There’s so much to say and so little time to say it (or for you to read it).
With that said, I think you will enjoy the stories below. One of the reasons I enjoy traveling to Africa is that God expands my view of Him and helps me see His view of our culture (and me) more clearly. I write these letters so that you can share that experience.
Out of respect for your time, I have written the stories under seven sections so you can pick what interests you the most or read them all.
- A Picture of Life in Congo
- A Picture of the Work of God
- My Journey: A Sinking Feeling
- The January 2014 Trip
- Bible Sponsors Needed
- A Ministry Strategy Update
By the way, please keep praying for the people listening to the Bible on the solar powered MP3 players. As you can read below, God is clearly at work. As you pray, visualize a battle between angels and demons in the heavenly places as they fight over the lives of people in Bukavu. Pray that the power of Jesus Christ would rid the city of the forces promoting lies and deception that destroy people physically and spiritually.
A Picture of Life in Congo
I received an email from a missionary friend there. We gave him four laptops to distribute. Here’s how he described one recipient.
“One laptop went to a Congolese journalist, who is also a pastor, and his family, so they could help their daughter learn while out of school. She had a hard year, having been raped by some soccer players, one of whom she put in prison. You can imagine the process of trials and testimony for a minor! And now raising a new born baby! They are a wonderful Christian family of nine (including two children from brothers who died in the wars). Now many of the family members are learning / using the computer; even the mother is learning with it and now helps out at an Internet Cafe in exchange for classes.”
Wow. There is so much in the story: a young girl raped multiple times, a baby coming from the rape, only one of the rapists imprisoned, death of two brothers in wars and the adoption of their children, and learning how to use a computer.
Unfortunately, stories like this one are the norm in eastern Congo (except for the gift of the laptop).
A Picture of the Work of God
Recently, I received two stories about how God is using the Bibles in the form of solar powered MP3 players.
This story comes from Jessica Pedersen who was in Uganda for the summer. (I gave her some Bibles to take. I know it is not Congo, but I couldn’t help myself.) In dramatic fashion, it shows how the love and provision of God knows no boundaries for those who seek Him.
“Agnes was displaced after the war broke out in northern Uganda. She learned about ILA (an organization that tries to relocate the Acholi people back to their home land in Gulu). She was a witch doctor, but ILA’s resettlement program requires therapy and the Bible is incorporated into each lesson. After learning of Jesus, she trusted in Him and is a believer now. Agnes called a friend over and together they emptied her house of everything witch craft. Most of all, Agnes fell in love with Jesus and she longed to learn more about Him. She would pray and the Lord would give her a verse in her head but she cannot read and she doesn’t own a Bible so she would run to her neighbor’s house and say please read to me Acts 4:9 or whatever verse the Spirit gave her. The neighbor would read her the verse and she would weep because it had everything to do with her current situation. The Lord was communicating to her through His Word but she had no way to hear unless someone read to her. Agnes’ thirst for the Word of God grew and grew, and she would go around asking anyone to please read to her but they could only read to her for so long and only so often.
“When I was told this story I knew that God wanted me to deliver an audio Bible to this woman. I didn’t get to give her one while I was in Uganda but I prayed and decided to give all the bibles to the ILA organization to give away to those they thought would benefit most and this definitely included Agnes.”
That is a great story from Jessica and certainly increased my faith in God’s desire and ability to provide for His people in unusual ways. It also makes me want to send Bibles everywhere!
This next story, written by a Congolese friend, illustrates how the love and forgiveness of God knows no boundaries for those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
“During our outreach to Sange for a soccer camp, I decided to take three of the Bibles with me. At the end of the soccer camp, I went to the street taking pictures so I met with this young man and started talking to him. He told me that he was a Mai Mai rebel leader (one of many armed groups in eastern Congo) so then I went deeper to introduce him to Jesus. After an hour or so he accepted Christ and then he requested for a Bible. Fortunately, I had those Bibles with me. I gave one to him and explained to him how it works. I tell you this guy was so full of joy and really wanted me to come back to visit with him soon.”
So here’s a hearty “Thank You” for those who have prayed or paid for those solar powered Bibles. You can look forward to meeting these people in heaven, if not before!
My Journey: A Sinking Feeling
I just finished reading a fabulous book by David Maranz that summarizes the differences in how Africans and Westerners view money and friendship. Honestly, I had a sinking feeling:
I suspect those statements are hard to grasp while sitting in America. So here are just a few of the differences in views on money and friendship from Maranz.
|African View||Western View|
|Precision is to be avoided in accounting as it shows the lack of a generous spirit||Precision in accounting is a sign of transparency, accountability, and honesty|
|Old debts are forgotten and are not expected to be repaid neither by the debtor nor the lender||Old debts are not forgotten and are expected to be repaid no matter how long it takes|
|A loan is eligible to be repaid when the creditor’s need becomes greater than the debtor’s need||A loan is always eligible to be repaid and does not concern the circumstances of the creditor|
|The word “no” to a request for money, a loan, or a material object, is understood as an insult, indifference to a need, a lack of respect, or a sign of rejection of the petitioner||The word “no” to a request for money, a loan, or a material object, is understood to reflect the lender’s ability or willingness to help without reflection (insult, indifference, lack of respect or rejection) upon the petitioner|
|Many people will choose a sure and immediate benefit over a potentially larger long- term benefit||Many people will refuse a sure and immediate benefit in order to gain a potentially larger long-term benefit|
|Money “corrupted” or misused is not expected to be paid back; accountability is not enforced; restitution is not practiced||Money “corrupted” or misused is expected to be paid back; accountability is enforced; restitution is practiced|
So what about that sinking feeling? This book caused me to realize that our efforts to teach people how to start and grow businesses is not just about teaching business. We also have to help them see the habits, practices and sins in their lives that will cause their business to fail and convince them to change. That’s a big challenge. Fortunately, God loves them even more than I do and the Holy Spirit can do the convincing. Still, it seems like a monumental task. (Note that I am not saying that the Western way of doing business is correct. I am saying that some parts of the African way of doing business have natural consequences — failure.)
