Thursday, August 25, 2011

Monday to Wednesday ministry opportunities

-Monday (Pointe Noire): We strolled the beach after breakfast before joining Chantal¸ executive secretary of women’s ministry, as she would be joining us for the remaining destinations.  At the marketplace, we contracted our vehicle and loaded the caravan in preparation for the four hour drive to Dolisie on the other side of the mountains.  The ride was an adventure, to say the least (how many grown adults and oversized luggage do you think you might be able to fit into a Land Cruiser?  And the guy hanging on the spare tire out back wasn’t counted!).  The road was a mixture of pavement, pavement-in-the-making, checkpoints, and detours through dirt roads in the bush.  A copious amount of laughter could be heard from the back row of seats (no comment on who the occupants were)

-Late Monday/Tuesday (Dolisie—“doh-lee-zee”): As with everywhere else in Congo, we were warmly received on arrival and offered plenty of homestyle cooking.  We were able to meet Vicar Fred, a CLET graduate, who is using his engaging and insightful talents to rebuild the small congregation in Dolisie.  We attended the added service on Tuesday morning for a few hours.  With the boisterous praises sung, it’s hard to believe you are worshipping in a ruined, roofless concrete shell in a location that regularly changes due to landlord whims (how easy it is to take our own facility for granted!).  Still, I think Vicar Fred’s closing blessing to us best describes the touching experience: (referencing Acts 3) “Like Peter and John with the crippled man, we don’t have anything material to give to you.  But we send you with the blessing of the Holy Spirit.” 
We were also able to visit Vicar Fred’s pregnant wife, Carmen, in the “hospital” (only technically a hospital!), where she was being treated for malaria.  We prayed for her and the others there—please keep the two of them in your prayers!
Later that afternoon, we also stopped by another regional parish in Dibemeko (“dee-bay-may-ko”) to briefly worship (yes, an hour or so is considered brief these days!) and cause some fifty children to roar with laughter as we used animal puppets to introduce Psalm 139.  Can I also note what a marvel it is to hear the Lord worshipped in three languages, sometimes simultaneously?  English, French, and Kituba (a regional dialect of the Lingala language)… we’ve been trying to pick up a few words of the latter.

-Very Late Tuesday/ Wednesday (N’kayi—“nk-eye-yee”):  Again, how much a modern infrastructure makes our lives simple to the point of few considerations (ubiquitous internet, included)!  With a later start from Dibemeko than we should have (a busy schedule compounded by poor roads), we embarked in a new caravan vehicle on what should have been a “good” road of two hours driving.  We quickly found out that the vehicle had no shock absorbers and the “highway” was hard, lumpy dirt through Congolese brush and dusty, red soil the whole way.  So, two hours turned into four of the most bone-rattling hours I think any of us had experienced, all crammed in with ankles overlapping ankles!  Add in the exhaust pipe that leaked soot into the back set of rumble seats (where your dear mission team members Scott, Lori, and Stephanie all learned, firsthand, about two of the five points of “fellowship”: suffering together and sharing burdens!) and you had one very crazy ride.  Scott was so blackened by soot that Chantal declared him “an honorary African.”
After the trying experience of the drive the night before, we began to wonder if we should truncate the plans to visit yet another outbound town, knowing we still had to reverse the drive back in order to make a Friday flight out of Dolisie and back to Brazzaville (to skip even worse roads….. can that be possible?).  But, the Lord blessed us with a refreshing night’s sleep and endurance to move forward.  We attended a rural service at Martin Luther parish in N’Kayi in the morning.  Our visit was to be subdued as the catechist’s son has died and the town was in mourning.  Still, Vicar Jean-Bosco let us know how appreciated our visit was: “God has blessed this church with a visit from the West.”  As we later found out, this was one of the first areas Lutherans visited in the Congo but they had not had a visit since 1991!  The church had many prayer requests, with deaconess Antionette at the top (she was the aunt of the catechist who’s son died and the animist relatives and neighboring village accused her of responsibility through sorcery and expelled her, but Martin Luther parish has been keeping her safe.  Please pray for this woman, her family and those villagers)

-Wednesday afternoon (Mouyandzi—“moo-yahnd-zee”): The sooty backseat (or some may call ‘deathtrap) was replaced by a significantly better vehicle (even if some of the doors didn’t open!) and a great driver named Freiz (“Frez”).  We made a much easier and faster trip to Mouyandzi to spend the night before visiting the rural town of Kingomo on Thursday.  What few tiny “hotels” were there were filled with a visiting international optometrist group (?!?! Out here?).  Coming back to our original hotel, we accepted the three rooms they had and decided to double up.  One of the workers at the hotel soon made it apparent why the Lord had led us onwards and to here, despite our earlier troubles on the way to N’kayi: Mouyandzi has been without a Lutheran parish since the last evangelism had to leave town in order to find a paying job elsewhere.  Since then, the church trickled away and a new church has not been established as it would require founding members.  But, she had been praying that a Lutheran church might come back.  So she and her brothers, after meeting President Mavoungou,  shared that they would be willing to be founding members of a new church in Mouyandzi. President Mavoungou knows of a pastor who would be willing to transfer to serve in a neighboring district as he found it hard to be an evangelist in the small town that he grew up in.  Praise God for the stop at this hotel that has led to a new church being planted here!  And to think we might not have made it this last little bit by our own choosing!!!  God provides, indeed!

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