A service and Q&A in Kinshasa

Trip Start Feb 13, 2011
Trip End Mar 14, 2011

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Where I stayed

Flag of Congo - The Dem. Repub.  , Kinshasa,
Saturday, March 12, 2011

This morning I splurged and had a real breakfast. Once during my stay wouldn't be too much. It was very enjoyable: fresh fruit and excellent coffee among other things. My stomach appears to be almost back to normal now and is not causing any discomfort.

I was ready to leave at 08:30 and Justin was on time. We drove through the morning traffic with no slowdowns and reached the hall before 09:00. As usual not many had made it there by that time, so we waited. To use the time as well as we could, I started an impromptu interactive Bible Study. We went through various scriptures, mostly proverbs and I asked them to explain them to me. I picked several that seemed to contradict each other so we had a lively and fun discussion as well as educational.

We were able to begin services at 09:45. After several hymns and an opening prayer, Justin gave a sermonette Luke 10:38-42 about making wise choices. He spoke in Lingala mostly but read the scriptures in French, and threw in an occasional sentence in French, so I could follow the gist of the message. It was good and solid.

After more hymns – they've learned our traditional hymns very well now – I spoke once again about the purpose of the Church. I kept my wool suit jacket on out of respect for the day even though it was quite hot. I was quite moist by the end of the service, and as soon as it was over I took my jacket and tie off.

We took a short break to stretch and then held the ceremony for the blessing of the little children. There were two little girls to be blessed: Perfect Pembelongo, and Marvel Tshikuma-Manenga. Marvel was only a week old, so I left her in her mothers arms during the prayer. With names like Perfect and Marvel, this should be quite a generation in Kinshasa!

We took a short break to stretch and move about and then came back for a Q&A session about the situation in the various associations. Most of them were practical in nature: is there still chance of reconciliation? What will the organizational structure look like? What are you doing to try to prevent this from happening again in the future? I answered to the best of my ability, though in some cases I wasn’t able to give a definitive answer as it would have required my foreseeing the future.

When the questions finally ended, and everyone started for home, Jacob arrived just before we left. He had come straight from the airport. He had finished his work the day before but his return flight was this morning. Jacob, Justin and Victor and I drove back to the hotel. On the way we hit the usual chaotic traffic, cars going in every direction, no discernable lanes, cars and vans driving on the wrong side of the road to get an advantage in moving forward. In the middle of all this traffic organized like a plate of spaghetti, a policewoman picked out our drive and whistled for his to stop. There was a loud exchange in Lingala and, after he saw his protests would be of now use he handed over a bill. It was rather unusual to have this happen in the open in front of the car, usually the bribe gets passed a little more discretely – but not in Kinshasa! I head the men in the back seat chuckle, so after we drove off I asked what the officer had said. It turns out she "cited" him for changing lanes without using his turn signal! Yeah right.

Finally at the hotel, we found a table and chairs in the air conditioning and discussed the situation once again. We talked not only of the international church situation, but also particular needs in the Congo. The economy is so poor, and the government so poorly at present run that civil servants like the three men before me hadn’t been paid in six months. Many people are going hungry, and much of Kinshasa is living from hand to mouth. They wanted me to know how serious and difficult this situation had become. They also wished to discuss ways to improve the stability of the congregation in Kinshasa. We had a serious and helpful discussion for over an hour. This is one of the things that need to be done each time I come. It’s very hard to stay current with situations and needs like this remotely.

I asked them to put some things down on paper so I could get an overview of needs, and ask if they would prefer to go over later this evening or tomorrow morning; they preferred the latter. So we will meet again tomorrow morning, and look to find appropriate and effective ways to help the church members here.

So I have the rest of the afternoon to rest, what a luxury! There is still work to be done tomorrow morning, so I can’t totally relax yet, like I will tomorrow night once I’m on the plane, wheels up. But this trip is nearing its completion and that brings a very good feeling.
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Clyde Kilough on

Good evening (your time) Joel. Glad you're getting a brief rest and respite. Thank you for your service, and also for your family's sacrifice in having you gone for so long. And thanks for these updates. Without personal information like this we are less likely (or even able) to have some degree of comprehension about what life is like for our brethren. God speed.

Victor Goforth on

It shows us how blessed we really are here in the USA. The people in the Congo are going through trials that I doubt many of us could endure. God bless his people there and God bless you Mr. Meeker. Be safe.

Mary Coffman on

So very glad to hear that your digestive system has finally recovered. I know God has to put a hedge about you to protect you as much as you have been. Thanks for all your sacrifice and that of your family to serve God and the Church as you do. Have a safe trip home. Thanks again for the travel blog. It's like being there, along your side and looking over your shoulder and getting a glimpse into the lives of our family so very far away.

Loma and Roma Miller on

thanks for everything you are doing. glad your stomach is better.

Jill Clouthier on

Dear Mr. Meeker,

Thank you so much for keeping us updated on your travels. It helps us to pray more fervently and specifically.

Thank you for your sacrifice and dilignce and that of your family to support you and for your, and their, love for the brethren wherever they are located.

thefaiths on

Dear Joel,
Thanks for letting us come along with you. It has been inspiring and adventurous and made us acutely aware of what you endure to serve our fellow brethren. These brethren are truly amazing, faithful and courageous and are a good example for the rest of us in their dedication to be the best they can be in all situations. Thank you, Joel, for sharing them with us and we thank you and your family for your service of love. Looking forward to your safe return home. Much love.

Lisa on

I know that it has been a long and sometimes tedious trip for you, but for those of us who have been following along every day, we will miss reading your updates. I want to thank you and your family for the sacrifices you have all made to make this journey possible. I have to say that I thought I'd seen my favorite pictures the other day, from Reunion Island, but what a Perfect Marvel it was to see the blessing of these two little girls. Priceless!

Lee Dolby on

Hello Mr. Meeker!
I am writing Sunday night so you surely have completed your day and are already "wheels up" and relaxing. I don't know your itinerary for certain, so I don't know if this means you are in transit to the USA.
What an incredible, extensive "tour". I find myself growing anxious for you; for your tour to end, and for you to return home safely. As so many people have said on this blog, we are very grateful for your service and dedication, and for the sacrifice of yourself and your family over the course of these past four (?) weeks.
Godspeed your safe trip home ....... and, if I'm lucky, I'll have the chance to see you Stateside again.

Margaret Howard on

Thank you Mr. Meeker for your service to God's people. Thank you for your reports; they give us a better idea of what to pray for for these people.

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