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Charlotte’s Myers Park Presbyterian Church celebrates 75 years of ministry in Congo

 

After a trip there in October, the church’s Congo Team continues its work to strengthen the longtime partnership

February 3, 2024

Members and friends of Myers Park Presbyterian Church celebrate 75 years of partnership in Congo. (Photo by Steve Mezardjian)

More than 100 members of Myers Park Presbyterian Church (MPCC) and the Charlotte community celebrated 75 years of ministry in Congo in November. The two-hour celebration included ministers, the church’s Congo Ministry Team, members of the Congolese community and church members and friends.

Dr. William Bradford, a physician who ignited the ministry during the early 1990s and into the early part of the 21st century, was also present, telling the group that it is seldom that people can see the ongoing strength of something they were committed to decades before. Other Congo travelers expressed thanksgiving for the trips they took to Congo to sustain a ministry that is thriving today.

“The main thing I’ve noticed is that in the midst of renewing our team in the past year, we have all benefited from the fellowship with new team members,” said MPCC’s Bob Davies, the master of ceremonies for the celebration. “Those of us who traveled to Congo [in October] benefited from faith-sharing with our Congolese brothers and sisters. It never seems to fail — when you offer yourself, you are blessed in return.”

The 21st-century-era of MPPC’s Congo Ministry is focused on the education of Congolese girls. MPPC and its Presbyterian partners in Congo have established two schools. One is located in Kananga, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and was established in 2012. The other is in Mbuji-Mai in the DRC and was established in 2018. Two thousand Congolese girls are currently attending these schools.

In the Congo Team’s fall newsletter, Davies writes about the team’s most recent trip to the campuses. At one, “two long lines of girls on opposite ends of the courtyard began singing with all their might. First one side and then the next. Then the girl with her back to us led a chorus of ‘welcome and gratitude’ on our behalf. They had us at hello.”

“Somehow, through first Ebola and then Covid, we managed to keep together through Zoom calls, prayer and the Holy Spirit,” Davies wrote. “Our partners see our presence as a gift from God and take our relationship very seriously. We are a blessing to each other, but there are significant changes and challenges ahead.” Team members are concerned about the viability of the secondary school in Les Mages. Its loss, Davies wrote, “would be a critical issue with respect to our mission of changing the lives of women in Congo.”

Dr. William Bradford, at left, was among those honored during last month’s celebration of 75 years of partnership in Congo. Pictured with Bradford are the even’s master of ceremonies, Bob Davies, and Congo Team co-chair Fay Grasty. (Photo by Steve Mezardjian)

Still, against “some unimaginably harsh circumstances, the Congolese endure,” Davies wrote. “There is a spontaneous cheerfulness that is not difficult to find. Our sometimes-unexpected presence often created a pop-up celebration. A ‘bonjour’ said to a curious little girl almost always triggers a huge smile, sparkling eyes and an instant connection.”

For most of the students, “their waking hours are spent walking, riding some form of mass transit, collecting and managing water, procuring and preparing food, cleaning clothing, tending to personal hygiene and, for our girls, being in school,” Davies wrote. “We got the impression that their time in school was their primary source of joy — to be with friends, to learn and to dream about a future that holds greater possibility.”

Congolese worship “is not just punctuated by amazing music,” Davies wrote. “Everything about it is lyrical and rhythmic, and when our brothers and sisters in Christ are not devoting themselves to our savior, they are welcoming us, thanking us and honoring us. … Their worship takes a little longer, but in just over two hours, we became their neighbors, an experience we will not forget. Thank God.”

“We encourage each of you to think about how you can get involved,” Davies added. “As our Congolese friends have just reminded us, we don’t do it for them. We don’t do it for us. We do it to glorify the Lord.”

Watch a 2022 video about Myers Park Presbyterian Church’s outreach programs in Malawi, Uganda and Congo here. Learn more about the church’s Congo Ministry Team here.

Information provided by Myers Park Presbyterian Church, Special to Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Myers Park Presbyterian Church celebrates 75 years of ministry in Congo

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Jennifer Barr, Reference & Outreach Archivist, Presbyterian Historical Society
Andrew Kang Bartlett, Associate, National Hunger Concerns, Presbyterian Hunger Program, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray

Dear Creator God, we praise you for the abundance of life-giving strength and provisions you surround us with, even in the midst of disaster. May we open our eyes to the resources you give us to help our neighbors as we help ourselves, so that together we create a more livable world. Amen.


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