A True Congolese Welcome
I think that no matter how long I stay here, I will never get used to the kind of unashamed enthusiasm that Congolese people show when they greet and welcome you. Michael and I were making the rounds a couple of days ago over at the headquarters of the Congolese Baptist Community (CBCO), which is the organization we work with in Congo. We were there just to greet people and let them know we're here. It was the women in the Women's Office who brought tears to my eyes.
The women had all just gotten back from a ten day trip to the interior and were exhausted (one day on Congo roads is bad enough). But as soon as they saw us coming, they all jumped up and came out to meet us. There were so many hugs, head bumps, cheek kisses, and 'Praise the Lords!' that I can't describe it. When everyone calmed down, including myself, the women's president, Mama Koba, said, “We have heard all that you went through this year and we see that our prayers are answered because you have returned.” Amazing that with all these ladies have to deal with, they have the energy to pray for my family as well. God bless them!
Despite her fatigue, Mama Koba wanted to share with us about their trip and give us a 'report' on all the work that's been done this year. Considering the economic impossibilities these women face, it is nothing short of a miracle what they've accomplished in the last year: trainings, retreats, seminars, trips to the interior, etc.
The one bit of sad news that she had was about Mitendi. It turns out that last year, while the center was on break, a large part of our land was parceled off and sold, illegally. This has happened several times before, but this time, it was an ex-officer from our own women's department who was doing the selling. This same woman, a few years back, was fired for embezzling several thousand dollars from the CBCO Women's office. Here she is again, with no remorse, wreaking havoc in the women's department. Unfortunately, she has some powerful friends and the women have very little legal recourse against her personally. But God will have His vengeance!
As I mentioned, this isn't the first time the women been through this, so they had all their land documents in order and they knew exactly what to do. But getting their land back requires hiring a lawyer and going to court. All of that takes a lot of time and money, which they don't have. These women, however, refused to throw up their hands in defeat. They rallied together the women of Kinshasa, AGAIN, to prayer. Because of the prayer and sacrificial giving by hundreds of women, they won the case and got their land back.
The sad result is, they had no money left to finish the end of the school year and Mitendi had to close. Mama Koba assured me that this is not a permanent closure. They just need time to raise some money and get themselves organized. Throughout the summer months they have rented out Mitendi as a retreat center, which has put some money back into the Mitendi account. They also have money coming in from the profits of the Women's Restaurant which supports the work at Mitendi, and it's been busier than ever. The greatest challenge will be gathering the volunteer staff together, some of whom have found jobs with real salaries since the closure.
There are a lot of obstacles, but nothing God hasn't faced before. Like Mama Koba, I believe this is God's work and He alone is going to make things happen. God's word tell us, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 Amen!
We have a lot of praying to do and work ahead of us to get Mitendi reopened. Please join us. Also, if any of you wish to lend the Mitendi Center a hand financially, you can send a check to International Ministries and write on the memo line “Lowery Specifics – Mitendi”. I will make sure it goes to the right place.
Yours in Christ,