I have been traveling to Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for 11 years. It has been a life changing and thought-provoking experience. I thank God for His blessing of many friendships in a faraway place.
Visiting the Congo is also an intense struggle.
During that time, we have trained numerous people to do business only to discover that many people want to own a business, but not many people want to work in a business. I have seen women farming with hoes, yet Wikipedia tells me that the western world used plows in the 1790s. I have seen kids that are so hungry that they eat food that had been spilled on a dirty floor – not just calmly eating the food – more than a dozen kids swarming and fighting over the limited food that had been spilled. I have visited women who have been brutally raped; rape is used as a weapon of war to separate women from their families and communities.
And I wonder:
- How does a place get to this condition?
- Why are they using hoes to farm?
- Why do opportunities seem so limited?
- Where is the love and power of Jesus Christ that I read about in the Bible?
These experiences and wonderings over the years have led me to three resolutions:
- I must do something.
- I want to create change – for the long term, not the short term.
- I want to do and say what Jesus would do and say.
Those three statements summarize what drives our efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
To be clear, I write these emails not to induce guilt in you, but to enable you to enjoy and participate in the journey with us. God calls us to build His kingdom in a variety of ways, not the same way. Please see the prayer requests at the end of this email.
In this email, I want to explain how Poverty of Thought drives much of what we do. Poverty of Thought is not unique to the Congo. It is everywhere … and it holds us back from being the people that God created us to be. It is just very easy to see the effects in eastern Congo.
We left on Trip 12 on April 2 and will arrive in Bukavu, DR Congo on April 4. We will leave on April 14. More on the logistics below.
Poor In Truth
Poor in Truth is not exactly a term that we use every day, but it is most fitting for the Congo. So, what does that term mean and what can we do about it?
I use that term to describe a relative absence of truth in eastern Congo. I see the absence of truth as one of the root causes of those conditions described above as well as the enormous physical poverty in a land that is rich in natural resources. Strange concept, I know.
Here are some examples of lies that have taken root and born much fruit in eastern Congo. See if you can connect these lies to the conditions described above as well as physical poverty.
- There is nothing I can do about my circumstances.
- I need to acquire power in order to survive and thrive.
- If I am a soldier with a gun, I need to use it to survive and thrive.
- If I just had money, I would be successful.
- If someone has more than I have, they have an obligation to give me some of what they have.
- The only way to make money is to sell others’ products or work for someone else… not create our own ideas and create a business.
- Profits are evil and resources are finite. You are robbing people if you make a profit, because there’s only so much to go around.
- I am waiting for God to bless me; then I will do something.
- If we just pray, God will provide for us and we won’t have to work.
- Global warming and/or some other outside circumstance is at the root of poverty… so it’s out of our control and it’s not our responsibility to figure out ways to thrive.
- Work should be simple and straightforward, not complex and difficult.
- My survival depends on the power of the witch doctor to deal with my enemies.
- If someone is getting ahead of me (and therefore “taking” from me), I better poison (and kill) them so that I will survive.
In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” There are a lot of thieves in the Congo, even among Christians; there are not many who see Jesus as the source of abundant life.
In John 8:31-32, Jesus says to Jews, including some of whom had believed in Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”
I did not understand the power of truth until I saw the effects of the absence of truth in eastern Congo. This verse drives our desire to simplify, communicate and apply truth to the situation there. It also drives our desire to distribute Bibles in the form of solar powered MP3 players with the Bible in French, Swahili, Lingala and Kinyarwandan. We distribute these Bibles through pastors who form listening groups led by members of their churches. The Bibles and the groups become a means for evangelism, discipleship and cultural change. In this context, cultural change means living in accordance with the truth, not lies.
Just as Jesus is a promoter of truth, there is a promoter for lies. In John 8:44-45, Jesus, speaking to the non-believing Jews says, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.”
Let’s pray that people in eastern Congo would defy Satan, the father of death and lies, and believe the source of life and truth, Jesus.
In addition to distributing Bibles, we promote four truths from Genesis. These truths fight some of the significant lies prevalent in eastern Congo. These truths are empowering for both physical life and spiritual life. These truths are poverty fighting truths. As you read them, think about how they counteract some of the lies above.
- We are created in God’s image; therefore, we are designed to create. (Think innovation.)
- We are to subdue the earth. My paraphrase is using the earth’s resources to help us live well. (Think problem solving.)
- We are designed to work. Adam and Eve worked prior to their sin. (Think purpose.)
- Work is difficult because of the curse resulting from Adam and Eve’s sin. (Think hardship in work.)
We have seen good results from people applying these truths in their lives. Please pray that there would be many more who would begin practicing these truths.
We have four primary “events” and numerous other meetings.
