A United Methodist Church schoolroom in North Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo
Photo courtesy of UMC North Katanga Development Office
By David Tereshchuk*
July 23, 2012—The seemingly endless, intractable problems of the Democratic Republic of Congo, suffering the effects from two decades of brutal civil war, present huge challenges to everyone who wants to help.
United Methodists recently participated in an innovative and thorough review of humanitarian effort in the strife-torn country. One portion of it was held in the city of Kamina under the auspices of the United Methodist Church’s North Katanga Episcopal Area.
This North Katanga Roundtable brought together local aid and development workers along with representatives of their international partner agencies, including Connexio, the Swiss-based aid division of European United Methodism, as well as the United Methodist West Ohio Annual Conference’s Women’s Division—and, of course, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Everyone present at the two-day event last May focused on the vision, mission, challenges, and strategies that could be pursued for further improving mission and ministry.
“It was important to gather as many partners and stakeholders as possible in one place at one time,” said UMCOR’s chief, Cynthia Fierro Harvey, who was there also as a Cabinet member of the General Board of Global Ministries. “By having firsthand discussions with each other on-site, we were able to deepen our work with our Congolese partners.”
Discussion and review were focused on the areas of health, education, ministry with the poor, and church development, assessing and confronting many of those areas’ difficulties and opportunities.
Fresh emphasis developed for work aimed at helping Congolese communities to better care for themselves, ensuring through seminars and workshops that strategies and practices are adopted to avoid endemic diseases, and encouraging genuinely sustainable social development, with particular concentration on developing local capacities.
In the vital area of agriculture, training in the use of both organic and chemical fertilizers was re-prioritized, along with a full appreciation for environmental concerns. The improvement of seed stock was re-emphasized, as well, plus increased cultivation of the moringa tree to counter malnutrition, since every part—from its seedpods and leaves to its bark and roots—can provide lifesaving nourishment.
And in education, participants committed to the aim of building new schools in each of North Katanga’s districts, employing more durable materials than generally have been used before.
North Katanga’s Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda expressed his conviction that “It is in joining our hands and putting our efforts together that we clearly grasp the vision for a bright future.”
An equally rigorous and searching roundtable review took place in the Southern Katanga center of Lubumbashi, where Methodism’s roots are deep, dating back to 1917, with Bishop John Springer. A special emphasis in these sessions was placed upon health issues.
Away from the conference rooms, Rev. Harvey got a firsthand look at North CHECK Katanga’s ‘Wings of the Morning’ aviation and health ministry. She recalled, “To ride in that four-seat Cessna across all that terribly inaccessible terrain, and in one-and-one-half hours complete a journey that by land would have taken up to five days really brought home the significance of that ministry.”
Altogether the roundtables in the Democratic Republic of the Congo gave everyone involved the chance, in Rev. Harvey’s words, “to re-affirm the importance of the work, and to clarify our priorities and purposes.”
Your gift to Congo (DRC) Emergency, UMCOR Advance #198400, supports UMCOR’s accompaniment of the Congolese people.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic and a regular contributor to umcor.org.