The pastors conference ended yesterday and went incredibly well. They absolutely ate up the material. We trained leaders from various denominations at our conferences this year but the vast majority were from CEBECA, a Congolese Baptist denomination which is amazing. They are very progressive and visionary, with incredible leaders. We met with their denominational leaders again this morning and they want us to come to their annual pastors conference next year and train all of their pastors, assisting them in their own healing. We plan to rewrite the MTS workbook for Africa and have it translated into French and Swahili so we can use this next year to help these leaders experience more of their own healing.
Over and over at the pastors conference we heard how they were pouring themselves out for the needy. This denomination has numerous hospitals (the only decent ones here are Christian), large outreaches to orphans, a whole HIV/AIDS ministry dept., 80 trained caregivers in Goma alone for prostituted women, various schools and counseling centers in the slums, etc. The questions the pastors asked were so heartbreaking and over and over confirmed the importance of us taking the risks to come during a time of military conflict. The pastors kept saying “the entire population we serve is traumatized. Every single person in our church and surrounding community. We ourselves are traumatized. Our trauma needs are overwhelming.”
In the Q and A one pastor asked how to deal with traumatic stress when over and over soldiers “crush your community and stomp you into the ground.” Many told hideous stories of rape and suffering. Another pastor told of a church choir raped by militia as they were on an evangelistic trip in northern Congo. The church has struggled with whether these people sinned by not being willing to die instead of being raped, since Jesus said not to fear those who can kill the body but not the soul. Another asked how you can know if trauma like symptoms are the (biological) result of trauma or if they are demonic. You can imagine what a challenge we had in trying to do justice to such complex needs and questions but God guided us each step of the way. In spite of the incredible trials and pain these leaders live with day in and day out, they are amazingly persevering in their ministries. They just want training and resources which, by God’s grace, is exactly what we gave them.
Today, our final day in Congo, was 12 hours of visiting multiple ministries all day long. I gave a message at the Heal Africa hospital for a packed chapel of patients and staff. HA specializes in fistula surgeries for women who have been damaged from torture and rape. They do some 800 of these surgeries a year. Given that reality you might think these women would be very angry at God and yet their worship is some of the most exuberant I’ve witnessed. When Jesus is all you have he means everything to you.
We visited multiple ministries sites of the Gratia Counseling Center founded by Daphrose. We have trained her and her staff over several years and watched her ministry explode. They serve over 10,000 youth a year, leading many to Christ and counseling and discipling youth and families. they deal with juvenile prostitution, abuse, suicide, etc. every day and see amazing miracles. Several youth in their ministry shared with us, including a former child soldier named Albert who also shared his testimony last week at our youth conference. Today Albert described the satanic rituals involved in joining the militia, the killings, and his dramatic conversion to Christ through Daphrose’s ministry. He is now sharing Christ with other child soldiers and is very committed to serving the Lord. His testimony was painful but very moving. Gratia center ministers to many of these boys. As I have said many times, I have never been in a place where I have seen more miracle or more evil, wept more or felt more joy. God and Satan are alive and well in the Congo and we have been so blessed to see God’s kingdom expanding here.
Today we also attended one of Gratia counseling Centers’ “summer youth day camps.” They give youth job skills, discipleship, etc. during their summer break. They have very little equipment but use their meager resources (3 foot pump sewing machines, a few very old keyboards and guitars, a couple old computers, etc.) to work with close to 100 teenagers, many of whom would otherwise be going into the militia or prostitution.
Their goal now is to have counseling centers in all 11 provinces of Congo, with an emphasis on providing Christ centered counseling for abuse and other forms of trauma. Since 60% of Congo is 20 years or younger, this is such a strategic work. We feel so honored to be able to guide them, train their staff, and provide most of their counseling resources.
Celestia and I are utterly exhausted but by God’s grace have done all we came to do (and then some). God has abundantly answered your prayers. Our team has been fantastic.
Celestia will go to Tanzania Sunday with Abby and David to get a week of much needed r and r and to meet with leaders there to plan our 2014 training. Then we’ll have 5 days of ministry to Abby and David’s boys in Uganda. When our team crosses the border tomorrow to leave Congo, we will miss our brothers and sisters here but will not miss seeing heavily armed soldiers everywhere and getting reports daily (and hearing a few of the battle sounds at night) of the conflict. But the Congolese must live in this toxic mess so please keep praying for them. They count on our prayers.
Things are so dramatic and clear in the Congo–Jesus is the world’s only true hope; he shines in the darkest places and changes lives! What a privilege we have had to share the gospel to some 300 prostituted women, train over 300 Christian leaders, and bring 4 new written abuse ministry resources to these populations. Thanks for partnering with us.
Yours in Christ,
Steve and Celestia
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