Reflections on a Pilgrimage to the Congo
Dreams do come true…. As a child, visiting missionaries painted pictures of African life that captured my imagination. My determination to one day visit fed my dreams for decades. Sometimes, the reality is deeper and richer than the fantasy. Recently, I had the opportunity to join nine other Disciples through Global Ministries in a pilgrimage that far surpassed any childish imagining. Mbandaka in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reflected images I’d carried for years. Depth and definition were added as I came to know the people who bring a richness and beauty that were never present in my dream. In the midst of great suffering and difficult times, the Congolese live in joy – rising from a firm faith in a loving God and a fierce determination to make their own dreams live.
Their hopes are no different than our own. They long to give their children more than they had – better education, skills that lead to more satisfying jobs, a healthier environment in which to live, and hope that one day lasting peace will reign. At the heart of their desire to improve the lives of their children beats a Church that feeds these dreams and is shaping their reality. The Community of the Disciples of Christ is alive and well in the Congo! And those of us who are able are helping to make dreams a reality, through funds donated, through prayers of support and affirmation, through honest education about the desperate needs of others in the world, and by realizing that we are all children of God working together for one great good.
There are a myriad of examples of how the people of the Congo are determined to make their hopes their truth. One such project involves the gift of water. In Mbandaka, running water is not yet a possibility for a number of reasons, but safe water is now possible thanks to a new well built by the people of Mbandaka with supplies purchased with funds channeled through Global Ministries. For centuries, people had taken their water directly from the Congo River, using it for drinking, cooking, washing and bathing. The new well provides an ingenious way to filter the water and cleanse it so it is safer for the people. We asked if the well had really made a difference. One woman replied, “Our children are no longer dying from cholera or intestinal parasites. Disease has diminished. We are less afraid….” This simple well provides clean water daily to thousands in Mbandaka. It is not easy. Long lines form to fill large buckets that must be carried sometimes several miles to homes that have no other source of water. But, people do it joyfully. It took donations of $1500 and the hard work of God’s faithful people to make safe water a possibility.
Dreams do come true…. What have I learned from traveling to the Congo? I’ve learned to dream bigger and work harder and believe deeper in the power of God to change our reality. God is working in our midst. Thanks be to God!