Racial Justice Resources

Preparing for Departure

A letter from Martha Sommers in the U.S. prior to leaving for service in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

May 31, 2016

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Dear Family and friends,

I am sitting in the West Suburban Breast Cancer Center waiting room. There are close to 20 women in the waiting room. We smile, nod, and say a few words to each other, sharing a solidarity that breast cancer encourages among those who need to walk such a journey. Soon I will be called back to the procedure rooms to have the growing cystlike lesion in my right breast aspirated. My oncologist thinks it is unlikely that this is a recurrence of my breast cancer, yet it is necessary to be sure. Such is the cycle of all of us lucky enough to survive cancer. Our doctors rightly lean toward over-reading follow-up tests and this triggers an exaggerated anxiety response from most of us patients until we get the results. We remember when the news was bad, and we relive the memories of the fears and experience. Please pray for all patients. Those who will receive bad news, and those who anxiously wait. Also pray for those who care for us and walk with us.

Morning tea with my host, Mary Mphande, during my recent visit to Broad Street Presbyterian Church

Morning tea with my host, Mary Mphande, during my recent visit to Broad Street Presbyterian Church

June 8 is my departure date for Democratic Republic of the Congo, where I will be working with the Congolese Presbyterian Community (CPC) at the Christian Medical Institute of the Kasai (IMCK). All I am waiting for now is for my visa, which I have been told has been approved. It will be good to be done with today’s procedure and get back to my to-do list. I am getting a greater sense of what will be my new home. My last church visit for this time in the U.S.A. was with Broad Street Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio. Besides having long-term involvement with Malawi and having many members who have visited the village of my friend and host, Mary Mphande, Broad Street is also involved with the Congolese Presbyterian Community and IMCK. I had a delightful chat with Broad Street member Nancy Henninger. She and her husband lived in the exact same house for 10 years that I will be living in when they served as PC(USA) mission co-workers at IMCK. She as a nurse and he as a gynecologist. She said that the toilet when works will be front flushing, which means it flushes when a bucket of water is dumped in the basin. Mike, her husband, wired the house for electricity when they lived there. So I will be shopping for lights and a fan after I arrive in country. I have been in contact with Jeff Boyd, the PC(USA)’s regional liaison for Democratic Republic of the Congo, who has forwarded to me photos of my soon-to-be house.

Former long-term volunteer at IMCK, Marcia Murray, preparing the guest room in my new house

Former long-term volunteer at IMCK, Marcia Murray, preparing the guest room in my new house

Friday, while riding on the train in Chicago, I received a phone call from Jeff. He was calling from Kinshasa, where he is working with folks from the CPC to set up an in-country orientation for me once I arrive. The conversation was limited by the connection breaking up, which improved when I came again to street level when I got off at the UIC-Halsted station. But then there was the street noise as I walked on the overpass above the 290 Interstate highway. Still, we got a few details worked out. It is not possible to have someone meet me until I get through customs, but then I will be greeted. I will be staying with Jeff and his wife, Christi Boyd, when I first arrive in Kinshasa. Within the first few days I will be meeting with someone from the new Christian medical school. A few of their recent graduates will be new trainees in IMCK’S family medicine program. Bernard Kabibu, the administrator of IMCK, is working on my credentialing. When I travel by plane up to Tshikaji, where IMCK is located, Jeff and Christi will travel with me. They have offered to use their luggage allotment on that flight to carry some of my stuff to furnish my new home. Jeff advised me on a few things to buy prior to leaving the U.S.A., including a Wi-Fi Hotspot. Thankfully I have a high-tech nephew who will be able to help me select which one to purchase.

Political tensions are high in Democratic Republic of the Congo, increasing since the high court ruled that the president could stay in office in case the elections are delayed. Christi Boyd shared the following link, which you can read to gain understanding of the situation: http://www.voanews.com/content/congo-democratic-republic-kabila/3325872.html

I am very thankful for our local partners and fellow mission co-workers who are on the ground and updating me on this changing situation. I will be seeking and following their advice in the days ahead, including in terms of safety. Please pray for all of us and the whole country, which has experienced too much war, violence, and exploitation.

I had the breast cyst aspiration since I began this letter. A wave of relief washed over me as I watched 30 cc of clear yellow fluid aspirated. Breast cancer doesn’t produce clear yellow fluid. I still have to await the final cytology report on the fluid, yet am already relieved.

Thanks for continuing to journey with me and thank you for your prayers, financial support, and friendship. With a new Wi-Fi Hotspot I should be able to at least inconsistently communicate with you through prayer letters, email, and Facebook.

Love and blessings,


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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