If you have read very many of my past posts, you'll recognize Maman Jackie in this photo. The gentleman in the middle is her cousin, Seraphin, and works for MAF here in DRC. Maman Jackie and I have had many occasions to work together and visit with one another at the Mitendi Center and the Bandal Center. She has been a volunteer teacher and mentor at both for a long time. 

Some weeks ago, my friend Shermeen told me about a family she was concerned about. Mamicho had no job or home and did not have a way to care for her three daughters. Her husband, gone for years, was presumed dead. She was at the mercy of others and they were living in dangerous circumstances, especially the girls. Mamicho was desperate.

We contacted Maman Jackie, who contacted other ladies in the CBCO Women's Ministry that oversees the Mitendi Center. And we prayed. Shermeen had friends who were willing to help with scholarships for Mamicho and the girls. The ladies were able to work out a plan to give Mamicho and her daughters a four-person dorm room to themselves. Mamicho was given a part time job on the Mitendi campus and is attending classes to learn to be a seamstress. The girls have all been enrolled in school. They now have food to eat, a safe place to sleep, and people who are helping them start a new life. They will also hear the gospel and receive biblical instruction and discipleship. I am still amazed at how God wove this story long ago, introducing me to Jill, who connected me with Maman Jackie. Then we moved to the TASOK campus and I got a chance to get to know Shermeen and was able to connect her with Maman Jackie. 

After Mamicho's family had time to settle in to their new home and routines, Shermeen and I, and our friend Ann, paid a visit to Mitendi to deliver some sewing supplies for the center, and to check on Mamicho and give her some clothes for the girls. 

Mamicho was excited to see Shermeen and to meet the rest of us. She was eager to tell us how well things were working out for her and the girls and how grateful she was.

I was very happy to once again get to visit Mitendi. It had been a long time. Papa Bienvenue greeted me and said "You are home!" I also really enjoyed helping him give Ann and Shermeen a little tour and explain the ministries that are in place there. 

Mamicho's older two girls are attending a secondary school, but her youngest is in the primary school at Mitendi Center.

Greeting the older girls. Besides learning job skills, the girls in the Mitendi program also have remedial education, literacy training, counseling, Bible class, and life skills classes.

These are mole crickets. They are about five times the size of regular crickets in the U.S. and they make a LOT of noise, starting at about dusk and going all night long. Some kids had dug these up and were selling them for food, after inflation they cost about a dollar a dozen. In case you wonder, the preferred preparation method is to fry them in hot oil. I did not buy any, but Maman Jackie did.

Maman Jackie, Mamicho and her daughters, and Shermeen. Please keep them in your prayers. Especially pray that Mamicho and her girls will come to know Christ, Defender of Widows and Father to the Fatherless.

This visit was bittersweet for me, because we are moving (explanation HERE in our latest newsletter) and it was my last visit. I am grateful that I had a chance to see Maman Jackie, Papa Bienvenue, Maman Excellente and the other staff members one more time and say goodbye to them, but it was hard to do. I will miss them.

Even When It's Raining

photo from
We have a Congolese friend here, whom I will refer to as “Ben” so as to protect his privacy. Ben just moved his family to a new home, and for Ben and his family, this move was very significant. 

Housing for a majority of the people here consists of only a couple of small rooms, and the apartment is part of a duplex or four-plex. All of the families in the building share an outhouse for their bathroom needs. There is a water tap in the community where people go to collect their daily water. Often there is only a curtain where the door ought to be and if there is a window, it may or may not have a glass pane or a set of curtains. There is no indoor plumbing. There is seldom electricity.  Many families here are large, and they all sleep on mats on the floors.  Ben and his wife have six children.

Here are some examples of housing in DRC.  

This move was a big deal to Ben's family because for the first time in their lives, they are able to rent a little house with a tiny yard, a tiny kitchen, space for the children to sleep more comfortably, indoor plumbing and their own bathroom IN THE HOUSE. He was so excited when he told David that “now we can go to the bathroom even when it’s raining!” When it rains in Congo, it’s usually a real gully washer and going out in it can be dangerous with all the mud, poor visibility, and the semi-buried power lines. No one goes anywhere when it is raining. 

When David shared that with me, it stunned me. Here we are feeling inconvenienced when the water is off for a few hours, or when we have to stay home during civil unrest with our refrigerators full of food while the rest of the city doesn’t eat because without refrigeration in their homes they have to shop daily for provisions and it is too dangerous to venture out. How would I feel if our family didn’t even have our own bathroom? If something as simple as going to the restroom suddenly became a big deal?

