Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! I pray that your 2013 is marked by a growing understanding of God, His love for you and His plans for you. May you walk in that knowledge in 2013.
I always struggle with how to bring a picture of life in Congo to my Christian friends in America. I can use words and stories to describe the people and the circumstances, but something is always missing. With my words, I am painting a 2 dimensional picture, but my experience is 3D – no actually 4D or 5D – affecting not just what I see, but every one of my senses, but not just my senses, there is a spiritual dimension as well. When I visit there, I feel like I am being swallowed. I am surrounded in every way. I am smothered. Every emotion is not just affected but assaulted. Our efforts seem pitiful in relation to the problems. The problems appear physical, but then I realize they are way beyond physical. Money cannot solve these problems. Then, I received a video that does a good job of capturing the reality of life in eastern Congo – people living in continual fear, wondering whom to trust, wondering why God has forgotten them.
A pastor friend in Bukavu sent me this video a few weeks ago. He received it from some friends in Goma, a city 60 miles north of Bukavu. The M23 militia invaded the city a few weeks ago. He asked me to distribute it far and wide so people would know, and so that the Congolese people would not stand alone.
Here’s a brief update on the ministry to the Congolese in Bukavu:
- Much violence in Goma as the M23 militia invaded the city a few weeks ago. You may have seen this news in November and December.
- Next trip to Bukavu is January 25 thru February 8 with a team of five – training more potential entrepreneurs, encouraging and consulting with our three borrowers who have started businesses, developing relationships further, and distributing more Bible MP3 players. Please pray that we would respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit as we engage people.
- I would like to take 2-3 laptops to give to people in Bukavu. If you have an old laptop, please email me.
- We are taking 200 solar powered MP3 players with the Bible in French and English. We want people to sponsor these players by agreeing to pray for the recipient. Email me if you will pray in this way.
- Tentatively planning another trip in June 2013. In addition to more business people, I would like to take someone with education experience. Email me if you want more information.
- Please pray that God will develop some leaders in Bukavu who will lead people in bold obedience to Christ – acting in counter cultural ways and willing to trust Christ with everything.
Before you watch the video, I want to provide some important context.
One of the things that intrigued me about Bukavu is the extreme contrast between (i) its beauty and abundant natural resources and (ii) its extreme poverty and fatalism. (Fatalism says that there is nothing I can do about my circumstances so there is no reason to try. It also says that God is irrelevant to my condition.) How could a city, a region, even a country have such abundance and be so impoverished physically and spiritually? What could explain such a contrast? The answer in a single word is “failure.”
- Failure of people to take God at His Word
- Failure of leaders to lead
- Failure to govern with the rule of law
- Failure to respect human life and love your neighbor
- Failure of government to convert natural resources into development for the country
- Failure of the education system to educate
- Failure of businesses to treat their customers with respect
- Failure to “subdue the earth”
- Failure of vision
Unfortunately, these failures started many generations ago and continue to the current day. Time doesn’t help. The passage of time just means that the rest of the world puts more distance between it and countries like DR Congo. The information revolution means people are more aware of what they are missing. Can you imagine what it would be like to be hungry and thirsty each day and see the way the rest of the world lives on television or on Facebook? Here’s the oxymoron: The world gets smaller, yet DR Congo falls further behind.
Some Congolese leaders look at being left behind and decide to take a shortcut. One of the Congolese Presidents promoted the vision, “Get all you can while you can.” He was promoting exploitative leadership, not servant leadership. Unfortunately, his leadership legacy continues today. On a small scale, I hear stories of exploitation in schools, businesses, neighborhoods, and even churches.
On a large scale, it explains the violence that has plagued this region of Africa (Uganda, Congo, Rwanda and Burundi) for more than two decades. Powerful people in this region want the gold, coltan and other riches in Congo. Powerful people use powerful means (guns) to get what they want. The weaker masses suffer: People with guns steal their food, burn their houses and savagely rape women, even young girls, upending families and communities. Children are kidnapped and conscripted as soldiers. They are given drugs to make them addicts and are trained to kill. Militia leaders prefer children as soldiers – because they always follow orders. The children don’t know better. Heartbreaking.
