Author: Abraham J. Meintjes
Location: Kisangani | Congo (Democratic Republic of)
I have been using the opportunity to participate in some Lausanne III discussions at the Pretoria, South Africa, down-link site. As on the Lausanne III Global Link on the internet, interest is healthy, robust, intellectual, academic, apparently Biblical, exiting, inspiring and polite. Yet, despite much good brought about by the Church, there are still far too many levels of reality in the world, where we as Christians are either fake, or weak, or guilty, or negligent, or apathetic – or in conspiracy against Truth. Some behaviour patterns indeed are a sad result of the Church and Christian inter-action or action. I am communicating from Pretoria, - but should be in Kisangani or on the Congo River, busy with my mission call to reach the unreached amidst so much pain, suffering, neglect, rebellions, conflict minerals and apparent world and church apathy in central Africa regions. Or, perhaps … it is a world and church conspiracy. The general resistance and aversion of small business, entrepreneurs, organisations, institutions, missions, and even the SA government as well as the international church towards the Democratic Republic of the Congo is very, very strong. Because of a burden awarded me by God after prayer, I started researching the history and geography of the Congo River area since 2004. My practical and ground level mission work commenced in 2007. I have written, talked and communicated as much as I could as a “lay” worker. Repeated efforts to build a standard “DL Moody paradigm” mission model for the work, has failed – despite a good management, organisational, communications, exposure and training background, as well as church leadership and mission training. A mission harbour and dedicated mission river boat remain as plans on paper. Various attempts to work by dugout canoe lead to over-exposure and illness. Congregations and organisations loose interest after one or two years. The challenges and risks of working in the DRC are daunting. Climate, logistics, environment, isolated areas cultural perceptions, tribal strife, post traumatic stress in the population, mutual distrust and severe corruption often makes the return on effort disappointing. The Central African Republic (CAR), I suspect, is even more isolated. Because of isolation, the exploitation of the resources and the people has been going on since first history records were kept, and word of mouth conveys stories that bring instant denial to the heart and mind of a visiting hearer. Spiritual darkness and tribal oppression often reign. Yet, with so much else going for Christianity and against the background of Lausanne I and II – I wonder why Lausanne III is necessary? Clearly, however, something is indeed necessary! God created us, appointed us, intervened in Eden and at the Flood, He gave us His son in forgiveness, we have the Holy Spirit, the Body of Christ (church) on earth, the Bible, the five-fold leadership and each other. We have the Greatest Commandment to love God and one another, and we have the Great Commission, to Go! … Where do we go wrong as believers? Is the world perhaps exactly what it is because of the church, in spite of the church, or … I am not sure. Central Africa regions and the unreached Congo River villages, are unfortunate and lamentable proof that the salt, light and yeast of Christianity and the Greatest Commandment as well as the Great Commission failed to reach there in any meaningful way to date. How could we have ignored central Africa regions for so long? Are the presence of the UN and world aid, selectively scattered around the DR Congo, and the scarcity of international church, NGO and mission activity not indicators of some conspiracy or ulterior purpose perhaps? Despite the DR Congo being the northern neighbour of SADC (Southern Africa Development Community), and despite the presence of a missionary gospel that came to South Africa 358 years ago, South Africa and the church in South Africa show no love lost for the Congo. While “slap on the back”, quick returns, glossy magazine insert and local ministries around the comfortable South African suburbs apparently enjoy wide acclaim and support, I walk the streets from church to business to friends, trying to stay alive and to gather a larger momentum than the 3 months a year I manage to spend in the Congo, if I am lucky. Out of sight, - out of mind. Despite the large and continuous influx of illegal Africa immigrants, many from the DR Congo, filling the suburbs of South Africa and keeping the church captured in fighting social fires and maintaining the “Jerusalem” paradigm for mission, the proposal to establish more pockets of faith, hope and love all around Southern Africa seems either foreign, or distasteful, - or perhaps too complex. Is it apathy, or a conspiracy between church and world powers, to stay out of the way of those who exploit, rape, pillage, destroy, grab, abuse in central Africa regions. See no evil, hear no evil – and in effect, do or condone evil, because good Christian men and women are doing nothing. Poverty, neglect and lack of development leave the people of the DR Congo desperate. They became corrupted as a defence mechanism and as a survival mechanism. No “Western” perspective