That phrase has stuck with me for days now. I felt like God was asking me: "Do you love me? Do you trust me? Will you follow me? Will you praise me? Even when it's raining?" 

Sometimes, the combined distractions and needs, whether good or bad, trivial or important, internal or external, are like a rain storm. I know the path before me is slippery and dangerous, and that I should cling to God and praise Him, but my visibility is reduced in the storm and I can’t see Him. Do my love for God and my trust in Him motivate me to praise Him anyway?

We’ve recently had days of civil unrest here and people have been hurt and killed. People have suffered. People are angry, hurt and confused. The Congolese are going through a real and potentially ferocious storm right now. I pray that believers here can be a light, making God visible and showing others the way to Him, and loving as Christ loves. Even when it’s raining.

The Joy of Discovery

As I sit here, I can hear the high school band on the field across the road from our apartment practicing for tonight's graduation ceremony. For many this is an exciting time of year. I got to attend another graduation a couple weeks ago, thanks to the kind invitation extended to me by two friends: Justine (whom I met when I hired her to help me learn Lingala) and Emily. Emily and Justine work with a ministry called the Tabitha Center. There are many similarities between the Mitendi Center I often write about and the Tabitha Center. Both reach out to at-risk women and offer discipleship and job training. Here are a few photos from our day.

I have been to a few major celebrations here, and music is an essential part. Sometimes a sound system and DJ are hired and sometimes, as in this instance, a local band is hired. Personally, I prefer the bands. 

Dressing up is also a key part of any celebration here. I have no idea who this fellow is, but I thought his tie modeled after the DRC flag was cool. 

My lovely friend, Justine. I am really grateful to have met her this year. She is passionate about her faith and about helping women in Kinshasa. 

Emily is also one of my newer friends here. She received a gift in appreciation for her service to the Tabitha Center. She blows me away with her talent and her compassion. 

There is no joyous celebration quite like a Congolese joyous celebration, so here is a little sample of the excitement of the day. When the graduates paraded in, I started crying. Their joy is just so contagious and I was really happy for them. Sorry about the quality. It was the only way I could get it small enough to upload for you.


A.A. Milne, the author of the Winnie The Pooh books, once wrote: "One of the advantages of being disorderly is the JOY of discovery." It's true, too. I am surrounded these days by a great deal of disorderliness. Mostly of my own doing, but some can't be helped as we are packing and preparing for furlough and because we live in a place that often lacks order. I've been going through papers and folders and scanning back ups of things that are important. The other day I was going through some old genealogy papers I had printed twelve or thirteen years ago and found this on the backside of one:

All these years I never knew that was in my files, so it was a joyous discovery. I know without a doubt which child did the drawing, and I am sure at that tender age she didn't know what she was drawing on, or that way in the future it would bring a smile to her mama across the ocean who misses her so much. We love what we do here, but we can't wait to see our grown kids and the rest of our families again. Maybe I can even get them to draw me a picture.

Please pray for the people who live here in the midst of disorder, that they will have the joy of discovering new life in Christ and peace that passes understanding. 

"For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace..." I Cor 14:33a

Stretched Too Thin

A while back my son's middle school had a big event with water balloons, food, games, etc. Afterward, I found this and thought it looked cool (because I'm weird that way). The rainbow bands are evidence of tension and stress. The balloons were stretched or filled beyond their capacity and burst.

We all face hard situations and sometimes feel like we are on the verge of hitting or surpassing our limits, about to break like those balloons. While I believe it is good and healthy to be transparent about things like stress, burnout, relationships, etc., I also wonder if sometimes we sabotage ourselves with the power of suggestion and our drive to diagnose and help ourselves. 

Occasionally, I receive free Christian books for Kindle. Several recent titles I received deal with such topics as burnout, stress, expectations not being met, failure, forgiveness, disillusionment, and disappointment. They all had lists of symptoms so readers could self-diagnose. It occurred to me that the more focused I became on some of these, the easier it became to "see" myself in them. My grandmother used to say if you look hard enough for something, you'll find it. I began to feel like maybe I wasn't helping myself any by spending my time focusing on all that stuff. Maybe I wouldn't feel so tightly stretched mentally and emotionally if I spent less time and energy fixating on the problems.

Yes, I live in a hard place and have stress and fatigue. Yes, I have had unrealistic expectations and the ensuing disappointments. We all have. But I am learning that the solution is not to jump on the burnout bandwagon or the stress train, but to go to Jesus. Continuously. He promised if we turn to Him with our weariness of all the stupid stuff in this world, He will give us rest. 

