Holding onto Hope

Dear friends;

What a crazy few months it has been! It is hard to believe that I have been away from Beni since August (now away longer than I was there). Although nothing has gone to plan, we are trusting that God has us in His hands and that He wants to use us where we are. We have so much to be thankful for. God provided affordable places for me to stay prior to the wedding, a wonderful and affordable Airbnb for me and my family in the week before the wedding, and now a place for Othy and I to live until mid-January. We are overwhelmed by people’s generosity, particularly many of the staff of EMI.

It has been a period of such highs and lows. The high points have been the celebration of our marriage, time with family and time experiencing God’s beautiful creation, a relaxing and enjoyable honeymoon to begin married life together, and the celebration of the marriage of our dear friends Matt and Jess. But in all of these activities, there is a grey cloud that has been looming over us. Every day we hear news of new ebola cases that are growing in number around Beni. The cases are not being reported soon enough because initial symptoms look similar to other tropical diseases like Malaria and Typhoid. There is also distrust of the health authorities which is causing communities to be uncooperative by not reporting cases, or not following the prescribed burial practices which can feel very cold and distant.

The distrust is warranted because insecurity is at an all time high in Beni with rebel attacks happening every week, often within the city itself and with little to no protection being offered by the Congolese army or the UN. It seems as though the rebels see an opportunity to create more chaos to make the fight to contain ebola more difficult. Whole neighbourhoods have been emptied out because of fear of attack which only gives more space for rebels to come closer and be undetected. Events have only increased the number of internally displaced people which makes tracking contacts of ebola cases more difficult. Vox recently published an article that outlines many of the challenges in containing the virus. Community groups are demanding that the international community help them to end the insecurity as well as the Ebola. They don’t want to survive ebola only to be attacked while they sleep in their homes. It doesn’t make sense to meet one need and not the other.

Another layer to this situation is that elections are scheduled to happen on December 23rd. So far plans are moving forward for elections to take place, but the Congolese population is on edge because the government has decided to use machines to vote making everyone nervous about the possibility of cheating. There are also three major candidates running instead of two, making the possibility for vote rigging easier. Originally the opposition were planning to come together behind one contender, but last minute one of them changed their minds, which makes people wonder what the real motivation was. Kabila is not running again because he is constitutionally barred from doing so, but has selected what many people are referring to as his pawn, a person who they think he will be able to manipulate to continue pursuing his own interests. So in January much could be the same or could be very different. We pray that God will direct these elections and help establish a leader who knows Him and will pull this country out of the deep sludge of corruption and exploitation by political elites.

God at Work

At times it becomes difficult to continue praying for Beni. God’s word tells us that our prayers have authority, and yet it is difficult to pray when the situations remains unchanged or even worsens. One thing we have to remember is that God still hears our prayers and uses us in these times for his purposes. Othy and I were reminded in talking with the rector of UCBC, that Congo Initiative and the university were started in a time of war. The seed was planted in a time of lamentation when enough was enough. And now the university has had its ten year anniversary and has impacted countless lives. And so we must keep working even through dark times, even though we cry out asking why this is happening again. God did not wait until a time of peace to send his son Jesus into the world. Christ came into a very messy situation to seek out the sick and the lost.

Despite the difficulties, UCBC has started classes and has taken measures to give staff and students a safe working and learning environment. They recently obtained a property in town, City Campus, where they have decided to run classes because the main campus is in an area on the outskirts of town that has experienced insecurity. For Giving Tuesday, CI raised a few thousand dollars to purchase tents to set up at the new campus to be able to accommodate more classes. They also had a special service day where staff and students gathered together to clean up the property. Another part of CI that is very active at this time is the Bethesda Counselling Center who are providing support services for grief and trauma resulting from the ebola and insecurity. Although international staff are currently away from Beni, they are still working from afar on their regular tasks, and also pursuing new partnerships and initiatives. One such initiative is being headed up by our friend Ben Lawson to raise money for lab equipment to support the transition of the faculty to active-learning classrooms. For Christmas this year, please consider contributing to one of the items on the Wish List of UCBC Applied Sciences that will help equip future Congolese leaders!

Prayer requests

Praises:

  • Othy and I are married and family and friends were able to travel safely and celebrate with us
  • We had a relaxing and enjoyable honeymoon and have enjoyed our first month of life together
  • We have a temporary place to call home in Uganda
  • UCBC found a property in the city to use for classes and the ebola and insecurity has not directly affected anyone in the community

Petitions:

  • Pray for peace and healing to come to Beni
  • Pray for ongoing protection of CI-UCBC community as they continue their work and service in the community
  • Pray for smooth and fair elections to happen on December 23rd
  • Pray for discernment for Othy and I as we decide how we can best continue serving CI from a distance and resolve our finances
  • Pray that we continue to grow in the knowledge and grace of God as a couple and discover how to use our gifts and serve together in this new season of life
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