a blog for the summer missions training team from Bethel Baptist Church

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A word from Gregg (finally!)

It seems like ages since Russell first asked about the possibility of Bethel sending a team to encourage us in our work in Congo. The issue hindering a team from having significant ministry input has always been language. They speak over 200 of them in the country but none are English. So I thought maybe it would be possible to do something for Congolese secondary school students who have to learn English as part of their curriculum. We sketched out a preliminary scenario, presented it to the church in the DRC and the idea of an English Bible Camp was born.

From the beginning my desire had been that any team from the US see themselves as learners more than teachers. I think the question posed to Vicki as the team landed in Uganda, "What do Americans know about God?" helped everyone keep that in perspective. Amber's testimony to the Congolese at the end of the camp "We have learned so much from you" confirmed it. The body of Christ is made up of many parts and we all need and learn from each other.

It was such an encouragement to the Congolese students that you were willing to take your vacation time and raise the money needed to come out, help them with English and study the word together. They saw that not all American youth are like the ones in magazines and in the movies. You were living examples that it is possible "to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation." Your visit and testimony won't be quickly forgotten!

This brief experience in Africa will help you look at the world from a new perspective. Karen and I wonder how God will use it to direct your future. We look forward to hearing what he'll do in your lives and how you will continue to shine "as lights in the world."

Thanks for your involvement with us in Congo for God's glory.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Dear friends and family -

Thank you so much for your faithful prayers these past few weeks, months, and years leading up to our trip to Congo. We are praising God for what he has done in the hearts and lives of the team, the church, the missionaries, and the students and leaders in Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo.

After a week of English Bible Camp and several days of debriefing and decompressing in the beautiful Great Rift Valley of Uganda, the team has now returned safely to the US for wonderful reunions. We began our journey first thing on Thursday morning, and ended it nearly 24 hours later after flying through London into JFK and driving for four hours to the church parking lot.

Please continue to pray for the half of the team that stayed behind to shadow Gregg and Karen and enjoy continued fellowship with their families, and also for those who have returned that they would adjust to life in the US. We look forward to seeing many of you at the full report we make to the church on Sunday, July 29.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bunia - A poem by Bethany


Once a small city
Prosperous, quaint and pretty
Brothers lived in love and unity.

But one day
The peace of this place fell away
And all left was war and decay.

Friend against friend
To the grave they would send
And to this bloodshed there was no end.

Under the same sun
Where brothers would run
Now is but a red machete and gun.

One is shorter, one is tall
When young, they played with the same ball
Now, in their brother's blood they fall.

Over land and grazing grounds they fought
And their own gain they sought
But slaughtered for naught.

Families separated in flight
Thousands killed every night
Their hatred grew in might.

They used their victims for witchcraft
Tortured, dismembered and decapitated them as they laughed
And openly terrorised others with their evil craft.

Five years the two tribes waged war
Until there was but widow, orphan and poor
And prosperity was no more.

This city suffered after the battle
It's population displaced and wandering like cattle
It's working hands gone, dead or fragile.

Now as you walk by
There are still orphans who cry
There are still bullet-holes and blood stains on walls even if dry.

You can still see scars and wounds
Because even though it's been many moons
Those hurts cannot be put in tombs.

But there is hope for this city even if small
Even now, hatred and revenge will into memory fall
And Bunia will surprise all.

Please do not think this war was an exceptional case
And that the rest of the world lives in roses and lace
For you will be surprised to find in your place
Hatred, discrimination, slaughter for status or race
Whether it was, or is now, or will be along this race
Do not let it leave in your society any trace.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The End is Sweeter than the Beginnng

Hey Guys,
Africa has been amazing! From Bunia, Congo to Queen Elizabeth Park, Uganda.
We’ve seen some pretty sweet things. It has been s awesome to see how people love the Lord with all they have even when they’re going through some of life’s hardest trials. It’s also been a very humbling experience!

So we left Bunia on Sunday, which was hard to do because we all made great friends. Then we went to Kampala and stayed at this cute little place. Now we’re at QE Park! There are so many animals! Not a variety but a lot! (I don’t ever want to see a water buffalo again in my life!) There were so many deer type animals. I don’t know what they’re called but they all looked like deer to me. Also a lot of water buffalos. We saw Pumba and his family (warthogs). Kelly was very pleased with all of the elephants! Some were really close! The one thing that we all wanted to see didn’t come out and play! LIONS! It was very disappointing at the end of the day. But we got to spend the whole day gazing upon God’s beautiful creation, so I think we got over it!

Gazing upon His creation has been so wonderful to me personally. From the sun rises to the sun sets to the stars at night. I wish I could have captured the exact images because it’s been so beautiful and no one can explain them. The stars are so pretty and there’s so many! I saw my first planet!

Leaving Africa on Thursday is going to be very hard. We’re used to this culture it’s going to be weird to go home. I’m really looking forward to the food but I’ll miss the mystery of what I’ll be eating! It was kind of fun! Almost all of us have craved Charcoal Pit!

We’re all ready to come home but we’ll miss Africa! A little part of us is here forever!

