Going the Distance to Reach the Faithful
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
The measure of Christ’s love is reflected in the lengths the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo (CDCC) goes to fulfill Paul’s prayer for the church to “be filled to the measure of the fullness of God”. Paul made it a point to visit the churches he prayed for, to testify and equip them to understand the extent of Christ’s love for them. The Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo (CDCC) literally goes to great lengths to help congregants in DR Congo become “rooted and established in love”. The logistics involved in reaching 35 posts and 358 churches spread throughout the enormous Equatorial forest can be daunting. The CDCC administrators and staff, like early missionaries, still rely on the vast network of rivers to reach its congregants.
Recently, the CDCC Evangelism Department traveled 500km from Mbandaka to Boende in two canoes, called pirogues, bounded together attached to two outboard motors. The purpose of the trip was to ordain and install new pastors, bring an encouraging message and enhance discipleship at several churches in the vicinity of Boende. The Development Office also participated in the trip to bring equipment and a crew to build five new water wells. So there were two teams, one focused on the living water, the other one on clean water for living. It’s a testament to the CDCC’s sense of “wholism”, to bring the whole gospel to the whole person.
These trips in essence are expeditions involving 3-4 days of travel with people and cargo. The first consideration is always money…enough money for fuel, food, equipment and medicine for the journey. Personal items and gear such as mosquito repellent, rubber boots for the rain and mud, and a jacket for the cold, wet nights on the river are also essential. There is no stopping to eat because all the cooking takes place on the pirogue. It may seem dangerous to have open flame on a wooden boat, but sand under the small circular charcoal grill ensures that falling embers don’t start a fire. Fish is bought along the way from women and men who fish the river all day. They simply paddle alongside the pirogue and hold on until the transaction is done. One of the pastors is designated to lead us in song and prayer each night and morning.
The sun can be unrelenting on the Equator. On the river there is no shade except for the few passing clouds that temporarily shields us from the sun. Everyone on the boat is armed with umbrellas to block the intense heat. Then there are the sudden rain storms that cause us to scramble to cover up. We arrived in Boende at night after four full days on four different rivers. Just getting there seemed a job in itself, and cause for extended rest. But the work we came to do started in earnest the next morning and we were on the clock to make certain, in the words of Rev. William Lee, “that our return trip is better than the one on the way”.
What propelled us this great distance was not just two Yamaha motors, but a passion and desire to witness to God’s people, to serve their needs, to fellowship and worship together. An attempt to spiritually grasp how wide, long, high and deep the love of Christ can go.
It seems unfair for Paul to ask us to comprehend a love that surpasses all knowledge. Yet, a clue to grasping the fullness of the measure of Christ’s love can be found in one of the most familiar passages in scripture, John 3:16:
For God so loved the world – Width of Christ’s love
that he gave his one and only son – Length of Christ’s love
that whoever believes in him – Height of Christ’s love
shall not perish but have eternal life – Depth of Christ’s love
Paul Turner serves with the Community of Disciples of Christ in the Congo as a project consultant. His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.