Greetings in the precious and powerful Name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!
"For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through Him and for Him." Colossians 1:16
Our Congmataza Mission team is, I am happy to report, in good health. Ryno is recovering from the wound in his shoulder and I am feeling much better after a course of antibiotics and typhoid treatment.
We have been on the road conducting this Overland Mission to Congo now for more than 2 months; we have already travelled more than 9,836km through 6 countries conducting 129 meetings, 6 Reformation FIRE Seminars, and 3 Evangelism Training Seminars.
In my last update to you, I ended by requesting prayer as we were about to enter Congo into a region where there is a long history of instability and violence. Thank you very much for praying.
We have had an exciting and fruitful time of ministry in DR Congo. Let me start by telling you how the border crossing went.
Border Officials, Literature, and Grace
Our rig was loaded with more than 2 tonnes of Gospel literature, Bibles, and other resources for pastors, evangelists, and church leaders. This literature is distributed free of charge and is therefore non-commercial cargo; in addition to this, most of the literature is 'in transit' and just passing through the one country into the next, but the border officials don't always see it in this way. They normally see it as an opportunity to procure and invoke a stubborn, uncompromising bribe from our unyielding pockets. As you can well imagine, this can seriously complicate a border crossing for us. We praise God that up to this point, we have had trouble-free border crossings.
However, now that we were facing the notoriously corrupt Congo border, we were somewhat apprehensive about crossing this border with so much literature, much of which was intended for ministry outside of Congo. Only 750kg of our cargo was allocated for Congo. We had been warned by other missionaries and colleagues of the intense levels of corruption by these border officials, to such an extent that some vehicles have been confiscated and commandeered by such corrupt officials. We obviously did not want this fate to take over our rig, so we made preparations and arrangements to prevent this from happening.
"Victory loves preparation" Anonymous
We made contact with a trustworthy pastor in Burundi who was willing and able to assist us and made arrangements with him to store in his home all the literature that we would not need in Congo (which was allocated for ministry in other countries on our return journey). This was very helpful, because there was quite a lot of our cargo that we needed to store safely.
Our host pastor in Congo also did a sterling job of contacting the necessary customs officials and getting the vital paperwork in place, this was no easy task, but an essential pre-emptive measure. He also placed various influential members of his congregation at strategic points along the border control to assist us through this tricky gauntlet.
As we warily drove up to the border carrying only that which was essential to our ministry in Congo, we intently followed the cell phone instructions of our host pastor who was coordinating this tricky border crossing. We were joyfully and warmly welcomed by his vivacious wife whose smile alone cut the tension in the air and hushed our edgy minds. Soon we were joined by the pastor and his team who easily and effortlessly guided us through the immigration and customs control. It was wonderful to be welcomed in such a manner. I knew we were in good hands.
Once we were in Congo, we were introduced to the Chief of Police, who is also a member of the host church, and we were assured that his team would be looking out for our well-being during our stay in Congo. There would be a team of police and soldiers that would surround our camp at night. The area where we were staying has in the past experienced much violence and insecurity. A village just north of this location had recently been attacked.
Which Side of the Road?!
In South Africa we drive on the left side of the road, but in Congo you drive on what’s left of the road. In fact, the rule is that you should drive on the right-hand side. The roads (or what is left of them) are not roads at all, the locals here call them "ways". The one main road which runs through the town is often swarming with overloaded motor cycles, bicycles, tuc-tucs, cars, trucks and lorries all hooting, weaving in and out of gaps, contending for the little bit of tarmac that is all that remains of the main road. Each driver is just trying to guide the tyres of their vehicles to the best possible path avoiding potholes, ditches, the encroaching road edge, and all other traffic that is trying to do the same. How they miss each other is still a wonder to me!
No Water, No Electricity!
We were told upon our arrival, that the town where we were staying had neither water, nor electricity for the past three weeks. The inhabitants of this lakeshore town all had to go down to the lake to collect water in buckets/jerry cans. The lake is quite polluted and therefore not an ideal source of water for drinking or even for cooking. Here is what I wrote in my journal on Thursday 31 July:
"Congo is really tiring us out. There is no water in the taps. So far, since we have been here, water has only come in the taps twice - one of which was this morning. We have left our containers under the tap in anticipation of water. This morning we filled all our containers. The last time we had water was on Sunday. We have been using the lake water which is very filthy. There are all sorts of pollution in the lake - sewage, hippos, people bathing, clothes are washed, litter, even used medical needles are found on the lake shore. We have had to treat this water with chemicals(chlorine), boil it, and filter it. I am hoping that this would be enough to keep us from getting all sorts of diseases. We are happy to have clean water now."
Amazing Church Growth
The church that was hosting us in Congo was the same church that hosted us last year when we visited Congo during the Africa Overland Mission. Last year when we were here we conducted a Great Commission Seminar focusing on Way of the Master Evangelism training. It was quite clear then already that the pastor of this church has a great passion for Evangelism and Missions and has been trying (effectively and successfully) to motivate his church to get involved in reaching Congo for Christ.
This year when we returned to these energetic believers we were astounded to find out that their church had grown double its size! Since we left them last year, they have regularly conducted door-to-door evangelism, putting into practice the Way of the Master and they have reaped the fruits of their efforts. This was really encouraging to us, to know that our labour has not been in vain.