for co-operative logic, planning, communications, business practice or development processes are to be found in the DRC. I have not found any in the very hard road I walked to date to establish some mission methods and work procedure that might help to encourage, facilitate and co-ordinate further world interest in starting re-development of Kisangani as a central Africa hub port, the development of the vast potential for Congo River commerce and transport infrastructure, tourism, responsible mineral and resources management and marketing, farming, agriculture, wild-life conservation and hydro-electricity, to name but some of the gifts bestowed upon the Congo and its people by God. Seemingly, the exploitation of the Congo, its people and its resources is so intensely “critical” to sustain Western technology, and so collaborated, that all eyes and ears are averted, and any “interference” is strongly and cleverly discouraged. Minutely few missionaries work in the DR Congo. Discouragement seems to take place by word of mouth through the ages, so that today, the Congo is just a no go area. Not to be mentioned. The church, as is often the case in history, - whether referring to e.g. the Jews, Apartheid South Africa, politically inspired racial conflict, or the DR Congo, - turns a blind eye. Is it Christian apathy, aloofness or deliberate conspiracy? Let us consider; - if the conflict minerals that give us our cellular phones, laptops and space stations are extracted cheaply through a method where governments and companies sponsor “rebels” (easily to be recruited in the unreached and deep rural areas of central Africa), who in turn rape women up to three times a day, so that the fear compels the husbands and children to dig out the minerals with bare hands, often being shot for their trouble – how concerned shall we now really be? Let us be honest before God and man. We need the technology, - surely you can see this! Therefore, after 2010 years of church, mission and theology, certain regions of our earth and of our stewardship, remain unreached. Demonic principalities. The domains of witchcraft, misery and agony. Nothing that I hear or read in and around Lausanne III really convince me that we as comfortable and complacent Christians really care about central Africa and its neglected people. The face of Africa reflects the character of its people and its leadership, in government and in the church. Is it a godly reflection? When will we as Christians decide to overcome the propaganda, bad news and deliberately perpetuated perceptions of central Africa, and move in on many levels and over a wide front of Christian activities, to encourage each other and central Africa in love and good works. But first, I pray that the Church would overcome itself. The divide between Christ-confessing church denominations remain as a critical hindrance. I experience it daily as I try to move outside the box to expand and improve my mission model and paradigm, and venture out to work cross-denominationally in partnership development. I take a lot of pain for my trouble – while the remaining unreached, difficult to reach and unattended in Christ Jesus remain unreached. I pray that the church outside and inside Africa will take a hard look at itself, and the face of the societies on our continent of Africa. The population of South Africa might confess to being 74% Christian (religious or spiritual perhaps) – but South Africa is statistically one of the most immoral countries on this planet. Has the church similarly lost its missionary zeal and core purpose to reach out, simultaneously to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth? The DR Congo is crying out, trying to be Christian and becoming moral, but its cries remain ignored, even despite some like myself who cry out with the people of the Congo. My appeal is for Christianity to face all its responsibilities. Indeed we try to teach others how to fish, but then we must be at it, hands on and committed. Teaching “them” and leaving them does not work, - there are too many historical, cultural and environmental hindrances and contexts. The church is the only agent of Good News and morality authorised by God, while we do pray that civil governments in Africa will do what it should be doing according to Scripture. What encouragement and commitment is Lausanne III holding for the DR Congo and central Africa regions? Are there Christian church and mission workers prepared to sacrifice and to commit to work in rather challenging social, geographical and environmental conditions to help bring about a renewal of the mind and faith, hope and love? To make rebel ground, holy ground in obedience? People are people. Fragile, vulnerable, - yet robust, persevering and ever hopeful. Reward them! Villagers along the Congo River love to receive their first “outside” visitors ever. Who has ever told them that God created them, has a purpose with them, - even out there in central Africa, and (even just for one moment in their life) made them feel loved, special, harboured, accepted – opposed to a life time of tribal strife, misery and spiritual bondage? How do we as the comfortable, resourceful, complacent Church account to our Holy Spirit inspired conscience, to each other and to God, – about central Africa?