Here’s an email from Pat, my wonderful wife. Her first trip to the Congo was about five years ago. She has been particularly encouraged by the change she has seen in our translator.
One thing that she told me is that people do not understand what I am saying when I explain realty in Congo. While I am certainly not a great communicator, I am not sure words can communicate the reality here. Words can illustrate reality by providing examples, but at best these examples are like the paint on an impressionist painting or parts of a picture that is terribly out of focus.
See if you can see the reality painted by her words.
She typed this on an iPad between various events so please ignore typos, formatting and punctuation issues.
For the team,
Pictured: Village pastor training
Life in Congo is vastly different from the US. Satan has a foothold here that defies comprehension. Corruption on Every. Single. Level.
Poverty, desperation, lack of trust, lack of leaders, devaluing of women, a government seeking only to gain power and money, lack of electricity and water, power of witchcraft, lack of problem solving skills, lack of work ethic among men, men who don’t work and whose wives do all the work but can’t own anything, exploitation, lies, belief that the answer to all problems is money – primarily from westerners, lack of education, corrupt police force; rape is commonplace and is more horrific than I will allow myself to comprehend (women being held in rebel camps for months at a time and being gang raped daily, 13 and 14 year old girls sold into prostitution by their families.)
Prosperity gospel is preached and embraced wholeheartedly. There is staggering corruption even in the church. We learned from some pastors today that God created man. Woman came from the man to serve him.
So much sadness. So much evil. It is easy to get frustrated and believe it is hopeless. Fortunately, God is working here! We are seeing amazing things that He is weaving together. Thankfully, too, God created Greg to enjoy working on big, hairy problems. This is a place full of big, hairy problems.
The exciting part of being here is seeing pockets of deep fruit. There are no quick changes, but Greg and teams have been coming for 11 years, and over time, significant changes have occurred in the lives of some of their friends here.
Sarah mentioned Solomon in her email. God ordained a “chance” meeting between Greg and then 18 year old Solomon 9 years ago, and they have been a blessing to each other ever since. Solomon is rare here in that he is a deep thinker, counter cultural, a reader, hard worker, uses the internet for research, and has a very strong faith in God’s provision. For years, Greg and Solomon have talked by Skype nearly weekly. Since the last visit, he started a charcoal business that uses agricultural waste and paper to make briquettes. His business has become so well known that through a series of events, he was invited to the Paris Peace Forum to present his plan to world leaders! It has not been easy for Solomon to start this business. He was even accused of being a witch when others saw him beginning to be successful. (A witch is someone who has benefited from witch doctors. According to many in the culture, witch doctors are the only way to achieve success.) When Greg first met Solomon, he had never eaten in a restaurant, and now he is being asked to teach his charcoal manufacturing method in countries around the world. God has His hand on this young man and he will be a world changer in the Congo.
We spent two days with pastors from remote villages. This is the team’s 3rd year with this group. Sadly, for the most part, these pastors’ hope seems to be only in money from westerners. However, over the years Greg and the team have given them hundreds of solar powered mp3 Bibles for their villages. The hope is that people will listen to the truth of the Bible, reject cultural lies, and lives will be changed; and over time, culture will change. No easy task! They are in homes, churches, police offices, military, taxis, hospitals, prisons, a coffee shop where men gather to start their day, an immigration office, with a military chaplain, etc. We heard encouraging stories about lives being changed in these remote villages from hearing the word of God.
Philip is a translator for the business conferences the team has led over several years. Each year he met with Greg and the team and presented his business ideas in hopes of receiving money. Greg and the team always offered help, but no money. Philip finally understood that the money he was earning through his translation service could be saved and used to start his business. He started a translation/language school/culture center! He researches, works hard, experiments and bases his business on the 4 Biblical business principles he learned in the business conferences.
Mike Marshall, a team member here for the first time, is an expert in social media and marketing. He is helping Philip set up a website and teaching him to think strategically about how to market and grow his business. Digital marketing, and really marketing of any kind, is unknown here, so it’s exciting that Mike is helping Philip and other business people learn to think about branding and marketing their businesses!
Solomon and Philip are just two of the young men whose lives have changed. We heard stories of many who remember and have embraced the principles that they have been taught in past years. They have become great examples to their communities. The four principles (1. We are created in God’s image, therefore created to create 2. Subdue the earth (create things from the earth’s resources to help us live well) 3. We are designed to work 4. Because of the fall, work is difficult) are powerful, but they are completely different from what this culture teaches. It can take years for people to fully embrace these truths and a great deal of courage to implement them. So, the teams will keep coming back to Congo!
Will you join us for trip 13?