Bolts of lightning and rumbling thunder in the east tonight are promising a storm on the way. It is following on the heels of a storm two days ago that came with such furious, prolonged winds during the night that it snapped off trees, broke branches everywhere, and even lifted off a couple of roofs. Although, we don’t know about hurricanes here, one of our friends decided the powerful thunderstorm downdraft we experienced the other day would surely have clocked sustained winds like one. By morning, dramatic stories filtered in from all over Kikongo. At UNIBAC, one house had half its roof blown off. Almost everyone in our student camp had at least one long aluminum roofing sheet that had broken partially loose from their roof, banging in a noisy attempt to fly away during the storm. Marching in to save the day that morning, was our UNIBAC staff carpenter, accompanied by assistants armed with ladders, hammers, saws and new roofing nails. Strings of UNIBAC children ran alongside them, anxious to get the best seats. Our student houses are 70 years old. Ancient in a country where termites, weeds, beating sun, wind and rain all conspire to reduce houses to rubble. What a gift from the 50’s to have these small 2 room houses with outdoor kitchens still serving student theology families in 2020, though. And, yes, what a challenge for a young university to find creative ways to keep these houses serviceable for what we hope will be many years in the future.
While we are taking a few days to shore up roofs at UNIBAC, we’re still working hard to get our new young women’s dorm open in time for the beginning of the school year! Oh, for a trip to Home Depot! Our nearest hardware store is far, far away. You would be surprised to see all the imaginative solutions we come up to solve our construction problems while waiting for trucks to arrive with long anticipated supplies, however. Congolese are nothing if they aren’t resourceful, and with many heads, one can often work around a problem together. Collective problem solving is frequently the face of missions in Congo: Use what you have with the people and things you have.
Being part of the Kikongo community over the years, has meant that Glen and I have taken our turn to step into different leadership roles, just as our Congolese friends and colleagues have. People come and people go, filling needs or creating vacancies at Kikongo. And, sometimes the void they leave falls by to us. So, it is, that Glen has recently found himself wearing another hat – the hat of our Kikongo Interim District Pastor. Responsible for twenty rural parishes and their pastors/lay leaders. Glen has been pedaling his mountain bike or riding on the back of a motorcycle to village churches now on the weekends. These trips are always an adventure. It is good for him to get out into the villages. He would much rather be off doing church work than doing academic administration.
It is a challenge to take trips into the villages during this time of year due to the heavy and frequent rains. Many of the churches do not have roofs. So far, after two months, the weather has been merciful. No services have been dispersed because of the rain, and Glen has not been caught in a drenching storm while traveling. Miraculously, the storms come a couple hours before, or a couple hours after his trips. On the last trip, there were storms all around except for where he was riding.
Travel by a four wheeled vehicle, is nearly impossible these days. There is the dual challenge of washed out roads with deep gullies, or deep standing water.
In addition to overseeing the village churches the role of district pastor is also to oversee Kikongo.
Kikongo has frequent interpersonal storms. We have trouble makers who like to stir things up gather a following, and create a lot of disturbance. We try hard to diffuse these storms before they can do any damage. We try to deal with interpersonal conflicts within the church structure by dealing with the rival groups before the conflicts have a chance to escalate and be sent to the police.
Thanks for your prayers and support !
Blessings, Glen and Rita