Those books I read were all good and were written to help people. I would even recommend some of them to others when appropriate. But I think I have had too much of a good thing lately, and it began to supersede the best thing in my thoughts. For now I am giving myself a rest from the "self-help" genre of literature. One less thing to stretch my mind around. I tend to let them have too much prominence in my considerations when I should be thinking on what God has to say to me in His Book.

An Umbrella Story

Jill and I went to the Mitendi Center recently so she could check on some repair work that had been done, check on the programs, and so we could work on a new project. Jill needed photos of the students, so we spent the better part of a day taking photos of several grade levels. 

It was cosmetology day at the center and the girls were practicing with one another's hair.

I love going out there and this was no exception, even though it was a HOT, sunny day. After a while, Benedite was sent to hold this umbrella over me. I felt pretty silly, but it seemed important to everyone so I allowed it. Good thing I did, because I was already sunburned and it probably prevented painful blisters for me.

In church yesterday, our pastor was explaining the word "submission" as the act of placing yourself under something or someone else, so in a literal sense I was submitting myself to the umbrella. Once I did that, I was under the umbrella's protection and it was my shield from the harsh rays of the sun and from the heat. Since Benedite was also submitted to the umbrella, we got to enjoy each other's company and have the pleasure of working together. It isn't so difficult to place yourself under something (authority) or someone (God, our spouse) when you know it is for your own good, which is how Biblical submission in Ephesians 5 is supposed to work.

The women and children at Mitendi are under the authority, protection and guidance of many committed Christians who love God. They have a HARD job and face many challenges both personal and ministry-related. Over the years I have prayed this verse many times for my own children because I knew the importance of Godly teachers, leaders and examples in their lives. Please pray this for the students at Mitendi and for all of the people who are involved in any capacity of the ministry. Pray that these children and young girls will have the courage and trust to submit themselves to those God has sent to guide them. Pray that their shepherds will all be/remain fully submitted to God and have hearts for Him.

"Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who
will lead you with knowledge and understanding." Jer. 3:15

Their Joy and Their Heart's Delight

Have you ever loved someone so much that you hung on every word they said? 

Have you known what it feels like to love God that way? 

I came across these verses in Jeremiah this week during my personal study time. The notation is my reminder to myself of a previous implication thoses verses had for me and a reminder to continue my commitment that I made nearly six years ago to pray these verses for my children. Each time I see it, I pray again, both for them and for myself, that God's Word will be/remain our joy and our hearts' delight.

As an American, I was blessed to be born into a country where God's Word is easily accessible. It is not only available in English, but in several different reading levels so that even young people can read and understand the Bible. Most people in my home country who want a Bible can either easily find an affordable one or a free one. As a result, I think we sometimes take that for granted and we don't truly have the perspective of the Holy Word of God being our heart's delight. I know I'm guilty. 

Not so in other parts of the world. I have a friend who serves with Wycliffe Bible Translators and he has told me that the best estimate on hand is that there are as many as 350 languages spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I asked him how many still have no Bible translation in their mother tongue and he replied "best guesses put the number at 300 yet to be translated." How can God's Word be their joy and their heart's delight if they cannot read it?

Yes, there are scriptures available in French, the official language of DRC, and in Lingala and Swahili, the two most common trade languages, as well as some of the others most commonly spoken. But just for the sake of perspective, my native language is English. I have been taught French and have a French Bible. I actually have two, and one of them is a much simpler version that is supposed to be easier to understand. I am studying Lingala and have a Lingala Bible. I can pick up my French Bible and because I have been taught French, I know how to pronounce the words and even understand most of them. But there are phrases that have nuances unique to native French speakers. There are words I don't know. I miss something in the translation and there is a gap. Even more so when I try to read my Lingala Bible. My tutor spent several minutes yesterday explaining just one verse to me, word by word and phrase by phrase. Even if a Congolese person can somehow afford a Bible, if it is in French or another language other than their mother tongue, there is a gap for them, especially if they have not had an opportunity for good French instruction in their schooling. They cannot fully experience the richness and depth of God's Word. If you had a few years of foreign language courses in school, imagine if the only Bible you could have was in that language and not in your native tongue. 

Did you know that public education in the U.S. colonies was begun in the 1640's in order to train children to be able to read the Bible? Please pray for the people of Congo to have Bibles available in their language, and to have better education opportunities so that they can better understand scripture.  Pray that God's living, life-changing Word will be their joy and their hearts' delight. 

