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The Power of Encouragement

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

August 2016

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Muoyo wenu! (Life to you!)

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1-2).

The power of encouragement! Our churches and our partnerships in mission are filled with this power! As I travel throughout the U.S.A. telling stories of our partnership in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I meet the most encouraging Christians! One young woman in her 80s (!) told me about how she, with daily help from God, brought the University of Wisconsin to her small town of Cottage Grove. She said she took out a notebook and pen in the morning and wrote down all that God was telling her to do. All those sitting around her assured me that they believed their friend to be guided by the Spirit in her enthusiasm for her mission.

On the website, www.etymonline.com, one finds the following definition for “enthusiasm”:

enthusiasm (n.) c. 1600, from Middle French enthousiasme (16c.) and directly from Late Latin enthusiasmus, from Greek enthousiasmos “divine inspiration, enthusiasm (produced by certain kinds of music, etc.),” from enthousiazein “be inspired or possessed by a god, be rapt, be in ecstasy,” from entheos “divinely inspired, possessed by a god,” from en “in” (see en– (2)) + theos “god” (see theo-).

So many of you this year have welcomed me into your homes with enthusiasm and grace. I marvel at the special thoughtfulness of placing fresh flowers in the bedroom for a total stranger! And others have sent letters to my permanent mailing address in Richmond, letters that arrived before I returned home from visiting their church! Letters filled with photos of our visit together, and special momentos of the state visited—like a painting of the bitterroot, Montana’s state flower.

Mamu Esther is president of women of the church for 3 presbyteries. She manages a large agricultural association with assistance from PRODEK.

Mamu Esther is president of women of the church for 3 presbyteries. She manages a large agricultural association with assistance from PRODEK.

I have been welcomed in this same wholehearted way in Congo, too. I spent two weeks in the home of Medi and Bertha Kanda, elders of our partner church, the Presbyterian Church of Congo. Medi and Bertha gave up their bedroom and living room to me while they stayed in a smaller room of the old health clinic in Kabaya Kamanga, East Kasai. They prepared food for me every day and visited with me every evening. Every morning I woke up before 6 a.m., listening in the darkness as both of them sat by a small campfire outside our dwelling. Together, they were quietly praying and singing softly their early morning praises to God.

During my days in Kabaya Kamanga, Medi Kanda taught me about PRODEK, the agricultural development program of the Presbyterian Church of Congo that he directs in the Kasai provinces. A program that received its initial funding from children in churches throughout North Carolina. Children collected over $40,000 in the 1980s and sent all of these funds to help PRODEK purchase its first Toyota Land Cruiser. With this car PRODEK began to meet with townspeople in East Kasai, bringing them disease-resistant crops and farm implements for the beginning of Congo’s first collective farming systems. Prior to PRODEK’s arrival people farmed only their own family fields. With PRODEK’s help, the people formed associations for agriculture. For every 20 towns, banking systems and stores were formed. Every 20 towns would vote for their own union representation for management and training and for representation for the pricing of the harvest. PRODEK has assisted the development of more than 2,000 associations (towns!) for agricultural production!

PRODEK has created over 200 associations (towns) for sustainable agriculture in the Kasai.

PRODEK has created over 200 associations (towns) for sustainable agriculture in the Kasai.

This past year I was able to assist with an application that PRODEK made for a grant from the Presbyterian Hunger Program. PRODEK was given this grant for a pilot project for more effective marketing of corn. This special pilot project operates near Lake Munkomba, a large body of water between the capital cities of East and West Kasai provinces. This area is the site of the most recently funded program of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. Although PRODEK assists 17 agricultural associations in this geographic area, all of these associations are selling corn in an inefficient manner at a cost dictated by a local board of growers with no representation by PRODEK. Prior to 2016 these associations had no system to get the corn to market quickly, nor could these farmers store their corn for even two weeks without the corn becoming infected with pests. Also because PRODEK had gained no representation on the board of growers, it therefore had no voice in the pricing of their harvest.

In January 2016 PRODEK was awarded $7,628 by the Presbyterian Hunger Program. These funds have provided:

  1. Trainings in storage methodology, process and outcome monitoring for all of PRODEK’s 17 associations in the Lake Munkomba area
  2. 20 pesticide containers
  3. 580 pesticide-treated sacks for storing corn
  4. 1 year’s rent for sacks of harvested corn
  5. Inventory record sheets
  6. 10 bikes for transporting harvested corn (each to be repaid by owner to allow more bikes to be purchased)
  7. 1 motorcycle for PRODEK staff to use for training and monitoring field operation

In April 2016 this pilot program received a site visit from representatives of the Belgium counterpart of USAID. These representatives from Belgium’s agricultural development program pledged support to PRODEK for continuation of the program if PRODEK’s objectives were met:

  1. Ability to store at least 20 percent more harvested corn, as measured by weight
  2. Ability to sell the corn at 20 percent higher price at two months after harvest

This is how seed money from Presbyterian Hunger Program grants may benefit very large numbers of people in Congo (and throughout the world). Thirty-eight percent of your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing support the Presbyterian Hunger Program and bring hope to many families in Congo. Your gifts to my sending and support also help to make these agricultural programs possible. Thank you for helping God’s people in Congo. Your gifts, given in God’s name (“en Theo”!), build our mission partnerships for the fulfillment of God’s plan that ALL PEOPLE enjoy abundant life in relationship with our Creator. Please continue to help us strengthen our partnerships through your prayers and financial commitment to this ministry.

And thank you for being so encouraging to me during my travels here in the U.S.A.!

Ruth


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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