Celebrations and challenges

A PC(USA) mission letter from Democratic Republic of the Congo (2014 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 138)

September 10, 2014

Congo school kids

Bob Rice and two of the caregivers with the kids in the Ditekemena program. —Kristi Rice

KANANGA, Democratic Republic o

At the end of July the outline of the curriculum for teaching the Christian faith in primary schools here was finally produced and distributed with great celebration.

This has been a long bumpy process. Bob’s patience has been tested several times when people failed to show up for meetings, one team member died unexpectedly last year, and the group moderator has been preoccupied and often absent. God answered our prayers for renewed motivation in the team and Bob learned some cultural lessons as he struggled to support them as a partner without taking charge.

They are now writing the teachers’ manual that will accompany the outline and hope to host a training for teachers soon.

The kids in the Ditekemena program have become some of our favorite people in Kananga. The holistic transformation over the last few months is dramatic. These kids who were recently living on the streets bonded as a family remarkably fast, and the welcome we get when we go to see them makes us feel like both celebrities and long-lost relatives.

The caregivers are now visiting local churches to encourage local participation in responding to the plight of children living on the streets. Last week Bob spent the night with the kids, experiencing their routine, playing games, and praying together.

The leadership team of the Ditekemena program discerned that these kids need more time in the center to get some stability and also to prepare their relatives or other families for receiving them. That goes beyond the original budget, so we are trusting God to provide for their food and school expenses for the school year.

We hope that a “catch-up school” model can be used to teach some of the older kids with an accelerated curriculum, so that they can make up for lost years of school. This is a new venture for the Congolese Presbyterian Church (CPC) and a great opportunity to minister to vulnerable young people. This is one of the most urgent and important priorities right now in our ministry. If you would like to contribute toward Ditekemena, please contact us for giving instructions.

At the end of June we drove to Mutoto, with the Land Cruiser packed to the gills with a generator, big speakers, a keyboard, books to distribute, and a few of the CPC leaders all packed in like sardines. 

This graduation ceremony for the pastoral institute in Mutoto was a huge celebration with plenty of pomp — the event of the year for this rural village. Pastor Tshiaba, director of the school, described proudly that they were now teaching students and their spouses the trades of carpentry, sewing, and raising livestock.

A contribution from the U.S. supported the purchase of three sewing machines and other supplies for sewing, carpentry tools, and a few pigs. When graduates go out to serve as pastors in rural villages they will have a trade that will enable them to help support their families. We are excited because there is a significant deficit of pastors in the CPC, but more people are now seeking to pursue pastoral ministry now that these schools are getting more equipped.

The Bible subsidy program continues full steam ahead. We continue to receive people who have walked or biked many miles from rural areas just in the pursuit of finally being able to purchase a Bible at a price they can afford.

Congo woman with Bible

A woman at the Demba synod meeting is proud of the Bible she purchased. —Kristi Rice

In July we traveled to Demba, a town about 40 miles north of Kananga, for a synod meeting. We came with a box of 40 Bibles to sell, and several other books as well. The Synod leader had informed the delegates in advance that there would be Bibles and songbooks to buy, so many churches in rural areas sent money with their delegates to purchase Bibles.

During a break in the meeting we started selling. The eagerness to get Bibles is hard to describe — we sold out in about 10 minutes. Just between May and July this year we sold nearly 500 Bibles and 200 songbooks.

We continue to try to ensure that these important ministry tools get out to rural areas. If you would like to support the distribution of subsidized Bibles in Kasai, you can contribute through the Evangelism Department of the CPC and designate your gift for “Bibles and Christian Literature.”

There are two seminars planned for September around the themes of how to study and teach the Bible, discipleship among church members of all ages, and understanding the Biblical basis for caring for creation — one seminar near Kananga and the other in East Kasai. Two pastors from America will come to participate with us.

We also are planning a seminar for this fall to train teachers about the importance and rights of children and also methods for teaching children in Sunday school. There is a much-anticipated book of large pictures and lessons on the life of Jesus being produced in Tshiluba that will be distributed in conjunction with that seminar. 

In early August the General Assembly of the CPC was held near Kananga. There were a few decisions to rejoice about — notably of reunion in one synod that had been divided because of conflict over leadership.

We were disappointed with some of the other decisions, notably those that seem like a harsh response to some division and opposition within the church.

For the last few weeks we have struggled with feeling disillusioned and wanting to give up. But we know that with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and strength, we can persevere with our brothers and sisters in Christ and will stand in solidarity with the church in Congo for the advancement of God’s Kingdom here. We very much appreciate your prayers, support and encouragement!

To visit the web pages of all Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission workers, visit Mission Connections.