A Day of Joy and Thanks

Saturday was a celebration day for the Mitendi Women's Center! At the end of the last two-year term, one group of girls chose to extend their training another six months because they wanted to improve their literacy skills. Their hard work and dedication paid off - they tested well above average when they finished! A graduation ceremony was held at the center for them and I was blessed to be able to attend. This was a more personal event for me than some I have attended, because I had met these students on previous occasions and it was excited to see how they have grown in skill and confidence and to celebrate with them.

God's Word was read, His name was praised, and His work was proclaimed. The CBCO ladies who oversee and volunteer at the Center, along with Jill, the school administrator, the pastor, and others who were involved in the ministry gave testimonies, recounted the history of the Center, and recounted the girls' accomplishments. There was a choir from the church in Mitendi and the Mitendi Center. After all the formalities, there were refreshments, photos, music and dancing. There was so much joy and happiness for these girls! Here are photos of some of the people who oversee and/or help with the Mitendi program:

And photos of the graduates:

The girls designed and sewed their own dresses for graduation, as well as their caps, tassels, and sashes. 

Another reason to celebrate: the wall is finally finished around the Mitendi Center! Effort to put up a wall began as a way to address multiple challenges: safety and security for the girls and young women, protecting the CBCO-owned land from outside attempts to take over portions of the land, and protecting the gardens from goats and other animals. The wall is now up. After the graduation revelries, we went out to the new gate for a photo. A few of us stayed and prayed together, thanking God for his protection and provision and for the testimony He has given the Mitendi Women's Center in the community. 

Please keep the new graduates in your prayers as they continue their journey, the current students that they will persevere and grow in their relationship with Jesus and in their skills, the land case that should have been over a long time ago yet is still ongoing, and for the ministry itself, Jill, and all the staff and volunteers.

"You Have Memories"

Ever used Facebook's "On This Day?" At the click of a "You Have Memories" button, you can see everything you ever did on Facebook on that particular day of every year since you joined the web site. It's genius on the part of Facebook. What better way to feed our tendency toward self-absorption and keep us posting and reposting so as to ensure the popularity of their site and attract sponsors and advertisers? And Facebook makes it easy by telling you that "You Have Memories" every day, so you don't forget to look at them. 

It can also be an eye opener. I have looked at mine a number of times and had varying responses ranging from face palms to groans to pleasant trips down memory lane to timely reminders of lessons learned. Sometimes I look at things I posted waaaaay back when Facebook was relatively new and I can't believe I thought anyone would EVER be interested in that. Ever. 

"writing letters today"

"doing homework"

One nice thing about On This Day is that I can delete that garbage. No one wanted to read it once, let alone a second time. I did not join facebook to punish my friends.

Other times I look at posts and see things I wish I didn't: negativity, criticism, anger. I try to evaluate whether I am still the same person who wrote that post and do I still have the same attitude. If not, I thank God. If so, I ask Him to keep working on me and change my heart. 

Sometimes I see posts from people who encouraged me just when I needed it and I am reminded how loved I am and that maybe I should take a moment to let them know I love them too. Or I see posts that remind me of something significant that happened and how God showed Himself in it. That happened today when I saw that "On This Day" four years ago, Emily used my facebook to post a prayer request. I posted our family's little adventure here: Daniel's Bottle Bucket Battle a few days later. It's a story about a night that could have been much, much worse than it was, but turned in to a testimony of God's care for a little boy and his family, and His power to orchestrate even Kinshasa traffic to His will. 

Facebook makes it easy and tempting to live in the past rather than embracing the present and anticipating the future. But it can also remind us that the God who was with us in all those past events is the same God who is with us now and will be with us as we face the future!

My 2016 Prayer For My Kids and Mitendi

Normally, if I step just outside the front of our apartment, this is my view. I can clearly see the flowers in my yard, the road that runs in front and to the side, and the building across the way. It is the nicest view we have ever had from our windows since we came here and it is a real blessing. 

Biting flies and mosquitoes that carry diseases like malaria, chikungunya, and yellow fever are abundant here and because of that, periodically steps have to be taken to reduce the risk. This week a company came in to spray for the flies and mosquitoes. 

During the spraying, we stayed indoors. This was my view out the front window (apologies for the screen).