During our first week of ministry in Congo, Ryno (who is on our Missionary Training Program) started complaining about an itch/pain on his shoulder. It looked like a simple pimple, so we just laughed it off and ignored it. The next morning, however, it was a little bigger and had developed a hole about the size of a black pepper corn. It was now also obvious to see that this was in fact a spider bite, there were two very clear holes where the fangs had penetrated. I realized that this was a necrotic spider bite and that the poison was destroying the cells in the wound and would continue to do so unless we found a remedy. Since my knowledge about spider bites is limited, I consulted my good friend 'Google' to find out what can be done. My internet research informed me that there was not much one can do to prevent the poison from doing its dirty work. As Ryno was already taking some strong antibiotics, we realised all we could do was to keep the wound clean and dressed with lots of betadine/germoline.
Each time we changed the dressing of the wound on Ryno's shoulder, we were disturbed to find that it had grown bigger than the previous time. Soon the hole in his shoulder was about the size of a human eye. The smell was that of rotting flesh which was accompanied by the sight of green, black liquid puss that filled the ever increasing rancid crater. This had to be cleaned out thoroughly each day and a new dressing put on. I soon realized that if this continues, I will have to try to get Ryno out of Congo and find professional medical attention.
We went in search of medical attention for Ryno in neighbouring Burundi and were directed to an Anglican Medical Clinic which apparently had very high standards. The problem we encountered here though was the language barrier. When the nurses asked what the problem was we indicated the shoulder dressing and, communicating through an interpreter, told them it was a spider bite. The nurse proceeded to open the dressing and inspect the problem. She told us, "Whoever cleaned this wound the first time did not do a good job". I took the blame for that. This nurse immediately started thoroughly, aggressively, and mercilessly, cleaning the wound, extracting chunks of white, green, and brown matter, cutting at the wound with a surgical knife, and scrubbing it with sterile gauze, without any anaesthetic!
Ryno was bravely enduring this torture and each time he tried look over his shoulder to see what was going on, the nurse, smiling sadistically, would push his head away saying "Don't look here". It was only while she was finally dressing the wound again that she inquired, "How did you get this wound on your shoulder?" We repeated, "It was a spider bite which started very small and grew into this big hole you see here now." The nurses were quite fascinated with this, as if they had never dealt with a problem like this before.
Revivals and Resistance
This area experienced two revivals in the 20th century. One in 1911, and again in 1962. The people here speak of great moves of God among the people during these times - great miracles, great fear of God, great increase in the fertility of the land, and most of all a vivid realization of the presence of God. When rebels attacked the area they put up a fierce resistance and sent the attackers fleeing.
Revival and Evangelism Camp
We were invited as guest speakers at a Revival and Evangelism Camp. This seemed quite appropriate considering the historic significance of revival in this area. This camp was attended by more than 50 participants coming from different regions of the Congo. We had a wonderful time of ministry, fellowship, and outreach with these passionate believers. I was very glad for the French lessons I had taken in preparation for this mission. Between the use of broken English, French, and some hand signs, we were able to communicate somewhat with our beloved Congolese brothers and sisters.
At the camp I spoke on topics such as: Revival in the Bible and in History, What Can be Preventing Revival, How to Revive Your Devotional Life, The Way of the Master, How Jesus Did Evangelism, Christian Action, Outrageous Courage, and How a Local Missionary Can be Self-Supportive. After many of the sessions we would break up into discussion groups and discuss the practical issues and seek answers on problems encountered.
After the Camp we headed back to town for what was called an Explosive Evangelism Week. We started early in the mornings with Way of the Master training and then in the afternoons we would go out into the streets doing door-to-door Evangelism followed by screening the film Passion of Christ. The church was fully involved and their teamwork and tenacity was certainly admirable.
Renee also conducted a Youth Seminar where the theme was Shine Like Stars. The church was packed with eager youth intently listening to find out how they might become stars. The message that came through in the end was this, "If you want to be a star, you must be connected to Jesus!" There was great discussion amongst the group and the Q & A session went way overtime as these enthusiastic youth asked probing questions.
The Harvest is Plentiful
During our time in Congo and through the efforts of this energetic church, there were more than 330 people who prayed to surrender to Christ as their Lord and Saviour, 210 of which were from one-on-one encounters during door-to-door Evangelism, 18 of which were baptized in Lake Tanganyika. Praise the Lord! We are so excited about this.
Literature and Resources Distributed
By God's grace, and with the help of generous supporters, we have been able to distribute and deliver to the churches and believers in Congo: 91 French Bibles, 11,000 French and Swahili Gospel Booklets, 3,000 Gospel of John and Epistle to the Romans booklets, 660 Biblical Principles for Africa (in French) books, 300 Broad and Narrow Way Posters. We were also able to deliver to churches for their libraries and for distribution many DVDs such as: More Than Dreams, In Your Face, Herman Who?, What if Jesus had Never been Born?, Call for Discernment, Amazing Grace, Basic Christian Training Boxset, Islam Rising, and The Biggest Question. Some of the MP3 audio discs that we were also able to deliver included: Revival, Evangelism and Discipleship, Answering Skeptics, Heroes of the Faith, and Great Commission Course 2014 Boxset. We were also able to deliver to the vibrant Congo church mini SD cards loaded with the Jesus film in French and Swahili and many other digital Evangelistic resources which can be inserted into cell phones and shared amongst friends and contacts wirelessly using either Bluetooth or the internet.
We really appreciate each one of you who pray for us and who encourage us by email, sms, WhatsApp, and Facebook. We also are constantly aware that we would not have been able to do any of the above had it not been for the Mission's generous financial supporters who have given of their finances to extend our reach and impact. Thank you for your sacrificial giving which has bought diesel, tyres, food, medicines, Bibles, Gospel books, Evangelistic tracts, and visas.
Please do visit the Frontline Fellowship Facebook page for pictures of our ministry and adventures as we progress on this Mission through Africa.