Good Morning from the Congo!
Written by Janet Helms
Today is Tuesday, October 7th. It is 6:30 am and I am sitting on the porch overlooking the Congo river. Words cannot describe its beauty. It isn’t that it is the most scenic place but it is the feeling and the life of it that makes it special. From here I can hear voices all around, the sound of children laughing and singing waft up to greet me as I have my morning quiet time. Canoes travel by up and down the river full of men, women, families…all on their way somewhere to make today’s living. Many wave when they see me up the hill and call out in Lingala, all with bright smiles on their faces.
Besides being overwhelmed with the sights and sounds, as Mark so eloquently shared with you, the emotions that we have experienced are also overwhelming. As we first rode through Mbandaka from the airport, down the bumpy, dusty road, tears streamed down my face as I stared out the side window. It was beyond anything that I had imagined I am certain that all of us were moved by the first sights of this place that has been in our dreams for over a year. There was silence in the car as we tried to take it all in.
Mark is doing such a great job of detailing our journey I thought I would just fill in with some moments. One such moment was with Mark himself. When we first arrived at the guest house and were getting settled I took a walk down towards the river. The guest house sits up on a hill and though fenced and unable to get directly to the river without going through a gate, you can walk part way down the hill and get closer to the boats and water. Mark caught up with me underneath one of the big beautiful trees. He bump his shoulder next time mine and said “we’re here”. I told him “I think I’m going to lose it”, and he responded with “and you should”. So, though I didn’t sit down and cry underneath that tree overlooking the Congo river I did allow the tears to stream down my face and take in the emotions that surrounding me. This is where God has lead us!
The two church services that we have attended so far have been very emotional. The Sunday service was one of the most spectacular events of my life . Again, tears streamed down my face for the first hour of the service but it was with a constant smile on my face. Mark has described the beautiful events of the worship with the music being a focal point. Interestingly we didn’t need to know the language to be able to worship. We were one with God and it showed in the faces of the six of us. Through tears and smiles we danced and sang with the Congolese. I wasn’t ready to leave 4 hours later. How could we stop this joyous celebration of God’s love? What I am learning is these people don’t stop celebrating when they leave church. This joy goes with them and they share it freely. We have a thing or two to learn from them. Let’s never leave our church building on Second Street in Edmond, Oklahoma without taking the joy with us and sharing it freely!
I was honored to be able to speak at this Sunday service and the smaller Monday service. I attempted to share that I felt that God had lead us to this place. And we were honored to be their guests. Humbled and in awe I stood before them feeling inadequate. I have so much to learn from them! This Monday’s sermon was tied specifically to our water project. As the sermon was being translated to us Frank turns to me with tears in his eyes and takes my hand. Here we sit in a chapel in Mbandaka Congo being honored by the beautiful people knowing that this is all God’s plan!
We have been doing our daily devotional each night. The group gets together and we take turns reading the scripture and the study. Without fail every single one has been appropriate for us. The strength and encouragement we receive from these are a direct result of the love that our congregation has extended to us. We also open up the discussion for any thoughts and concerns that we have that day. So far there have been no major issues. I personally am having a difficult time not communicating with my family but I am trying to embrace being here and not being distracted by home. I pray that God is taking care of everyone and that my heart will be soothed.
One final note for today….this group is nuts! We are treating each other like one big family which includes much teasing and joking. There have been a lot of laughs. God knew what he was doing when he put us together. I’ve been sworn to secrecy so I can’t share specifics but once I’m out of the line of fire I might be able to tell on my friends! But keep that between you and I so no one puts a bat in my room tonight.