Wherever the man in the "hazmat suit" walked with his smoker, a thick wall of fog/smoke was left in his wake. Soon we couldn't really see anything until the smoke had time to clear. The fog was a temporary obstacle, blocking our ability to see what was right in front of us. If we had tried to walk through it, we wouldn't have known which way we were supposed to go and might have even gotten hurt.

As 2016 began, God impressed on me to pray two scriptures for my kids this year, as well as for myself and my husband. 

"Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people." Isaiah 57:14b

"I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go." Isaiah 48:17

Lord, please remove any obstacles that stand between my kids and their relationships with You, and/or their relationships with others. And when they can't determine which way to go or see the reality is beyond the haze of their present circumstances, I pray You will direct them and teach them and that they will learn to trust your direction and hear your voice clearly. 

I would ask if God has directed you to this post, please pray these verses for your missionaries.

But why stop there? I am still very burdened for the Mitendi Center and the legal and spiritual battles they are fighting to keep their land and continue this vital ministry. Please pray for Mitendi Women's Center and those who are involved in the leadership, administration, and legal representation. Pray that God will direct them and that in 2016 He will remove ALL the obstacles out of the way of HIS people. 

Fever Tree

A few days ago, David brought this stick home. It had travelled to Kinshasa via MAF plane from an interior village and was accidentally left at the hangar. The passenger who misplaced it is a friend and he had called David and asked him to look for the stick. He had brought it from the village for someone else and they really wanted it.

It's really not much to look at. Why would they want that stick so badly? Why would a stick be so important (unless you are a dog)?

Cinchona pubescens
Cinchona pubescens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This isn't an ordinary stick. It was cut from a "fever tree," also called "cinchona," "quina," and "Jesuit bark." The bark of this tree contains quinine, and is chewed or steeped into a tea to treat malaria. I have sampled a tiny, tiny piece of fever tree bark. It was very bitter and the taste lingered for a long time after I spit it out, even though I didn't even chew it. It amazes me that anyone ever even discovered that something that nasty could cure malaria, since that would require tasting it more than once. Quinine is also used to treat malaria worldwide in other forms, like pills. That ugly piece of tree branch has the potential to save lives.

Malaria is a serious threat in DRC. It is one of the leading causes of death here. Over 400 children die in Congo every day, and nearly half of these deaths are caused by malaria (World Health Organization). Please pray for those who are working on better preventions like vaccines, for those who work in the health care sector, and for the people of DRC. 

A Small Reflection to Mark the Day

Arrived in Congo five years ago today. After our crazy experience in the airport, we rode in a van with Garth Pederson and Brian Writebol to our new home. It was dark and there were little fires everywhere lining both sides of the road because there was no power. The fires gave light, drove away mosquitos, and cast an eery glow on the myriad of half-finished or half-destroyed buildings, roadside kiosks, piles of garbage and people. Combined with our fatigue from 36 hours of travel it all seemed very apocalyptic and we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into and how in the world one family could make even a drop of difference in a place like this. We can't but God can, and He does. Thankful we get to be part of it!

Cool Beans - Five Years in DR Congo!

Kinshasa is a large city with some serious traffic!
In the evening on October 11, 2010, we arrived in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo to begin our assignment here. Five years ago! A lot has happened in just five years, both in Congo and in our family.

When we joined MAF, in July of 2008, our family looked like this. We spent two years raising ministry support and attending language school and other training.

We arrived in Congo looking like this.   After our Canadian winter our Florida tans were long gone. And of course the kids were bigger.

We have experienced one election season in this country and face another in the near future. We've learned to be flexible about things like electricity, water (none today), sanitation, and sleep. We have felt the joy of making new friends and the pain of saying goodbye when they left. We've seen our two oldest graduate and return to the states to further their educations, and felt the pride of their accomplishments mingled with the sorrow of not being able to be there for them to help them along. We've had the pride and happiness of seeing our son get married and getting a new daughter. We have lived the guilt and grief of loved ones dying while we were separated from them by thousands of miles, including my mom, my grandmother, my uncle, my mom's cousin, a great uncle, one of David's cousins, and a dear friend. 

We've also seen God perform miracles and met people whose lives have been transformed by Him. We've had opportunities to be involved in God's work here and meet incredible people He has placed here for such a time as this. We've prayed and worshipped with people from all over the world and been places we never imagined we would see. We've heard the gospel preached in a minimum of four languages here and observed that in each language, amen is still amen! We've worked harder and prayed more than we ever had before. We've faced health issues, including a surgery for David and one also for me. We've had our faith challenged, we've been brought low, and God has lifted us up and strengthened us. 

