Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Congo Connection

If you'd like to get involved with what God's doing in Congo, here's one personal, relational way to begin checking things out. My friend Adam is starting to go and minister over there with a few others, including his dad. Adam's dad has years of history in Congo and has recently become impassioned again to invest in the lives of those in need there. You can reach Adam at his blog, Watching Gravity. He lives in Chicago at present; so if you're there, he always welcomes a pint and a sit-down.

Here's a recent email from my friend Adam and his dad:

Hey Friends -

Below is a letter my dad sent out regarding our upcoming trip to Ndjoka Punda, Congo in equatorial Africa this September. It's a fundraising letter, but I'm not asking for money from you. (The Lord is already providing in great ways.) I just wanted to give you a little insight into why I'm going and what we'll be doing there.

This is my first overseas trip so I'm excited and nervous. Congo is broken and corrupt in ways that would blow you away. In the USA where things seem to run themselves, I have a hard time grasping what my parents recounted from their trip to Congo last year. I stand in Target looking at travel-sized shampoo bottles and realize that the people I'm going to meet couldn't dream of such convenience (or imagine the complex infrastructure and logistics of putting that bottle in that aisle).

I digress.

I'm excited about this opportunity to make some sacrifices to join in with God's mission in the world. Congo is a big country with deep problems, but God is bigger and goes deeper. I'm not going because I believe I can change the world. That's God's job (and promise). I'm going because I believe I can change something.

So without further adieu, let me introduce to you my father:

Last fall, my brother Stan and I returned to our childhood home: Congo . We traveled to the Congolese communities where our parents served as missionaries. From 1950 to 1964, our parents served helping to build and expand the witness of the church in Congo . Since then, the Democratic Republic of Congo has seen an entire generation grow up under a dictatorial fist and is living in the aftermath of a 10-year civil war in which five million people lost their lives. For us, traveling back was more than just a walk down memory lane. We quickly came to the unsettling realization that Congo over the last 40 years had taken significant steps backward in time.

I commute five miles to work every day in a climate-controlled car, hardly noticing the few potholes that bite at my wheels. It’s a ten-minute drive. In the Congo , the idea of potholes does not exist. Instead, we traversed dirt paths in an old Toyota SUV, an equivalent two-hour trip from Des Moines to Kansas City took us ten hours in Congo .

I recently sliced my finger open at home in my garage. The two-inch gash required ten stitches and two hours in the emergency room, just minutes from our home. When we visited the hospital in Ndjoka Punda, Dr. David Ishunga, a medical doctor passionate about meeting the physical and spiritual needs, told us that it was the only hospital within 50-60 miles. People walk 2-3 days for medical care, including childbirth.

I’m recharging my laptop’s battery as I write this letter. It’s as simple as plugging it in at arm’s length. However, in the Congo , Dr. David told us that the injured and ill could only be treated by the light of day. If patients arrived at dusk in need of emergency treatment, Dr. David was powerless to do anything until the sun came up the following day.

I have a new Blackberry, supplied by my employer, so I can call or e-mail anyone from anywhere in the U.S. at anytime, day or night. However, Dr. David has no computer access in Ndjoka Punda. Instead, every 45 days, he travels a day to write and respond to e-mails—making it a three-month reply time for any communication.

We returned to our comfortable lives here in the states committed to help improve theirs. We had seen a hospital with no electricity and only basic medicines. We saw classrooms without roofs, students without textbooks, a sawmill without reliable means of getting lumber to market, and a brick-making effort in need of the most basic man-powered tools. Travel, medical care, electricity, and long-distance communication are basic amenities for us, but they require immense amounts of effort every day in Congo .

Thanks to many of you, our family and friends we have begun to address some basic needs such as a generator for the hospital, a brick press for making bricks, carpentry and masonry tools to assist with maintenance and construction efforts. These improvements are not changing the world. They are changing individual lives. Today we are asking for your help again as we plan to take on more in September, when we return. There, we will follow up on these strategic initiatives and assess future projects with the hospital, educational needs and improving means of communication.

These basic efforts require time, money and prayer. We (Stan Graber, Brad Graber, Adam Graber and David Rocke) are asking for your heart, your prayers, and your investment in our strategic effort to come alongside the body of Christ in Congo and provide hope for the next generation.

Travel to Congo is very expensive and very risky. We are asking you to venture out and take some risk with us by way of your prayers and money. Each of us need $3,000 for international travel and $1,000 for in-country travel. In addition to these expenses, we hope to commit $3,000 toward a laptop computer with solar charging capability and a autoclave sterilization unit to replace a 60 plus year old unit that is being operated over an open fire.

To give to this effort send your checks payable to AIMM and designate it as the Graber Initiative. Feel free to earmark it for travel or strategic initiatives. Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated.

Sincerely and to the praise of His Glory,

Brad, Stan, Adam & Dave

Mail to checks to:
Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission
P.O. Box 744
Goshen , IN 46527
(Memo: Graber Congo Initiative)

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