No matter where you are in the world people always seem to prop up the differences between city and rural folk. This is true in DR Congo as well. The rural areas of Equateur Province are called the “interior”. The interior refers to the seemingly endless swath of forest east of Mbandaka, and farthest from the Congo River.
Travelling to the interior is not dangerous, but it can be fraught with problems, such as undulating and washed out roads from heavy rains. Yet, on this day, we were blessed to have four straight days without rain, making the roads dry and passable. The people in the interior rely on the land and their labor as the primary factors of production…capital and entrepreneurship, the other two factors of production, can be more elusive. Not everyone has a penchant for risk-taking, and few think they can muster enough resources to create change.
For this reason, Rev. Ngoy, the Supervising Pastor or P.S.P. of Bolenge District, asked the CDCC Development Department to give a presentation on development at the Bolenge district commission meeting in the village of Kalamba. Kalamba is about 40 miles from Mbandaka toward Lake Tumba, which is larger than Lake Tahoe. Gathered there were 135 delegates from 28 parishes to plan and discuss the three pillars of church responsibility to the community: evangelization, education and development. The delegates were divided into these three areas during work sessions in the morning and afternoon, but all came together to hear the presentation on development just before noon.
The talk centered on how the local church can impact society. All agreed that development is not just physical, but also spiritual, social and intellectual. To make this point we focused on the word “transformation” as a biblical prescription for development. The Book of Nehemiah served as the perfect study on development. In fact, the Book of Nehemiah has been called the text book on faith-based community development. Nehemiah wasn’t just concerned with the physical repair of the walls of Jerusalem, but also with spiritual discipline, social justice and intellectual capacity of the people as essential components of restoration to address brokenness.
The conversation then moved to how congregations can plan and implement seed projects initiated with local resources to make a difference in the community. This sparked considerable thinking on what local congregations can do immediately to make a positive impact. The characteristics of seeds projects are:
- Conceived in Prayer – a group of congregants come together to pray
- Reflects compassion for brokenness – brokenness with individuals, families, communities, institutions and society.
- Motivated by Godly intentions – uses scripture as a basis for conducting projects
- Thoughtfully planned – begins with a problem statement, project steps, state the area of need, list of persons to consult, resources needed and a beginning and end date
- Simple and Short – the project is completed in one or two days, but the planning process takes longer.
- Done with Local Resources – sacrificial giving and utilizing local skills, not immediately looking for outside support to solve the problem.
- Directed at those outside the church – not a manipulative means to get people into church, but is directed at impacting the community for positive change.
- Those who benefit participate – beneficiaries work alongside the church gaining dignity from participation.
After the discussion on seed projects, some of the delegates began to share how they took the initiative in their own community to solve a problem. It was good encouragement for the whole gathering to hear these testimonies, and it motivated them to pursue the development of a seed project when they returned to their parishes. The outcome of the session could be a dozen new seed projects initiated in the Bolenge District. The CDCC Development Department plans to follow-up by providing delegates with seed project planning and evaluation forms. This will enable the parishes and the CDCC Development Department to work together in the tracking and monitoring of seed project progress.
Please pray for these congregations as they seek God’s guidance in discerning what He is calling them to accomplish to make a difference in their community.
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 Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.