With God Nothing is Impossible for Us

A Letter from Christi and Jeff Boyd, serving in Africa

July 2020

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“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16.

Greetings!

I was curious when the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK) put forward this passage for a special church-wide offering. Back in February, when the Community President Pastor Isaac Kalonji visited us at home, he shared news about a challenge that has long plagued Presbyterians in the Congo: the difficulty of building churches, particularly for congregations in the cities where buying land is the first obstacle.

Presbyterians in the U.S. have a generous history of coming alongside the CPK to support church planting and the construction of worship places. More recently, the Booth Family Initiative supported the construction of a church in Menkao village on the Bateke Plateau, and other Christian organizations have shown interest to re-engage in this area. Some of the church buildings will be in rural areas where land titles are easier to obtain and less costly.

Pastor Isaac shared with us wonderful news from Rev. Kim Kyung-sik, a pastor and mission worker sent from South Korea and serving in Kinshasa since 1992. Last year, at a moment of hardship for Rev. Kim, Pastor Isaac and his colleagues went to visit him. Their visit so moved Rev. Kim that he offered to help build a church for the CPK. Having his own construction team, he just needed a building site. The CPK selected the Fer Bois parish. After the building project was completed, Rev. Kim wanted to continue to build churches for other congregations, provided the CPK owned the building sites. This is where the problem lies. Buying land in a city of 12 million is expensive.

The prospect of providing its congregations with durable church buildings is a blessing for the CPK, but it can only come to fruition if the denomination has access to land. There are twelve fully functioning congregations in Kinshasa that still do not have property on which to build a church building. Several of them are renting space to worship. Often this means leasing the land and putting up a simple hangar. Some congregations worship in space offered by a church member who owns the land. However, if the church does not own the property, it will not risk building on it.

One Presbyterian congregation was recently forced to leave the place where it had been worshipping for over 20 years. An elder of the church had owned it, but his grown children did not appear to share his commitment to the church when he passed away. The land was sold, and the church members have since been meeting in their pastor’s home. Another congregation recently was evicted from the land where it has been holding its worship services and has since been meeting at a sister church of the CPK, just at a different hour than their hosts.

Rather than remain restricted by their lack of resources to buy land, the CPK leadership decided to call a denomination-wide special offering for the end of April to kick-off its fundraising efforts. Although COVID-19 forced them to delay their plans, they still intend to take up the challenge when gathering for worship is again possible.

When I asked Pastor Isaac about their choice of the passage from Esther, he explained that it was selected to call all church members to join in prayer, fasting and offering with the belief that “With God, nothing is impossible for us.” So, once the CPK can resume worship services after COVID-19 measures are lifted, the staff will again mobilize the pastors and elders for their offering with a goal of $50,000 this first year. The church leaders are asking each member to give at least one dollar and more for those who are able. They will print and sell special t-shirts and booklets. Choirs will be invited to sing. It is to be a festive time for our partners, but the question remains when it will be possible.

While the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 remains relatively low in the Congo, life has become considerably more difficult due to the partial lockdown. Strict measures taken early, such as closing the airport for passenger flights and sealing off Kinshasa’s borders to prevent spread by land and water to other parts of the county, appear to be working. After four months, over 90% of the 8000+ cases are in Kinshasa. There have been 190 deaths attributed to COVID-19, and the curve of daily new confirmed cases has started to go down. However, with no church offerings since worship services were suspended in mid-March, congregations cannot pay their pastors. Churches renting space for worship are also unable to make their payments, which puts them in danger of being evicted.

The leadership of the CPK invites you to join them in prayer for a successful offering to buy land for congregations. Those who wish to join the CPK’s efforts are invited to give to E864118 CPK – church land purchase. In Kinshasa, on average, it will cost $35,000 to buy a parcel of land on which a church building might be constructed. In rural areas, the amount will be measured more in hundreds of dollars, not thousands.

Like many of you, Christi and I are working from home. We have been permitted to stay in Kinshasa. We are grateful to be close and, with the necessary physical distancing measures, easily accessible to our partners, whether by phone, WhatsApp, Zoom, and, on rare occasions, in-person exchanges. We cherish your continued prayers and support, even as we know that many individuals and congregations are facing great loss and hardship due to this pandemic.

May we be the good neighbors of whom Jesus taught, doing what we can to care for and protect others even as we protect ourselves.

Grace and Peace be with you,

Jeff and Christi


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