Thursday, October 8, 2015

Transforming Mission: Missions is always Personal (PART TWO)

Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

Missions is always personal. This statement does not deny the corporate and collective responsibility and involvement of the Church, but it serves to stress the necessary personal dimension of Christian missions. As we saw in our last blog post, "missions is personal" in how the various expressions of Christian mission are so often connected with the passions and sense of calling in the lives of individual people. 

Secondly, missions is personal in respect to how missions touches and changes the lives of individuals who experience new hope, healing and restoration. 

But thirdly, missions is personal because Christian missions flows from the personal mission of God. What many Christians refer to as the Missio Dei. We see God's passion and desire for the redemption of all things throughout the Scriptures, but most clearly in the life and ministry of Jesus. As pastor  and author Erwin McManus put so powerfully:
“Jesus did not come into this world and live His life on a mountaintop isolated from human suffering. He walked among us, ate with us, and shared in our humanity. He did not heal lepers form a distance, but touched them into wholeness. He pressed His disciples and prayed for them to be in the world but not of the world. The focus of their three years together was not the salvation of the Twelve, but their ministry to the entire planet.”  (Uprising A Revolution of the Soul, 2003, p. 111)
We believe that same great movement is alive today. Joining God in God's great redemptive story is what missions is all about. We are happy to share with you the second part in our conversation with leaders from Canadian Baptist Ministries partner church in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We hope you will be encouraged by the shape missions is taking in these communities.

Christian Kambale

Kambale is a lawyer who has served as the assistant to the president of the CBCA and coordinates peace and justice initiatives for the denomination. During our time together in September, Kambale shared about the impact of these ministries in the life of people in his church and community.

"I work with a team of two other lawyers to give legal advice and to serve as advocates for the members of the church," shares Kambale. "We call this our judicial clinic. Whenever possible we seek reconciliation outside of the courts, but there are times when we must go to the tribunal court, but this always takes so long and we must spend much money. So, we try to help people find solutions to their problems under the umbrella of the church first."

Legal disputes are deeply personal issues for people who struggle with problems such as land ownership, and domestic disagreements. One of the big areas that Kambale and the church are helping people is in the area of sexual violence and assault.

"With the women's department, we come along side the rape survivors ministry. We provide training for them on sexual violence in Congolese law. As we receive them we hear their story, gather evidence and seek justice. Because of this ministry more than ten rapists have been arrest by the police in the past three years. This means so much to the women and families affected, and sends an important message through the community."

Canadian Baptist Ministries has come along side the CBCA in supporting this important work. The primary project that we are working with together is a peace and reconciliation program that Kambale is overseeing in his area. As Kambale shares:

"We are committed to prevention of crisis and participation of youth in peace for Eastern DRC. To this end we are training young people in peace skills... Conflicts are ongoing in our area, and young people are highly affected. So often rebel groups target these young people and these groups create a bad situation and violent behaviours.  
The project is designed to train them in peace skills to face challenges of war and violence. It is our hope that these young people will be peace makers and train others for the future of this country. And that is exactly what has been happening!
We now have 27 peace clubs, each with 30 young people, with boys and girls. They have been trained in leadership, mobilization, peace skills and conflict management. And over the past two years they have organized on their own outreach through drama, poetry, sports, and tree planting. And of course music, which is a great gift from God to the Congolese people. They have gone to 12 parishes and 15 schools. 
We have been surprised by what the youth are doing. Now they have created ten more peace clubs in locations beyond Goma, some are even 27 kilometres away. Some have even crossed over to Rwanda and created 3 new peace clubs in the town of Gesenyi. 
It may be a small project, but it has had a big impact. These groups of young people are fighting false rumours and prejudice. They are arranging exchanges between the Rwandan and Congolese young people.  
This is important because people are not well informed. There are myths and rumours that can destroy the mindsets of our young people. That is why we have trained them to get good information. To confront negative messages between Rwandan and Congolese people. They are breaking down the walls of distrust."

Jonas Kambale Musamba

Jonas is one of the coordinators of evangelism for the CBCA,  in addition he is also working with the CBCA Bible Schools and School of Theology. Jonas is also a student in the Canadian Baptist ministries Certificate of Integral Mission program and a doctoral candidate in the CBM/Carey Theological College Doctor of Ministry program in Africa.

