Jaron and a team of 6 others are spending nearly two weeks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s a trip that has been in the works for nearly 18 months, and prayed over and anticipated for even longer. To learn more about the Fothergill family and the work they’re a part of in the Congo, check out their blog here.
We stared at the rundown airport buildings as our plane touched down in Lubumbashi. Let’s just say that the terminal, left over from the days of Belgian control, is rustic. The paint is peeling. Some windows have glass, some don’t. Several places are crumbling. As we deplane in the middle of the tarmac, we wander toward immigration under the watchful eyes of armed soldiers. After a $55 “fee” and some confusion at baggage claim, we stepped into the streets of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo where we were met by good friends and missionaries Gavin and Jill Fothergill. We were also surrounded by 20 or so brothers and sisters from the South Katanga District Church of the Nazarene singing joyfully as they one by one shook all of our hands and greeted us warmly. Before we knew it, we were in Gavin’s Toyota Land Cruiser (which legally seats 16 here) bouncing down the mainly dirt, sometimes paved, road to Gavin and Jill’s house.
Since that time, members of our team have diligently matched glasses generously donated by the Lions Club and the community of Lovington with hundreds of recipients. Others have offered medical care. We’ve built relationships while passing out toothbrushes. I was a part of a group that spent three days digging two foot deep trenches in which to lay the foundation for a new church and district center. It was physically demanding work. On the last days of our trip, we laid the cornerstone and then proceeded to lay the rest of the rocks and cement that will form the foundation of the new building.
Most importantly though, we have laid a different type of foundation. A foundation of friendship. A foundation of global family. These foundations are laid firmly on the stronger foundation of Jesus Christ. For several years, our church has sent money to the DRC to fund projects like an elementary school that was completed earlier this year and the project we have worked on this week. We have been working to build a partnership, but that partnership lacked Congolese faces. Now however, we have more than faces. We have friends— Pastor Aimé, Pastor Andre, Pastor Benjamin, Mark, Ntale, Jean Paul, Pastor Marcel and his wife Alfonsine (who has graciously cooked lunch for our team each day), and many others. Congo is no longer a poor place on the other side of the world where we sometimes send our money. It has become a place where our extended church family lives. It is home to people we know and love and who love us unconditionally.
On Sunday, we worshiped with several churches from across the district. We joined in clapping (and trying to sing) as the small, jam-packed building shook with the sound of drums, chanting and singing. Each church represented led part of the worship. There was plenty of dancing as well. The Congolese worship God with their whole body. I was given the privilege of preaching. It was a blessing for me to me to do so, and I was humbled by the invitation. That moment reminded me of the way our God breaks down barriers. As I stood on the small concrete step and looked out over the congregation, I saw American and Congolese sitting together—one body. As I spoke and the DS interpreted, I saw the Word of God received by people of vastly different culture and experience. There was some confusion at times as we muddled through the service together, but it didn’t matter. We were bound together by the love of our Savior.
My prayer is that this is only the beginning of our relationship. I pray that even as our family moves far away from Lovington, the partnership that has been nurtured between LovingtonNaz and LubumbashiNaz will continue to grow and flourish. I pray that we will continue to provide resources and work teams. I pray that our Congolese friends will continue to bless us with their rich expressions of genuine worship and the broader worldview that those of us who have grown up in the church in America desperately need. Who knows, maybe someday our new friends will visit us in New Mexico. It seems impossible, but we serve a God that is truly bigger than the borders that divide. Regardless, I am confident that God’s Kingdom will continue to break in as we work together to tell people in New Mexico and the Democratic Republic of the Congo that Jesus loves them.