CongoMission2012, the onsite visit, will come to a close Monday, August 1, 2012. It has no common identity with any previous CongoMission. Visits to Vanga/the German Brothers, retreat and Kikongo/hospital, church were cancelled due to lingering health issues and others beyond our control. Travel to Goma and HealAfrica was strictly forbidden by the US Consul due to rebel advances towards that city and the escalation of hostilities. This mission, in many ways, is characterized by a lack of the “usual” activity. It is our sixth mission to the people of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
It was on the sixth day that Holy God gave His loving attention to the creation of mankind. That which was done in the first five days was preparation for what He intended to do on the sixth day. It was on that day that He turned from all else and gave His attention to you and me.
CongoMission2012 is our sixth mission. In it, those things we have done in previous missions we have not done. Our attention and energy and heart have been given, not to clean water or solar panels or church windows and painting. The call of the sixth mission has been to the people we are brought here to serve…..in His Name.
Wendy Bernhard is the longest serving American Baptist missionary in DRCongo. She has given thirty years of her life to the Congolese people and church in Kimpese, Bas Congo, DRC. She has taught future pastors and their wives in the Pastoral Institute of Kimpese. She has tirelessly campaigned against the spread of HIV/AIDS among the Congolese people she is led to serve. From village to village, through rain and mud and heat and personal danger, she has carried the Love Waits ministry and the Jesus video to countless thousands of young people. She has let them know they have a choice, that God has another way other than the tribal, cultural way. She lives in a house that she shares with most of the “creepy, crawly critters” of the area. She once said to me, “Raymond, I have learned to live most of it. But, I have never adjusted to living with African roaches often in beds, in clothes and everywhere.” She is a single woman for whom the Congolese people have become family. Thirty years of saying with her life, “You are loved, in Jesus Name.”
The second night after arrival I had dinner with Wendy and her sister and niece from Elko, Nevada, who were visiting with her. Behind her smile and table conversation were all the emotions common to shutting down a life’s work and facing the unknown. At her invitation, I travelled to Kimpese to lead a seminar on “Pastoral Care in Human Crisis” for the students of the Pastoral Institute, their professors and area clergy. Wendy stood beside me as translator. Words no sooner left my mouth than they were heard leaving hers. There she stood. She was doing what she has done for thirty years in forgotten villages and churches and classrooms. She was giving the love God to others through the Word of God. I had nothing to do with me. It was Wendy!.......and God working through her. In the sixth year God has said, “Let us continue our creation of Raymond, through our servant Wendy.” And, it was good!
Mr. Esaie (ess-ah-ee) is our solar technician. He went with Katherine Niles and I to Kikongo for brief time with CongoMission2011. He studied the hospital lighting and made his recommendations. He does not speak English and seldom looks at me when speaking. I sent him with Mayele (may-ell-ee), my driver, to price materials. He came to the house before they left. He spoke to Katherine and did not look at me. I thought to myself, “Is this how black people in the United States have felt for hundreds of years as racist, ignorant white people have ignored their very person and treated them as non-persons?” I have never before known that feeling.
The next day I called for him to come to the house, bring receipts, account for his expenditures and hear his recommendations. We sat around the table with him sitting at the end and Katherine and I on either side of him. He went over each receipt, explained the major increase in the cost of all items and…..spoke to and looked at only Katherine. I spoke to him several times. He never looked at me. And….then…. I heard Him! “Son of man, speak only the words I give you. Touch him.” While he was still speaking to Katherine, I reached out and took each of his hands in my hands. I turned them over so the palms were turned upward and looked straight into his eyes. He looked at me! “Your hands are gifted hands. They are not your hands. God has claimed your hands. They are holy. To people who live in darkness, you bring light. Through you, God has shined a light in my heart on the hurt and injustice caused by attitudes of darkness. Thank you.” I was trembling and in tears before both of them.
He did not withdraw his hands from mine. He never looked away, but straight back into my eyes. In that moment, the most amazing, sweetest spirit of His peace fell over the house, over us all! “I am one of you,” he said. “My father is a pastor and my mother is a strong worker in the church. Jesus lives in my heart.” Then, with tears in his eyes, still holding hands, he shared with us his story. We were on holy ground! He has been called to Lumbumbashi for several weeks of work. I explained our need. “When you need me, I will come and do the work for Him.” In the sixth year God has said, “Let us continue our creation of Raymond through our servant Esaie.” And, it was good! (What do you have in your hands?)
The messages we have been given in the previous five years have been on various faith issues and themes. I brought the same with me this year. This Sunday is the last of six messages. Unless something happens, He will speak the same message for the sixth time! He has given me one message. He has delivered it through five(six) different texts. It has been a call to come back to God (be reconciled to Him) through the surrender of your life to Jesus Christ. The leading has been strong and all consuming. The third week the Holy Spirit was so strong that no one moved and many sat forward in their seats. “That” moment was before us. And, then, as if broadsided by an oncoming vehicle, I heard, “You know no Congolese can be a member of the International Protestant Church of Kinshasa. You are an invited guest here and you should honor their tradition.”……….I closed the service with prayer. The choir sang. I pronounced the Benediction. Before I reached the back of the church, I knew. In the presence of a true movement of the Holy Spirit in hearts of the people, I had quenched The Spirit by honoring the traditions of man!! I was instantly spiritually and emotionally blown away. I shook the hands of the people as they left and said to each one, “God bless you.” While my head was pounding with His words, “That is what I intended to do. Their hearts were open to Me. Why did you turn from Me?” I just wanted to run and hide. I wanted to cover myself with fig leaves. Is this anything like what Peter felt when he realized he had “denied Jesus?” I could not carry it. It was a crushing load. I left the lunch table and went into the bathroom…and there, I prayed. Through tears and trembling, He heard me “out of His holy hill.” Forgiveness came and that sweet, sweet spirit of His peace. Last Sunday we were again brought to that point. It was with a grateful, happy, joyful heart I followed Him through to the end. Jesus showed up in the hurting hearts of the people! I called on the members of the Commission of Twelve. Temi and I became a team and prayed first with one and then another and another. I was very late getting to Xu Li’s for lunch. Temi came some time later, He had prayed with people in the church yard! In the sixth year God said, “Let us continue our creation of Raymond through the suffering disobedience always brings.” And, it was good! (As long as it may please Him to use me, NEVER AGAIN will I allow the opinions, or traditions, or words of man to turn me from Him!)
In the sixth year God said, “Let us create Raymond……….