Monday, October 26, 2009

Local kids plead for school

We have just arrived back in Denver. We will be here until January. The purpose of our return is to itinerate in the NW Texas Annual Conference for the Seminary and University. The itineration will take us into December. Christmas will be a celebration including a family reunion in Denver. We want to share with you something close to our hearts that we experienced this last month in Congo.

Three years ago, when Bishop Max Whitfield, of the New Mexico and NW Texas Annual Conferences, visited Mulungwishi in the Congo, he saw the need for the education of the children in the villages around the mission station. Because of the poverty, the war and the aids pandemic, many children could not afford to go to school. He brought this burden back with him to the New Mexico Annual Conference. Valerie Whitfield took this burden and challenge upon herself and mobilized the wives of the pastors within the Annual Conference as well as those in the NW Texas Annual Conference to make contributions to this project. In that first year, over $5,000 was raised and over fifty children were able to attend elementary and high school. Last year the program increased to some 90 children. This year, with the economic downturn which has hit our part of the world in a devastating fashion, the need has exploded. We must say that the last couple of weeks we were in Congo were amongst the hardest that we have faced in our ministry these 30 years. It broke our hearts to see children on their knees begging to be put on the list of those who would have their school fees covered. It reminded us of the movie "Shindler's List". Here were children wanting to go to school and their only means of survival was to be included on the list. This is particularly true of the girls who in their society would be married off at the age of 13 or 14 if they were not in school.

After we closed the list, we had three girls for three consecutive days on their knees in our front yard for hours. Every time we came to answer the door for whatever reason, there they were, "Please Sir, put us on the list". We finally called the village pastor to investigate their situation. They were refugees from the war and had been travelling the year before fleeing from the conflict to the north of us. They had been pillaged by the rebels and later on by the government troops. They had made their way to safety and settled with relatives in the village next to Mulungwishi. They were without means. The list provided the one chance for them to go to school this next year. This was too much for us and we included them in on the list.

Long story short, we have over 220 children on the list this year. We have taken this as a leap of faith and compassion for the year. It costs about $50 a year for a child to go to elementary school and $75 to go to high school. Seeing the need as being so great, Valerie has opened the doors to others outside the original circle of pastor's wives who want to participate in this ministry to children to do so. All contributions are run through the New Mexico and NW Texas Conference Offices.

Please be in prayer with us for this project and also for our time in the churches in Texas. Pray that we will be able to faithfully interpret what the Lord is doing in the Congo and the spread of His Kingdom.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Outside view of the Mulungwishi ministry

The following is a copy of an e-mail written by Tom Stanton, a Trinity-First UMC member of the work team from El Paso. We thought that you would like another point of view of life here at Mulungwishi and what a work team is involved in. “This has been a day where we have experienced in a poignant way the life cycle of the Church in the Congo. Early this morning, Mary Len, Ann, and I met for "morning prayer"; the daily 5 a.m. prayer time in the chapel at the Mission Station. We begin our day with a walk in the dark into the church for energetic song, hand-clapping, scripture reading and a sermon. These two days Mary Len, Ann, and I have sung; both days an arrangement by John Eby. It is profound to me that John, a member of our church family in El Paso, composes and arranges melodies which we share with our brothers and sisters in the Congo. John, with Mary Len's flute, and our voices in harmony we tried to justify your work. Later our team gathered for our team morning prayer/devotional and sharing. Dan, Phil, and Becky headed into the clinic. Both Dr. Dan and Dr. Phil have full days diagnosing patients, making recommendations, and as they grow in their understanding of the range of medical needs in the community, they are dialoguing with the local clinicians on the future of the clinic. It will be exciting to see where that leads us all as the Body of Christ. Ann, Mary Len, and I had a "play date" arranged with about 40 children; 4 years old to about 13. Yesterday and today we met out on a patio to sing, play games, and dance. Now, what is not to like about this "missionary" gig? Ann and Mary Len are an absolute delight and together with the children, language has been no barrier. In fact, the joy and laughter seems all the more profound as we make linguistic connections on each game. Dan and Parvin are working on some much-needed construction. Our Pastor seems to know his way around cement molds, plastering and plumbing. John was pleased to see that several of the plumbing fixes that he creatively attempted two years ago are still holding up. David and Laurie Persons, the Mission couple, still have the only flush toilet within many miles thanks to John's work. The life cycle part of this heading? Beginning at about 1:30 and lasting until 5 p.m. we participated in the funeral and graveside service of a local pastor who died yesterday. We all learn a lot about each other, and where we line up in our faith at a graveside. David Persons translated for us in whispers as the service proceeded in Swahili. We were moved to tears at a point where 30 pastors came forward, including Pastor John to lay hands on the casket as we sang in Swahili the hymn tune, "It is Well With My Soul." So today has given me much to reflect upon, and to give thanks for. On my list is giving thanks to each of you in El Paso who join us in prayer that our journey is safe, and that through our presence, the Lord's plan for his children here and in El Paso is made manifest.”