June 23: From somewhere between Amsterdam and Atlanta, on the way home from DRC
John Walter is president of African Leadership. He and a team of business leaders from Middle Tennessee are working with Denis Hangi, our country director in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to partner together on Denis’ vision for a strengthened city of Goma on the edge of the country. Denis leads the Common Ground Academy in the DRC and is connected to hundreds of Common Ground Academy graduates, who are today at work bringing the love of Christ to the country in word and deed.
In our few days in the Congo, we searched for progress…of the physical work completed, in the hearts of those going through counseling with pastors, and of our shared vision with Denis Hangi, our country director in the DRC, to come alongside God at work in the Congo.
Needless to say, the trip did not disappoint.
What makes the difference between progress and none? As always – it comes down to leadership.
Denis and his team of pastors in this region have determination and soft hearts. We can import some technical skills and likely some modest investment, but much of what needs to happen there needs to happen from within that community. Denis is truly tireless. He worked with diligence to ensure not only our safety, but of course our service to the communities we met. He is a model leader, who by pouring himself into his graduates – much like Paul to Timothy – ensures that more of the work of the church is done in more places.
We first saw the physical progress at the orphanage we support with Denis in Goma, called Flame of Love. New dorms. New eating area. A new pit for a coming new latrine. New hope. And yes, new kids that weren’t there last time.
We then saw more evidence of progress on a trip west of the town of Goma. Google Maps shows the town of Seke – at the upper left corner of Lake Kivu – to be a 24 km, 25 minute drive “without traffic.” Last year, that trip took over an hour. This year, more like 45 minutes. The roads were better. A few new miles of pavement were in place. Holes in the dirt had been filled, though our driver never did manage to get his car into 5th gear once during our time together.
In Seke, the situation was bleak. Perhaps there would be no progress now that we got here? Except for the consortium of six local, poor churches banding together to serve the most down and most out, there was no visible evidence of any help. Even the local UN contingent from India was pitching in in small ways. We met a young boy who was in complete despair – he couldn’t talk. Later we came to learn that he was one of 18 kids fathered by one man and several women. I left with one question pounding in my head - “Dear God, how can any progress be made when the family is completely absent?”
But progress showed up – this time in the heart realm. In Seke, the church steps in as best it can. Gratefully, Sister Alvera, who leads our Goma orphanage, was with us and, as usual, she jumped right into the fray and took this young boy with her to give him some more intense care. I don’t know how she does that. And as we talked to more people in Seke, I could tell they heard the love of God because they recited some verses. I know they felt that love because they talked about the food, and Bill and Duane and Tammy and Buffy from our team who went in April, and showed us the songs they had learned.
To us who only got a few-days’ glimpse, it seems like a good start. But we know the tough work that has been underway for years is critical to seeing the work continue for more to come.