Mike Scheffelin and Josh Cox will be leading six days of video and storytelling workshops. The goal is to teach people how to tell Christians stories that will bring hope to the hopeless. In America, we often find hope in many things other than Christ – our jobs, schools, communities, friends, money, possessions, and vacations. For us, the things of this world often crowd out Jesus Christ. In the Congo, there are few reasons to have hope based on the things of this world. Moreover, Jesus Christ seems impersonal and less relevant to daily life than Satan and his witchdoctors. So there is little hope. Josh and Mike want to change that reality. Pray that Josh and Mike would identify the people who will really do the work.
We started a social media effort to distribute powerful and transformational ideas about business and faith to the people of Bukavu, a city of about 1 million people in the Congo. Mike Marshall and I will host two events where we will gather these strangers and continue our efforts to build Christian community. We will share the gospel. We will encourage people to see Jesus as a personal and powerful provider for His people. We will teach four principles related to business and work from Genesis 1-3. We will talk about earning money on www.Upwork.com – getting them into the “gig” economy. Congo is largely land-locked but it is easy to export knowledge. We will introduce them to the concept of finding information and business ideas on the internet. Pray that people will see the value of the ideas we bring. Most people will come thinking that we will give them money now or sometime in the future.
Sarah Cox, Diane Scheffelin, Pat Herring, Mike, and I will spend two days brainstorming with and training 15 pastors from some rural villages. We have met with these men on two previous trips. These pastors support their families, generally 6+ people, on less than $3 per day. That standard of living meets the definition of extreme poverty and is quite difficult for me to comprehend. Our theme will be “power.” We will give them lithium-ion power bricks as a reminder of the power that we have in Jesus and the Word and to help improve their productivity. The pastors will distribute about 300 Bible players in their churches and villages. We pray that God would use these pastors and His word to bring peace, comfort, cultural change, and encouragement for greater income generation.
We will host the annual leadership retreat for the Congo Leadership Institute. We work with a pastor who has a great passion for developing leaders. He recruits, screens and trains a group of 12 people for the 12-month program. We provide Kindle Fires so that they can read books together. Even though most participants are university educated, many of them discover a love for reading and acquiring knowledge through this program. Their universities have libraries without books and classes without textbooks. Computer classes are taught without computers. Most universities have very little electricity. Now, you can see the need for leaders. Leaders solve problems and get stuff done by involving other people – exactly what the Congo needs. At the retreat, we will teach from Nehemiah, do some trust building games, and discuss Biblical roles for men and women. Pray that God would use our time to inspire courageous servant leaders like Nehemiah.
There are seven of us on this trip; we will meet individually with dozens of people. Please pray that we would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leader in each encounter.
Pray for strength for the four translators that we will use. They have a difficult job and they will be busy all day.
Be sure to email me if you have any questions.
For the team,
P.S. If you would like to “adopt” a Bible you can give at www.crowdrise.com/love-your-neighbor-send-a-bible-to-congo or just visualize a person leading a listening group and begin praying for that person and the group. You might even give him or her a name. It is a spiritual war with wide-ranging physical impact. We pray so that the Father would be glorified as Jesus says in John 14:13 “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
Additional Prayer Requests:
Prayers for Leadership Development:
- Direct Paul in growing the Congo Leadership Institute. Pray that the new leaders would learn to walk closely with Jesus and be courageous like Nehemiah.
- Challenge Solomon in a new way to see how he can be used to help the people of the Congo.
Prayers for Bible Distribution:
- Show Solomon and John how to best distribute Bibles and how to encourage the use of them to help the people of eastern Congo grow in their knowledge of God and how to live well.
- That the recipients would share the Word with many others. That they would listen to God’s Word together, grow together and lead together.
Prayers for Business Formation:
- Give us wisdom in helping the members of the Africa Mupya Facebook Group start and grow businesses.
- Lead us in developing a “business in a box” so the students can learn business experientially.
Prayers for Story Telling and Video Production:
- Help Mike and Josh mentor Prince in his desire to teach video production.
- Bring men and women who have a vision on using video to help spread the gospel, make a living and tell stories to change their world.
Prayers for the Trip:
- The Holy Spirit will give us great discernment as to the spiritual battles around us.
- Protect us from any unnecessary health and safety issues before we leave and during our trip.
- Give each member of our team a new or re-energized vision on how we can help accomplish His will for the people of the Congo.
- Give us the words and materials to present challenging new ideas to the young leaders and business owners of the Congo.
- Prepare the hearts of those He will bring to us while we are there and show us whom we should mentor.
- Pray that the wives would connect with Congolese women despite the cultural and language barriers.
- Pray for unity on the team.