The Congo’s natural resources are abundant and near the surface – meaning little technology is required to obtain them. Here’s how it works. The militia leaders want money to buy guns to pursue their political goals and enrich their overseas bank accounts. They forcefully enslave people to gather the gold and coltan. The gold and coltan are transported out of the country for processing. As they pass through various territories, they are “taxed” by other militias and government soldiers and officials, enriching their leaders and funding the purchase of more guns. More guns ==> more power ==> more territory ==> more slaves ==> more gold and coltan ==> more riches – and the process repeats itself.
In eastern Congo, there are many organized factions that have been fighting for more than two decades. Periodically, the violence escalates as it did recently between the M23 militia and the Congolese army in Goma. This city of 1 million people has been a focal point of violence since before the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Think about what it would be like to live with the threat of violence for more than 20 years.
Frankly, I had underestimated the violence that came with the M23 invasion of Goma. I had been following the news reports but these reports stated that the violence and death was limited. This video shows a different story. If you listen closely, you will hear rockets or mortars being fired – that is probably why the people are running. I must warn you that the video is quite graphic. Please do not show it to children.
The video in this link (https://youtu.be/Ef_w7hDr5dI) will show you what the violence looks like.
Some of you may ask, “Why are you distributing the video?” That’s a good question. As I have spoken with people in Bukavu, I have come to realize that they have one overriding fear – the fear of being forgotten, left alone. When we skype, email and visit people there, we are telling them that they are not alone. We are communicating that we stand with them – as people and as Christians. That knowledge encourages them to persevere. It also gives them hope that God has not forgotten them. We are a living antidote to fatalism.
It’s hard to watch a video like this one without wanting to do something. That was certainly my reaction. If that is your reaction, here are some things that you could do.
- Pray – for servant leaders, for provision for the people, for peace in a troubled land.
- Email your members of Congress and ask them to promote the US using its leverage within the United Nations and with nations bordering the DRC to help stem the violence, poverty and disease that have killed more than 5 million people since 1998. Remember that people like us caused the end of slavery, apartheid and many other evils by acting together. Go to www.Senate.gov orhttps://www.house.gov/representatives/.
- Give to Africa Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries’ DR Congo Emergency Relief Fund. For more information, go to https://alarm-inc.org/news/news_entry/d.r._congo_emergency_relief_fund
- Go on an exploratory trip and see what role God might want you to play.
- Contribute to the cost of the trip and the Bible MP3 players. Go towww.indiegogo.com/CongoBibles to make an online tax deductible contribution. We take Bibles in the form of solar powered MP3 players because we believe that God uses His Word to transform hearts and minds. People will learn to leave fatalism and embrace a loving God by listening to His Word.
- Post some of this email and the video link to Facebook – please leave my name out of it; just describe me as a friend.
Here’s How it All Comes Together:
I want to explain what the video, violence, exploitative leadership, and fatalism have to do with our initiatives in Bukavu.
We go to Bukavu for many reasons. Fundamentally, we believe that God loves these people and uses us to love them and to answer their prayers. Specifically,
- We distribute the Word of God because we believe it is powerful and transformative. We believe that people that take God at His Word will be blessed. We believe that the Word of God is valuable for all of life. We believe that many Christians in Congo are impotent because they do not know the Word of God.
- We train people to start businesses that can employ other people because unemployment is a huge problem in Bukavu as well as most of Africa. Most Africans, even those living in cities, live a subsistence lifestyle. We want to change that reality. We believe that God uses businesses to answer His call to “subdue the earth.”
- We train people to pray because we believe that God listens and responds. We can’t explain why prayer is “necessary;” we only know Jesus commands us to pray and that it works. We believe prayer is valuable for physical things and spiritual things.
Simply stated, the Word of God shows an alternative to fatalism and exploitative leadership. Starting businesses provides a means of earning a living while providing essential goods and services to the community. Prayer unleashes the power of God to work His will in our lives and in communities.
If you have any questions or want to know more, please email or call me.