Officially the war is over…officially. The Second Congo War began in July 1998 or just a little more than a year after the First Congo War ended…officially. The Second Congo War (also known as the Great War of Africa or the African World War) ended in either 2002, 2003, or 2005 depending on who you read. The confusion stems from the number of countries and armed factions involved in the fighting. When the war ended depends on how many of those nations and armed groups withdraw from the fighting. Is the war over if half the groups stop or do all have to stop before the war is over?
Whether the war is "official" or not, armed groups still fight for power in Congo, particularly along the border of Rwanda. The short film below was shot in 2012. You can decide for yourself if the war ever ended.
What is not in dispute is the devastation the war has caused. It's difficult to count the number who have died, since bullets and rockets aren't the only things that kill. It is estimated that in 2004, approximately 1,000 people a day died from easily preventable cases of malnutrition and disease in The Democratic Republic of Congo (or Congo DR, which is different than the Republic of Congo). While they weren't killed in the fighting, it was the war that killed them just the same. And even though it's not official, the war continues to this day.
What's this got to do with me?
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. 1Cor. 12:12–22 NIV 84
When we see the villagers running for cover and hear of the horrors of the refuge camps (officially known as IDCs — Internally Displaced Camps), it's easy to forget that some of these are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
When the war broke out (I'm speaking of the First Congo War), the majority of western missionaries fled. Those that didn't, lasted until the outbreak of the Second Congo War. Unfortunately, without the support of western missionaries, the beleaguered pastors had no help in ministering to their flocks. Almost none of the national pastors in either Congo DR or Burundi have had any formal training whatsoever. The missionaries were no longer available to help them understand the fundamental truths of God's Word. That assumes, of course, that they have Bibles, which many of them don't. Of those that do, many can't read them because they can't afford the glasses that older men require.
So the church in the Congo basin was basically left to fend for themselves.
I became involved when my friend, Floribert Kazingufu, told me about how many Health/Wealth preachers were coming to Africa from North America. He said, "We know they are not telling us the truth, but we don't know what the truth is. You must come and tell us what to believe and we will believe it." How could I say no?
So for the last five years or so I've traveled to Bujumbura, Burundi to meet with Flory, and I've taught the pastors basic bible doctrine. He organized a group of churches so that they could strengthen each other. The "Network of Missionary Churches in Christ" (REMAC—it's a French thing) have received a doctrinal statement in Swahili and I have been teaching it to the pastors, section by section.
In Africa when someone hears something new that is wonderful and marvelous, they laugh. They aren't laughing because they find something funny. They laugh with joy. I've found this is a common (and welcome) response to my teaching. What people in the States take for granted is often new and exiciting for them.
On of the biggest hindrances to REMAC is their rented church buildings. They have thatched roofs and mud floors. The Roman Catholic and Pentecostal churches point to these crude buildings and insist this is a sign that REMAC is a cult. "If they were a real church, they'd have their own land and a proper building…like us!"
What Can You Do?
First and foremost, we covet you prayers. We desire that you pray for our safety, since the situation into which we go is tenuous to say the least. We desire that the pastors receive the training with open hearts and pure hands. We ask that you pray that in all things, God's will receive the glory.
Second, for a gift of $3000 (US dollars), the local congregations of REMAC can purchase land and build a building that won't hinder the spread of the gospel. The total cost is more like $3500, but Flory and I felt it was better if the local church put up some of the money. Think about it: what does $500 look like to someone earning $600 per year. Five hundred dollars to a Burundian looks like $36,000 to an American. Let's just say it's a huge investment on their part. Likewise, the church members will be doing most of the work themselves. This gets the local congregation involved and helps strengthen the church.
This year my daugher Elizabeth is going with me. This will be her second trip. Her main purpose is to document the ministry of REMAC so that we may tell their story more effectively. The cost of travel for both of us is about $3500.00 …each.
The truth is we cannot do this without God helping us with the finances. I say God helping us because I am trusting he will provide for this work whether or not each individual who reads this contributes (via the PayPal link below) or not. But I so want as many as possible to receive the blessing that comes with participating in God's work. I want you to generate thanksgiving to God as other parts of the body give thanks for you! As Paul says,
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Cor 9:12–15