By Kara Witherow, Editor
Joy. Passion. Radical hospitality. Relevance.
That’s what six South Georgia United Methodists found earlier this month when they traveled to the North Katanga Annual Conference, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
There to explore a new mission partnership with the conference, the team met with Bishop Mande Muyombo and learned about his three main initiatives: church planting, the Kamisamba Farm and Training Centre, and an orphanage. The group toured the farm and orphanage to gain a better understanding and perspective of the work and ministry being done.
During the eight-day trip, the South Georgia team also participated in the dedication and ribbon cutting of a new Global Ministries (GBGM) hospital in Kamina. They visited several other medical facilities, villages, and churches throughout the DRC and worshiped with fellow believers.
Regardless of how the South Georgia Conference will partner with the North Katanga Annual Conference – whether to offer farming expertise, leadership development resources, or something else – Dr. Nita Crump stressed that a partnership is being developed between the two conferences and that both will benefit from the relationship.
“We aren’t going over to tell them how to do something,” said Dr. Crump, director of Connectional Ministries. “We’re not going over to help support them. We are developing a partnership where we help them accomplish their goals and they help us accomplish ours. They have as much to offer us as we have to offer them.”
During South Georgia’s 2019 Annual Conference session, the conference approved a proposal that allows for the use of funds originally collected for the East Africa Annual Conference partnership to now be used to explore a partnership with the North Katanga Annual Conference. Of the $80,000 in the fund, about $4,000 was used for this trip, Dr. Crump said.
Accompanying Dr. Crump on the trip were Allison Lindsey, associate director of Connectional Ministries; Rev. Paula Lewis, superintendent of the South Central District; Dr. Lee Pettis, pastor of Soperton and Landsburg United Methodist Churches and a representative of the Northeast District; Rev. Joseph Carter, pastor of Homerville United Methodist Church and representative of the South Central District; and Rev. Christy Bandy, pastor of Cairo First United Methodist Church and representative of the Southwest District.
While he observed a lack of material resources while in the DRC, Dr. Pettis said that joy was abundant.
“There are so many needs in North Katanga, but there’s one thing they don’t need and that’s the joy of worshiping Jesus Christ and praising the Lord.”
The churches are the center of the community, and even though most are small with dirt floors, they pack hundreds of people in for worship. Dr. Pettis was amazed at the effort made by villagers who pound rocks to make bricks for church walls.
“How many people here would pound rocks to make bricks to build a church? I think we could learn something there about their perseverance,” he said. “It really touched us all to see their passion for Jesus.”
Rev. Carter was overwhelmed by the joy and authenticity he saw. It was almost indescribable, he said, and made him take a hard look at his own faith journey.
“Do we have that raw, authentic joy for being with God?”
He also saw the daily significance of the church, how it is relevant in a way that many in the U.S. aren’t.
“The church is very relevant in their lives,” he said, explaining that churches often have water wells and sometimes even clinics and schools. “That’s why they go. They make a practice of turning to the church, turning to God, to meet their needs. That’s the first place they turn.”
While there is still much to be decided about South Georgia’s partnership with the North Katanga Annual Conference, one thing seems clear: there is as much to learn from our brothers and sisters as there is to teach.
“A lot of us entered into this with thoughts of what we could offer and how we could help,” Rev. Carter said. “We came away with the clear idea that they have a lot more to offer to us than we could ever offer them.”
This group will continue to meet and communicate next steps for the conference and will present a report at the 2020 Annual Conference session.