We're happy to announce that we have safely returned from South Africa!
Our reason for travel was to avoid the violence that was expected to follow the first free elections to be held in Congo for 40 years. The capital city where we live was on high alert. We have been advised almost daily by the American Embassy to hunker down and be prepared for the worst. Many other Embassies and foreign companies sent their employees out of the country until January. The school where our children attend closed for two weeks and encouraged all families to find shelter outside of the country. Finally, the local leaders of the Congolese church that we are serving with encouraged us to leave the country for a "petit sejour" and to pray that the country would not enter into another civil war.
As it turned out, supporters of the losing candidate did indeed cause problems. They rioted, burned most of the Supreme Court building and threatened other violence. However, this time they were contained by international forces and the rioting did not gain momentum as in the past. We praise God that for the most part the violence was localized and controlled.
While in South Africa we stayed at a Christian camp and were able to help with several building projects there at the camp. We repaired plumbing, doors and electrical fixtures. We cleared part of a forest and helped repair a bridge. We also cleared out a warehouse and delivered the contents to the proper location. We even installed nets to protect part of the camp from baboons! It was great to be able to contribute in someone else's ministry and just be an encouragement. All of us were blessed to meet and grow to love our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ from South Africa.
Of course to balance out our service projects we also did a fair amount of hiking, swimming, laying by the beach and shopping. We also met some amazing people and learned a lot about the Church in South Africa and their struggles with Apartheid. It was really a great blessing for our family. We all felt that this was a trip ordained by God and we have returned rested for what lies ahead. We have been quite pleased to find the city peaceful on our return.
After a day back in Kinshasa Jill said, "I was very leery about coming back to Kinshasa with my kids because of the political situation, but I'm shocked by the difference in people's attitudes. I had to go out and buy groceries yesterday afternoon and everyone was so relaxed and friendly. I talked to some shop keepers and asked how things are going. They all assured me that things will be better now. I'm afraid of speaking too soon, but for the first time in months, I actually feel hopeful. It's a pretty good feeling."
There were some tense days where Kinshasa could have easily slipped into civil war, but according to one of our Congolese friends, the population realized they didn't want to relive the experiences they'd had after the pillaging in the 1990's. It looks now like people are willing to accept the elections and move on with their lives. One UN official here said that he's now seen the hand of God work in keeping peace in the city.
The presidential inauguration went very well and the country has passed through a critical and historical period. Our prayers are that the new President will be able to work towards a real democracy in Congo...a Government for and by the people.
Please pray with us for the new President, his government and the future of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mike and Jill Lowery