Putting our Hand to the Plow

A letter from Bob and Kristi Rice in the U.S., on Interpretation Assignment from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

October 2016

Write to Bob Rice
Write to Kristi Rice

Individuals:  Give online to E200429 for Bob and Kristi Rice’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507528 for Bob and Kristi Rice’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).

Putting our Hand to the Plow—
Ready to return to Congo

 

When all is said and done, this year we will have visited 46 churches, 5 presbytery meetings and gatherings, actively participated in 5 conferences, been trained in trauma healing, traveled to 21 states, slept in 45 beds, and traveled thousands upon thousands of miles by road and by air. We will have given our presentation 31 times, preached 16 times, and shared with all types of groups in various ways.

Sound exhausting? Well, it has been tiring at times. Most of the above-mentioned activity transpired within only five months. But God is good, giving us the extra “oomph” we have needed along the way. We give thanks that we haven’t had any breakdowns or accidents on the road. We also give thanks that we have been welcomed with open arms by so many. We feel encouraged, strengthened and inspired by the support and interest from all of you who join us in God’s work in Congo through your prayers and generous contributions. We have also enjoyed periods of rest and refreshment. We took a train trip with Kristi’s parents to Glacier National Park. We spent a week in Hawai’i with Bob’s parents, and we will have visited four National Parks before our return. We also have enjoyed taking a bird watching class and a yoga class. We enjoyed seeing the changing of seasons and spending time with family and friends.

As 2016 comes to a close, one might ask, “Are you ready to return to Congo?” The answer is an unqualified “yes” seasoned with a hint of “no.” It will be hard to leave our families and our home culture again. It will be difficult to leave the seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall. It will be challenging to return to a country where current political realities feel both unsafe and uncertain, where political machinations and combative political wills could easily spiral the country into a black hole of chaos. Returning feels daunting for other reasons too, stepping back into known realities of internal church struggles, besetting poverty, regional conflict, and many other smaller yet no less formidable challenges.

Yet there are many reasons why we are ready and excited about our return. First and foremost, God’s call upon our lives remains preeminent. Jesus calls out the half-hearted would-be followers, saying, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9: 62). In Congo we have put our hand to the plow and we are ready to return. We are anxious to see friends, visiting them in their homes, eating bidia together, hearing how life has passed along in our absence. We look forward to seeing children, particularly those from the Ditekemena program for street children. We are excited to re-engage with the healing and reconciliation ministry. We are thrilled by how the savings groups work has expanded. We are excited about helping church members have access to Bibles, songbooks, and other helpful materials and resources. We look forward to reconnecting with colleagues regarding many important ministry initiatives. We look forward to speaking Tshiluba and forging forward with our French. We look forward to huddling under the covers during violent thunderstorms and watching beautiful sunsets from our balcony. We are excited to be reunited with our pet parrot Jackoo, to hear him say “Bonjour” and “Wetu’au!” We look forward to seeing our mission co-worker colleagues and friends in Kananga and Tshikaji and Kinshasa. We anticipate recounting to all our Congolese and mission co-worker friends God’s faithfulness and goodness to us in 2016.

As we enter this Advent Season we are reminded of the Incarnation of God, the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are heartened by the reality of the Second Coming of Jesus, whereby all wrongs will be righted and all tears will be wiped away by our loving Lord. We cry, “Emmanuel,” God with us! As God promises his presence to us, we have the privilege of being present to others. In his October 2016 Christianity Today article “Beautiful Orthodoxy,” editor-in-chief Mark Galli makes the soul-stirring statement that when we participate in the sufferings of Christ for the poor and the vulnerable, for the hopeless and lost, we express in a bodily way the beauty and magnitude of Christ on the cross. This statement arouses passion and commitment in us, acknowledging that when we forsake all for others, for God’s kingdom, we connect with the beauty and glory of the One who chose to live and die so that we may have life. On that note, we wish you a blessed Advent, praying that together we may participate in the sufferings and glory of Christ crucified, ministering the presence of Christ to those in need.

As always, we thank you for standing with us. It has been a wonderful year of connecting with so many of you! As you may know, in July we committed to serve for another four years in Congo. We invite you to continue this journey with us—we need your prayers! We also invite you to continue supporting our role in Congo with your generous giving. “Tuasakadila wa bunyi!” (Thank you so much!).

Bob and Kristi

Please read this important message from Tony De La Rosa, Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:1b-2, NRSV)

Dear Friend of the Presbyterian Mission Agency:

Thank you for your prayers and for your financial support of Bob and Kristi Rice this year, and any previous year. We hear from our mission co-workers how much your prayerful financial support has meant to them. Please know that you are a vital part of ministries throughout the Congo.

Even as I thank you, I want to let you know that this is a critical time for our congregations and all people of faith to commit themselves to support mission co-workers like Bob and Kristi. Our global church partners greatly value their service, and you well know how important this ministry is in building connections between the body of Christ in the U.S. and the Congo.

We have historically relied on endowment interest and the general offering from congregations to sustain the vital work of all of our mission workers. Those sources of funding have greatly diminished. It is only through the gifts of individuals and congregations that we are able to keep Kristi and Bob doing the life-giving work God called them to do. A year ago, in May 2015, we had to recall some mission workers due to a lack of funding. World Mission communicated the challenge to you, and you responded decisively and generously. Through your response, we heard the Spirit remind us, “Fear not!”

Today, I’m asking you to consider an additional gift for this year, and to increase the gift you may consider for 2017. Sending and support costs include not only salary but also health insurance and retirement contributions, orientation, language training, housing, travel to the country of service, children’s education, emergency evacuation costs, and visa/passport costs.

My heartfelt thanks for your prayers and support of our Presbyterian mission co-workers. In the coming season, we will celebrate God’s sending of the Christ child, the source of the good news we share. May you experience anew the hope, peace, joy, and love that are ours because “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18).

Thank you for saying “yes” to love.

With you in Christ,

Tony De La Rosa
Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


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