Congo News

How do we determine if our work is hitting the target or bearing fruit?

That is a tough question. In a business, you look for profits as evidence. For example, Apple has high profits in part because they have loyal customers. Apple is hitting the target (and bearing fruit 😊).

In sharing valuable truth, we look to see if we hear our words coming out of the mouths of the people we trained many years after we trained them. We also look to see if their actions are consistent with the words.

Hearing words and seeing consistent actions give us confidence that God is working through us to bring about the change that He and we seek – making life in Bukavu look a little more like heaven.

It’s been two years since our last trip. Honestly, I have been quite surprised to hear our words, really God’s words, come out of so many people’s mouths. After 11 trips over 10 years, I think we may be on to something!

Here are some examples.

On Saturday, we did our experiment with an event for a Facebook group that we created, Africa Mupya (Swahili for a new way). The group has 203 members and will continue to grow. We advertised on Facebook to attract most of the members. We had 21 RSVP and 13 attend – not as many as I had hoped. We always pray that God would bring the people that He wants us to serve and train. I think there was at least one person meeting this criterion. This guy speaks English and is tech savvy which means we will be able to follow up on this relationship from the States, if appropriate.

There were two highlights of the event for me.

A bishop from a church denomination attended. We had spent very little time with him and he had not attended one of our formal trainings. I remember reviewing our “standard” pitch of four principles from Genesis 1-3 while standing on a sidewalk.

1. We are created in God’s image; therefore, we are created to create.
2. We are commanded to subdue the earth – to use the earth’s resources to help us live well.
3. We are designed by God to work.
4. Work is difficult because of sin.

I also told him that business is just an organized way to subdue the earth so that the business owner could be paid for his or her work. I have found that most people in Congo, especially bishops and pastors, have a very poor view of business. In essence, they believe business is bad and profits are evil. The truth that business can be good frees them to think about new possibilities for them and their congregations.

This bishop stated that he had started his own business and had helped one female member of his congregation develop a microfinance group. He expressed his gratitude.

Joshua, the owner of an internet café and a computer and internet consultant, and we have been friends for many years. We asked him to speak to the group so that people could see that it was possible to be successful in business here. Joshua spoke about how we had helped him see the value of business planning. I chuckled at his story. He said that I had tortured him with questions about his business plan for more than a year through email. He just wanted to get moving. It is true – my questions went on and on. But the planning helped him see the need to keep better records, to understand his revenue and expenses. That information allowed him to see what was profitable and what was not. He made decisions based on data which allowed him to prosper. He told many other stories, but the summary was that he gave us and our approach a rousing endorsement. Our approach is unique in Bukavu. He also made clear that he was using our approach as he mentored his employees – passing his experience and knowledge to the next generation.

Finally, on Sunday, I spoke with Frank, a Congolese YoungLife leader. We trained a group of 13 leaders over a couple of years. We spent a tremendous amount of time with them – both when here and over Skype. I have been discouraged about the results – very little in the way of successful businesses. In this time with Frank, I saw the evidence and importance of a significant change in mentality. I saw people being set free by truth.

While training this group of leaders several years ago, we discovered the deep dislike and suspicion of business among people here. We worked diligently and patiently to guide them through the four principles from Genesis 1-3.

As I was speaking with Frank on Sunday, I asked him about the biggest challenges he had in his work with YoungLife. He said that kids in his YoungLife clubs frequently pull him into serious family issues. He said that he does not have the resources to help, but he explains how they can create a very small business to help earn more income. While he wished he could do more, he is pleased to have this information to share.

We will have a challenging two days Monday and Tuesday with 14 pastors from villages between Bukavu and Uvira. We want to understand their reality and determine whether we can add more structure to listening to the Bibles. Please pray for us.

For the team,

Greg