Through Jonas' leadership, the Church is changing the way it understands and practices evangelism.
"Through evangelism, I am passionate about helping pastors to accomplish their mission according to their context. This happens in the class room, in seminars, and in pastoral exchanges. I am supervising pastoral ministry in 18 districts... I want pastors to find what approach is best in a place of long time war and conflict. This is what I have been studying with CBM and what I have trying to do with our church...
This means that we must listen and care about what people are feeling and thinking. Preaching in the church is not enough. People need individual care. They must be listened to. This happens both one on one and through group support. The small group of care and empowerment is important. It is there that we want to see pastors knowing the real problem and to shepherd people as they find effective solutions."

For the CBCA, evangelism is about bringing the Whole Gospel in word and deed into the the beauty and brokenness of the lives of people. For Jonas, evangelism is also about compassionate christians moving within a community for the good of the people. As he shares:

"Most people in Congo think of evangelism as a big crusade to increase church membership, but our strategies must not only be quantitative but qualitative. It is not either/or, but BOTH!  
In the past the church has focused on quantity. It was like people shared the message of John the Baptist "Repent and come to Jesus!" 
...But today we are more focused on quality, as we send missionaries with a small group that grows a chapel in a community. They go with a Bible and a hoe. They take a business and the Bible. And they join a community and seek ways to make it better for the people who live there. Today we have more than 100 of these chapels. They are bringing change in the lives of people."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Transforming Mission: Missions is always Personal (PART ONE)

Polisi Kivava and Jean Pierre Kanyamunyu 
serving with the Baptist Community of Central Africa 
in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

Christian missions takes many shapes and forms. We are continually amazed by the creativity and resourcefulness of churches working to bring about change in their home areas and throughout the world. The scale of Christian missions is incredibly broad. And yet, at the heart of every missionary endeavour the Church touches people both corporately and personally. Even the largest programs that are designed to bring about transformation to a community or region come down to the impact on individual lives. And the best work happens when people recognize the personal dimensions of the ministry they are a part of.

This past month, we had the joy of visiting with leaders from the ten projects that Canadian Baptist Ministries is currently partnering with in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Our partner church is the Communaute Baptiste au Centre de L'Afrique (CBCA) a large indigenous denomination that spans the DRC. The CBCA embraces five central pillars to Christian mission, namely: evangelism, development, diaconia, advocacy, and partnership. 

Sitting down with these leaders, we spoke about the dimensions of the work that we are doing together in Africa. We are happy to share with you some of that conversation in a two-part blog.

The Lausanne statement of missions "The Whole Church bringing the Whole Gospel to the Whole World" can seem pretty daunting. But as our friends from CBCA explain, even large movements of people come back to the power of personal interactions and sharing.

"I believe that missions is from everywhere to everywhere!" shares Kivava. "No longer is missions simply a movement from the North to the South. Today, missions is a constant exchange of South to South, South to North, North to South, and even North to North. In CBCA we see how missions draws us to partnership with other believers. 

This has led us to exchanges of choirs, pastors, theologians, evangelists, and community development workers... We share and learn from one another. Whether this happens with people from within Congo or with our brothers and sisters from Burundi, Rwanda, Canada, or Germany, it is all about coming to know one another personally as the Body of Christ."

One of Kivava's great passions has been helping people living with disability. This has been a tremendous challenge as so much of the church and community of DRC live in remote areas with little infrastructure. 

"We noticed that there was no support for people with disability. As we spoke with parents, it was obvious that many of them were ashamed. They thought it was a curse to have a child born blind or deaf. And so the Church has sought to celebrate the dignity of all people, including the disabled. We provide support and opportunity for the disabled to learn skills that match their capacity. A young man or woman who can not walk can still use their hands. The deaf can still build furniture, make shoes and learn to garden.... many come with chains on their hands, but go back with a hammer. Together we are fighting prejudice and marginalization!"

 Jean Pierre

Jean Pierre, his wife Louisa and their seven children live in Goma near the shores of Lake Kivu, but his ministry as a program officer for community development brings him to all 18 Districts of the Church throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo. He must travel across dense jungle and insecure areas in his field that spans over a thousand kilometres. But he strengthened by his passion "to help people".

