A letter from Bob and Kristi Rice in Congo
Catching Up in Congo
We are quickly readjusting to life in Kananga. We jumped back into our morning routine of making a charcoal fire for tea and showers. We are again exercising our flexibility muscles in changing plans and receiving unexpected visitors. We are happy to have our parrot back, and laugh to hear him say “Bon jour” like a suave Frenchman. Thank you for all of your prayers and messages of encouragement during our months of medical leave in the United States last year. We are hopeful that our health will be much better this year. As we try to “pick up where we left off” we wanted to share with you some updates on projects that we have mentioned before and share some of our current activities.
First, we are glad to report that we did not lose too much ground in our Tshiluba language learning during our months away. It still takes a lot of concentration and energy to speak and understand Tshiluba and we have a lot to learn. We are a little rusty, but being surrounded by Tshiluba again helps it to slowly come back to the front of our brains. Please pray for discipline and facility in continuing to improve our Tshiluba!
In our June 2011 newsletter we described the great need for Bibles in Kasai. Several churches and individuals responded with support for this need. Our colleague, Pastor Mboyamba, has been able to distribute 82 Bibles so far to people in rural areas and also the city of Kananga. He described to us the great joy that people have in receiving a Bible, and their gratefulness to God and the church for this tangible gift. Moise Kabongo is an elder in a newly established parish in a rural area about 80 kilometers from Kananga. When he was told that subsidized Bibles were available, he rode his bicycle all the way to Kananga to purchase his first Bible. Another man, Batubenga Kandolo, is an advisor in the administration office of CPC (Presbyterian Community of Congo) schools. He expressed his thanks to God when he was recently able to purchase his first Bible because of this support. We look forward to distributing Bibles in more regions in the coming months.
In our September 2010 newsletter we described a tornado that damaged the village of Tshikaji and destroyed the CPC parish of Lubi II. Several U.S. churches contributed toward relief efforts in the village and the rebuilding of the church. Last summer, in 2011, rebuilding of the church began. Members of the Lubi II parish made about 10,000 fired bricks as part of their contribution. Stone from the previous structure was used for the new foundation, supporting posts were erected, and the roof was put on.
Last weekend we worshiped with the Lubi II congregation in their new building—it happened to be a very rainy day, perfect for appreciating their new roof! Pastor Jonas Katema, who pastors the Lubi II congregation, said his members feel very proud of the new building and many new people have started coming. We estimate that they had an average attendance of about 70 people last year, and Pastor Jonas said that on Christmas Day 2011 they had 327 people attend the service! We are praying with them that the building will be finished; remaining pieces include finishing the walls (including cement coating on the outside), doors, and a cement floor.
We also wrote in November 2011 about Congo’s elections. The tension and controversy regarding these elections continues. Please continue to pray for peace, security, and justice for the people of Congo. Congo does not often make the top headlines, but you can find recent news by searching BBC or other news sources.
In the next few months the Department of Evangelism is planning a couple of seminars for laity in two regions, teaching and empowering the people about the responsibility of growing the church and developing communities. We also hope to organize board meetings for each of the three rural pastoral institutes, something that has not happened in several years. A small amount of funds has been given by the PC(USA) to revitalize these pastoral institutes, and we are excited to see them again become an important resource for training church leaders.
Last year we wrote in our August newsletter about a national youth conference; this year we hope that will be expanded and each synod empowered to host its own regional youth gathering. In August 2011 we had planned to visit some rural areas of East Kasai. We hope to reschedule that visit for March or April this year—our first visit to that region.
Bob has been working hard with a committee of educators to revise the curriculum for teaching religion in CPC schools. Most of the work was done last year, but they are still putting final touches on it. We are hopeful that some churches will be interested in supporting the production of the new curriculum and training of teachers.
This week I (Kristi) sat with the leaders of a women’s microcredit program for one of the presbyteries in Kananga. We reviewed how they manage the program and discussed what should be included in a report. It was truly encouraging to hear their testimonies of how this small investment has given them new purpose and hope. One woman, Marie Ntumba, exuberantly described how the loan has enabled her to buy some chickens and expand her small trade in the market. She is a widow with five children and is very proud that her youngest daughter is now in sewing school.
We are grateful to see these good things happening in the church in Congo, and we look forward to what God has in store for this year. Your prayers and support are crucial to this work, and we are so grateful for you!
Bob and Kristi
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 102
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Kristi and Bob Sorry i missed you in America. Bob your dad kept me updated with your progress. i admire both of you for your commitment and dedication to help make the world a better place and help the people of Kananga discover a better life. Keep up the good work Bob