The January 2014 Trip
On January 8, Mike Scheffelin, Ivan Giraldo, Josh Cox and I will begin Trip 8. Mike and Ivan prove that traveling to Congo is a great event; they are returning for their third and second times, respectively.
On this trip, we will renew old friendships and begin new ones. Specifically, we will:
- Train ten YoungLife volunteer leaders. For YoungLife, the physical poverty of their volunteer leaders is a big issue. In most cases, the physical poverty stems from the lack of jobs – even for people with college degrees.
- Continue to build relationships with our three borrowers who are building businesses.
- Continue to train and mentor previous students as they think about starting a business.
- Distribute 150 solar powered MP3 players with the Bible in French, Swahili and English.
- Film scenes and interview people for some videos – a special thanks to Mike and Josh for bringing their expertise.
At one of our trip team meetings recently, we spoke about the issues that we have encountered on the last three trips. As we were talking about them, it struck us that these issues are merely the “physical” issues – ones that we can see. It made us wonder about the “spiritual” issues that we are encountering in Bukavu that we cannot see. Would you pray for the people there with whom we will meet – that God would give them (and us) discernment, motivation and power to identify and overcome the spiritual issues in their lives?
Here’s a list of some of the physical issues from the last three trips:
- One person diagnosed with prostate cancer shortly before departure and went anyway
- One person with pneumonia who could not go
- One person with a child relapsing into drugs who could not go
- One person with a child who had an appendectomy shortly before the trip
- One person whose mother in law broke her hip shortly before the trip
- One person whose mother in law was seriously ill shortly before the trip
- Multiple flight problems on each of these trips
- One person who lost his job and his car shortly before the trip and could not go
Doesn’t that list make you want to join us for a future trip?
We will send out a more comprehensive list of prayer requests shortly before we leave.
Bible Sponsors Needed
Each trip, we take solar powered MP3 players with the Bible in French, Swahili and English. We ask people to commit to pray for the recipients of the Bibles. We believe that the Word of God in conjunction with prayers for the listeners is a powerful means of introducing people to Jesus Christ and transforming their hearts, minds and lives.
If you are willing to pray, please reply to this email.
If you would like to give, you can send a check to Grace Covenant Church (mark “Congo” on the memo line) or go to our Indiegogo page. In both cases, the gifts are tax deductible.
A Ministry Strategy Update
I sense God continuing to provide greater focus and building greater faith in me.
The greater faith is important because it causes me to speak with greater clarity and boldness as I encourage the Congolese people to turn to Jesus Christ for their hope and provision. (You may remember from previous emails that I discovered that much of my faith in God was related to my living in a place like the good old USA rather than in God’s nature.)
In terms of greater focus, one cool thing is that the basic principles I sensed from Him from the beginning haven’t changed. In fact, I have grown even more sure of them. The principles are:
- Relationships and resources (primarily non-monetary) – never one without the other.
- The primacy of the Word of God – to introduce people to Jesus, to lead people in the right ways to live, to provide hope and encourage faith, to be an antidote to fatalism
- Encourage dependence on God and the potential for His personal and powerful provision in our lives – through faith and prayer.
- The need that the Congolese and Americans have to learn from each other
Practically speaking, the greater faith and focus translates into the following ideas and actions.
- The Christian community in Bukavu needs to repent. They have settled into some bad habits and practices that deny the power of God and do not provide the glory that is due Him by the church. (I could say the same about us in America; ours are just different.)
- Long term sustainable business is impossible with the current habits, practices and sins of many people in Bukavu. Therefore, I must exhort and encourage the people of Bukavu to repent, turn to God and determine a Congolese way to do business that will bring glory to God and help lift people out of the current physical circumstances.
- Focus on encouraging, equipping and non-monetary resourcing of the few bright lights (counter cultural, Christ following people) God has brought to me – people who are like Daniel and his friends in Babylon.
- Continued promotion of listening to the Bible and people spending time in God’s Word – the primary way for people to know God and His purpose for their lives.
- Use of an internet platform and the assembly of comprehensive curriculum related to the reality and implications of God, creation, and the fall of man; the examination of community habits and practices; leadership and business basics. The goal would be for the internet based curriculum to build on the training and encouragement that is started and maintained through the trips.
- Continued development of relationships between the Congolese and Americans.
If you made it to the end, congratulations! Let me know what you think.
P.S. Remember to let me know if you would like to pray for someone receiving a solar powered MP3 player with the Bible in French and Swahili. You can just reply to this email and say, “I will pray.”