Lubumbashi, 6 December 2008
Dear friends in my supporting congregations:
I’m spending the first part of Advent in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, a country that’s the poster child for what’s called “the resource
curse”–an abundance of natural wealth that breeds corruption that
produces massive poverty. Rich country, poor people. If there’s any
place that needs that Advent commodity of hope, it’s the Congo.
I’m here for three weeks. The first half of the trip I’m covering
several projects of the United Methodist Church, from agricultural
training to rural health care. In the process, I’m photographing the
church’s aviation ministry while its pilots fly me to a variety of small
villages in the bush where the church is intimately involved in helping
the poor and displaced to restart their lives in the wake of the latest
of Congo’s wars. People are digging wells to get clean water. They’re
caring for children orphaned by AIDS and war. They’re helping soldiers
learn sustainable farming techniques so they can earn a living without
having to hire themselves out to recalcitrant militia leaders. They’re
assisting women to learn new skills and take new leadership roles. And
all this Advent labor of incarnating hope is made possible by your
mission giving to United Methodist Women and UMCOR. So keep giving, and
look for my photos and articles from here in coming months.
It’s a fascinating time to be traveling because people here are also
excited about recent political developments in the United States.
Remember that the Congo was where during the Cold War the U.S.
government backed one of the world’s most ruthless crooks for years as
he stole the country’s resources. Today people are expectantly looking
forward to new relationships of respect and common purpose with the
United States. That’s yet another layer of Advent hope.
The second half of the trip I’ll be covering the relief work of Action
by Churches Together in North Kivu province, where rebels under Tutsi
General Laurent Nkunda have started a war which quickly produced a
quarter million refugees and which threatens to once again envelope the
entire Great Lakes region in a paroxysm of bloodshed. That violence is a
reminder that Advent hope isn’t proclaimed in a pretty world. Jesus’
birth was announced in a land under military occupation, and soon after
Mary gives birth she and Joseph are forced to become refugees, taking
the baby with them to Africa.
As the days of Advent go by, we peek ahead and know the incarnation does
happen, the baby is born, and our lives are inalterably changed. So are
the lives of people in myriad villages in the Congo, places whose names
I’m struggling even to pronounce. Change does happen, because God
intervenes in our world–at times through our humble ministries–to heal
Thanks for all that you do to make mission possible–whether it is the
lives that are saved across the street from your church or across the
planet here in Africa. In these fascinating times, thanks for the
privilege you give me as your missionary to witness how hope is being
made real for all the people of Africa. May your Advent be equally blessed.