"Development happens not out there but within one's self. I do not just accompany the community, but I help vulnerable people for their own development... we are here to help build self reliance."

The newest district of the CBCA is a heavily forested area called Buyinga. Here the great jungles that are home to gorilla and primates spread out in the vast lands beneath the great volcanos of Eastern DRC. There are few roads and little infrastructure to support the people who are living in this remote area. The church has been listening to the felt needs of the people and have responded by joining them in efforts to improve their lives. As Jean Pierre shares:

"There are many needs in Buyinga. We have been helping people improve agriculture and animal husbandry... There are now 17 parishes in this completely rural district, and many small church plants or chapels in the Equatorial forest. We are preaching the word of God, but also helping them improve their food security and education. 

Through the conservation agriculture technologies that we are learning from Canadian Baptists and the Canadian Food Grains Bank we are helping them improve their soil and food production. We've introduced new crops in the lowlands, and the people are now producing cabbage, carrots, onions, cassava... and most importantly they are fighting the banana wilt bacteria. It is amazing to see banana coming back. 

...People are eating these foods, but farmers are also selling them. One farmer sold enough cabbage this year to buy a motorcycle. Later this year, will be the first cassava harvest. We are praying that God blesses the work of their hands.

...We have also started the first secondary school that we built from timber and two primary schools as well. There are now more than 360 children in these schools. It is an important start.

... We also have established two new health centres. These are stations built by the people of the community themselves, that we have helped them finish. One of the health centres even has a working operating theatre."

Judith  Kahindo

Judith is a member of the women's department of the CBCA and has worked in the areas of health, relief, and community development serving street children and people displaced and wounded by the ravages of war and sexual violence. Currently she is serving 612 women and children in the rape survivors ministry. During our time together, Judith talked about this important work:

"I am passionate about social justice," shares Judith. "Sexual violence remains a problem. In the war it became a weapon of humiliation, and still today there are gangs and militia that use it. We as the Church are supporting rape survivors in four main ways. First through trauma healing and counselling. The survivors feel shame, they feel hurt, and hopeless. They need someone to listen with them. Cry with them. Pray with them... We help each person with healing.

       Secondly, we provide medical support and care. Through our health programs we give consultation and treatment. 

       Thirdly, we help through sensitization against gender violence. This about prevention, and mediation among families to educate them and the children. Rape has a lot of stigma in our communities. Families can blame the victims and even turn away from them and reject their children. 

      And fourthly, we seek to support the survivors with socio/economic integration. In Goma, for example, rape survivors are starting small business and agriculture. Other groups are making bricks to sell. Others are milling grains. There is one group in Muku where the women are making and selling cooking stoves that use less wood and are better for the environment."

The work of Judith and the churches that are a part of the rape survivors ministry is deeply personal. Few families in Kivu have escaped the affects of rape and war. By addressing the issue and entering into relationship with individual survivors, the Church is seeing sexual violence through perspective of individual stories. By ensuring that the issue of sexual violence is both a corporate and a personal concern, people are witnessing the power of God to transform the devastation of rape into hope and new life. Judith's somber demeanour changes as she shifts from talking about the horrendous acts of violence to the impact that the mission of God is having in the lives of the women and children she works with.

"When a woman is healing and there is no more stigma, she is able to return to the fields and to the market. She is able to walk with other women and break the silence! Break the shame! She has the strength to talk about it. She no longer hides. She is alive again!"

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Ava's 9th Birthday

Celebrating Ava's 9th Birthday

October always begins with a party in the Kenny family, as Ava's birthday is October 1st. There has been a nasty bug around this week, so we almost didn't have a birthday celebration with the kids being so sick. But everyone is rallying and on the mend.

As Rosslyn starts the school year in early August, our children are nearing the end of the first school quarter on October 9th. The year is speeding by!

Ava, now in third grade, is finally old enough to join the after school intramural sports program. Her "blue team" has been undefeated in football (soccer). They are a mighty force to reckon with on the field!

Ava is also having a blast with after school dance and gymnastics. It is a big year for Ava, who is finally putting all her cartwheels and boogie-woogie into action.

A great evening with friends