worker by our partner denomination at its meeting this Saturday. I feel very much at home and have been comfortably welcomed. I now am transitioning into finding a permanent residence and finding my place in what is now my new normal, post-pandemic life in Kinshasa.

I am thankful to all who have answered the call to support mission in the world and to the sharing of God’s love extended to all nations and people. I pray that God will guide and order my steps, that I be a blessing to the CPK, Congo and world Christianity. From the familiar to the unknown, we are all “One in the Spirit and One in the Lord,” and for that I thank God!

José


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