We are so thankful that God brought us here! We look forward to continuing to serve here as long as God in his generosity and wisdom keeps us here! God has given us a ministry team of incredible, faithful friends that makes it possible for us to be here by praying for us and financially supporting our ministry with MAF.

Now, for a little fun to mark our celebration. The Mitendi Center has been growing food for itself for some time now. They have also acquired a couple new residents:

The female arrived first. She was purchased with the idea to breed her and use the additional pigs as a source of income for feeding and upkeep as well as for food.

Breeding animals is generally much easier to accomplish when you have one of each gender, so a month or so later the male was acquired. They have a bit of growing up to do before they are ready to breed, but the girls at the Mitendi Center are learning to prepare the right kind of food for them, to care for them, and to develop a mindset of investing in their own future.

Last time I looked in on the piggies, I captured this with my phone. I thought it might be fun to ask people to come up with captions for my photo. So, please do comment below! 

Filling in and Chilling With the Girls

Photo courtesy of Mark and Kelly Hewes

Yesterday I went to the Bandal center to work with the ladies. Nothing unusual about that, except that I went without Jill. Nothing especially unusual about that either, except that instead of going to just pop in and say hello or to give out birthday treats, I was going there to get some work done. I am accustomed to having Jill around to tell me what she needs done, to help with any language barriers, and to organize our time. Jill is on a trip though, and things needed doing, so I put on my big girl britches and took myself to the center to see what I could do.

I checked on the progress of ongoing projects - whether they were completed, what problems they may have been having getting them completed, what items needed to be paid for and/or delivered, etc. They were just putting finishing touches on one project as I walked in, so after leaving the center I got to make a delivery to a happy customer.

I also enjoyed having a chance to ask how the ladies themselves were doing, to visit with them for a while, and to meet some new students from the Mitendi Center who have now joined us at Bandal. They were so much more shy and timid than the ladies I have been working with over the past year or so. They didn't even want to say their names loud enough for me to hear, so Elie had to repeat each one. It will be fun to watch them grow in their confidence and abilities, and I am praying that the more experienced ladies will take them under their wings and give them lots of help and moral support. Mama Jackie and Mama Elie will nurture them and be there to give them spiritual guidance as well as professional instruction.

photo courtesy of Mark and Kelly Hewes

Celebrating God's Greatness

I have wanted to share about this for a long time but we got so busy settling into our new  apartment and then helping Daniel transition from home school to the American School here that it is only just now happening. It seemed like whenever I had time to blog, that was also the time that Daniel needed my computer to do homework.

In August, The Women's Ministry arm of CBCO (Congolese Baptists) celebrated 50 years in ministry! I am not an official CBCO missionary or associate, but I do have the priviledge of being a volunteer, and so I was invited to attend the five day celebration. Due to transportation issues, I was only able to attend one day. That was disappointing because I had looked forward to this for a long time, but I still feel grateful that I got to be there for a small part of it and especially that the ladies even thought to invite me.

I am also especially grateful that the day I got to attend was the day of the march (parade). Getting permits to have a march is a big, expensive process in Kinshasa, so there aren't many opportunities to participate in one. This was my first. Jill and I, marching with thousands of Congolese ladies, were not. conspicuous. at. all. I had a blast!

We had a marching band, even!

The worship team. Excuse the bad photos. The lighting was terrible.

There was a special choir of women from several different churches. That's the choir in the background. This choir had many, many participants.

The congregaton. Over 5,000 women attended. Some travelled from the interior, which is no small sacrifice. 

We heard several guest speakers, including my friend Jill, but it was all in Lingala so I can't tell you much about the messages. I can tell you that there was an abundance of joy, gratitude, and enthusiasm. These women face circumstances that are unbelievably difficult on a daily basis, and they were overjoyed just to be there in God's house celebrating and worshipping together. The theme was "God has done great things for us" and the speakers recounted some of those things in their talks. 

When it came time for the offering, that too was a joyous event. There was no solemn, grave-faced passing of the plate. All 5,000 of us got up and while the worship team played music and danced, we marched and/or danced up to the front to place our offerings on the table. Most were singing. All were smiling. I realized that even for those who only had 500 francs (about 45 cents) to give, they saw it as a great privilege to show God their gratitude for his grace and work in their lives by giving to Him. It made me cry and it made me think with shame of times in my life when I have taken the privilege of meeting in God's house with other believers for granted or been ungrateful in my heart even in the very act of giving with my hands and saying thanks with my mouth.  


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