Third Day In Congo

Saturday

This is our third day in the Congo, and we are learning more about the situation here. More than 100,000 people in this area have been killed in the last 10 years due to the war. There are estimates of 40,000 still displaced in the region near Bunia, and yet God is using His people to help alleviate the suffering. This is exactly how it should be.

The pastors’ conference here in Bunia has participants who five years ago refused to speak to one another because they came from enemy tribes. The hatred from both sides runs deep, even in the church, even among the clergy. And yet, two brave pastors, Brother Samuel and Brother James, have spoken up and pleaded for reconciliation and forgiveness from both sides. Brother Samuel has been kidnapped and his family brutalized, and yet he remains faithful. Both men have had multiple death threats for “siding” with the tribe that is not their own. They have hidden members of both tribes in their home, and taught them to live together in peace, protecting one another with the LRA soldiers come to raid the area and persecute whichever tribe is out of favor at the time.

The issues are complex. Tonight, we were with a group of church, business, and political leaders who were encouraged by Pastor Mark Brewer of Bel Air Pres to unite to change their city. How odd it was to hear these leaders say that soldiers and even politicians in Congo are calling upon the power of Satan and demons to gain power. It’s hard to imagine such summations coming from political leaders in the U.S., but the people we have met here seem to agree that the forces of evil are at work in the killings, torture, and destruction that results when the LRA soldiers come through. Apparently, there is believed to be real allegiance with the powers of hell in these actions.

And yet, the churches in the city are coming together and standing together against these problems.  They are running orphanages for the thousands of street children here. They are helping the hungry, the displaced, and the sick. They have even built schools and hospitals, as the government can no longer afford these institutions.

In this context, my husband Pride and I have been extremely humbled to share about our work at Cloud and Fire, and to tell the story of how we began.  Yesterday Pride told the story mostly to men, and today, I spoke to the women. Both audiences were extremely moved.  Here in Africa, it is a much more devastating blow to not have children than it would be in the U.S., and apparently it is uncommon, as well.   We are gaining so much sympathy for the infertility that ultimately served as the springboard to launching our ministry.

Today, I received a precious gift from an elderly woman who came to the front and asked to speak to the crowd at the conclusion of my talk.  She said my story reminded her of a woman who came to Africa to work with street children. She had no children of her own, but she loved the children of Africa, so much that when her time came to die, she wanted to be buried in Africa, not America (which is exactly as it happened. She is buried not far from where we are now). This woman was called “Love” because she nurtured the African children with all her heart, and led many of them to Christ. At this point in her story, the old woman patted herself on the chest and said, “I myself was one of these children.  Now I, too, share the Good News.  So, my friend, your ministry will bear much fruit, just like our dear Mama Love.”

Today was special.  I reminded these African women that God comforts us in all our distresses so that we may comfort others with that same comfort. And, just one moment later, a kind African woman reminded me through her own story that our gracious God uses our sorrows to build His Kingdom. I brought a small gift to the women, but certainly left having received great riches.

Melody Rossi
Bunia, Congo

1 Corinne 1:3, 4

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Pastors Conference – Bunia, Congo

We are now in Bunia, Congo at a conference of 2,200 pastors from all over the country, as well as from Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. The pastors have sacrificed so much to be here. Pride spoke in tag team with Enock, and they spoke on servant leadership. Many of the pastors use their position to become like chiefs and be served. Today they spoke about sacrificial leadership. At the end, Pride and Enock shocked the crowd by washing the feet of two Congolese pastors in front of all. It was a powerful demonstration of serving.

Jesus said “The. Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many.”. This is servant leadership–to give our lives, and to give ourselves. Being in Africa, we see how much need there is, and how much people need to be served. But it’s true in Los Angeles, too. In order to influence our city for Christ, we must be servants.

My prayer is that the “Lord will give us eyes to see how we can serve His people, and thereby serve Him. In this way, through His power, Christ can be glorified, and His kingdom will be built.

Hello from Africa!

I am currently in Agenda, a country that has been devastated by war and by the AIDS epidemic. It’s hard to imagine the things that the people here have experienced. We are traveling with a team that includes Mark Brewer, Senior Pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian Church, and EnocK Di Assis, the Missions Pastor of Bel Air. All together, there are 11 people on the team. Today was our day to acclimate, but we visited with Tabitha Phillips, who is the Executive Director of Westside Pregnancy Center, and a kindred spirit. Tabitha and her team have been here in Agenda for nearly two weeks, and are ministering to young girls who have been raped or sold into slavery. Orphans are here by the thousands, and they often sell their bodies for as little as $1, just so they can afford to eat. Tabitha just happened to be here from Los Angeles at the same time we are here. It was so good to get her perspective.

We heard many heartbreaking stories today. It was almost too much to bear. And tomorrow, as we travel to Congo, we expect to hear of further tragedies. There are times, whether here in Africa or back in the U.S., when our heart would cry out and ask how could these things be so? Sometimes pain seems as though it is too excruciating, and human suffering has perhaps gone unnoticed by God. But, honestly, I think that all human suffering, though horrible at the time, has buried deep within it the potential for God’s grace to be revealed. No other place causes us to love Him more or turn to Him so eagerly as does the place of suffering. Jesus told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Here in Africa, there is evidence of that as we see people who have lost loved ones but are still smiling, still filled with hope. I don’t believe in a gospel that shares who Jesus is without demonstrating His love through action. And yet, sometimes all of our best efforts are still far too small to make a significant impact. That’s when the miracle of Christ’s love and grace bring healing and hope. He can do–through His people–what is otherwise impossible. I don’t know yet what the solutions are Agenda, Congo, or the streets of Los Angeles, but I do know that Christ’s love is sufficient. He will make a way for orphans, street Kids, and sang members. Let’s make ourselves available to help!