Vicki (Team Encourager)

P.S. Happy Birthday to Mr. Foggy, Emery and Jenny!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Overlooking the Great Rift Valley


This morning most of our team woke up to some new and exciting things…warm showers, brewed coffee, milk and cereal! Matoke Inn certainly has been a wonderful ½ way point. But for me..it was a GREAT morning to see old views, catch-up with old friends, and just reminisce! Just getting up in the morning walking out and seeing the AIM office reminded me of every morning coming into the office!! Then Lyn, the admin for AIM headquarters, stopped in to see me!!!! It was great to see her again and hear what God has been doing here in Uganda….plus she was trying to entice me to come back for 6 months (December-May). Russell must have paid her off to see if he can get rid of me for a while!

Then I got to see Godfrey, the caretaker for the AIM office and Matoke Inn. He has become a father again and was very excited to tell me about his brand new daughter! I also got to see my good friends Shuni and Gizmo—the AIM dogs…I LOVE THEM!

We headed out after breakfast and drove with our driver Dennis (he has been such a great tour guide for our trip to QE) to Mbarara. In Mbarara, we stopped at a restaurant and met up with Russell’s friend from high school Renee Rose and her husband Nick and their 4 children. Renee had a special treat and had us come back to the house for chocolate/peanut butter brownies and sugar cookies. Nick’s parents have traveled out to Uganda numerous times and they have built a FORT in the back of the yard that would put any of our swing sets to shame! Oh yeah..and we broke their tire swing…I guess 3 teenagers weigh more then 4 little kids…who would have thought. Renee has enticed us back by promising our boys pancakes on Wednesday…so we’ll be back I think…at least Dan and Greg will be (parents…get food ready…they have definitely NOT been eating until they are full…but no complaints!)

We then headed to the game park and went to King Fischer, our hotel. I can’t begin to describe our view…but our rooms look OVER the Rift Valley!!!! Words can’t describe! And yes…we saw elephant the first night. But I’ll leave the rest of the game park description for Vicki for tomorrow!!!

Thank you for all of your prayers…they have been felt and have been needed! We love you all and can’t wait to see you in a few days!


Kelly (steward I.W.W.P.O.T)


Monday, July 09, 2007

The Reluctant Blogger

Hello from Africa! We have all been assigned days for the blog and my day has been to write something for today. So today has been a very busy day for the team. It was our last day in Bunia and our first day traveling back. We were concluding the main part of our mission while at the same time trying to find time to reflect on what we did. We are still trying to find quiet times to reflect—this has been a difficulty for the team because we have always been running from dawn till late with different ministry opportunities and/or team events and meetings. Certainly it will not be until after the trip is over that we will have time to really reflect upon everything that has been happening. But what is immediately evident is that God was in total control of the events and ministry throughout this entire week.

My one real prayer and hope is that the Word of God will be preached and presented boldly and clearly. Although I have not reflected too much on the details of how this has played out over the week, I do believe that God has enabled us and accomplished this prayer. We thank God for this opportunity to be involved in this and empowering us to be more then we otherwise would be. It has been on God’s strength this whole week has been possible, and therefore to Him goes all the glory.

God has been good to us as a team and individually. For myself, God has given me many joys and blessing, both big and small. A small example is that even from our flights to and from Bunia, God allowed me the chance to fly with the MAF pilots and to be the PIC (Pilot In Command) for almost 3 hours total. The flying aspect itself was a blessing, because we were flying over the African jungles and mountains, but the real blessing that God gave me was the fellowship with the missionary pilots. I was able to ask them questions about their own lives, about their ministries and about what God is doing with them and why they are in the field that they are. It was very insightful to me, since this is the occupation that I have been looking at for over a year. So even in the small areas of this trip, God has been blessing us. We are now going to begin our time of debriefing and fellowship, and we will pray that we will recognize God’s continued blessings as we travel to Uganda.

We appreciate your prayers and would like you to know that we are also praying for you. Hope you are all doing well and that God has been equally blessing you at home. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Your brother,

Dan (Team Chaplain)


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Off On Safari

Greetings to all our friends, family, and supporters...

We have arrived safely in Uganda from our week-long ministry trip to Democratic Republic of Congo, and are preparing for a long bus journey tomorrow to see African wildlife at Queen Elizabeth National Park. We will not have internet access for several days, but we will be recording our thoughts and observations to post once we get back to civilization.

Thank you so much for your prayers, your notes of encouragement, and everything else you have done to make this trip not just possible, but an incredible blessing for all. We are looking forward to seeing many of you in just a few short days.

- Russell for the team


Last Post from Bunia

Make sure that you catch Amber's testimony from yesterday. It was posted late. Today's guest blogger is Joanne (aka Mama Kahawa):

Jambo Sana!

It's Sunday morning and we are preparing to attend the local church services (in Swahili), drinking our tea, taking our daily malaria meds, and listening to the Congolese children in the chapel next door sing with their whole hearts. We all are a bit sad as we think about leaving Bunia this afternoon to head to Kampala, Uganda. It's been a week full of incredible experiences. Despite the instant coffee, "interesting" foods, scarce electricity, and only cold showers (imagine living in colonial America and you've got the picture), we have known deep joy as we have adjusted to this culture and have come to love many precious people who have persevered through war and atrocities that we only imagine.

The 50+ kids in our English Bible Camp are smart! Many know the rules of English better than most of us; they appreciate the practice speaking with us. They sing beautifully with strong voices and incredible harmony. The Bible teaching has been great as Pastor Kiningani is a gifted and passionate teacher (as well as a great volleyball player). Yesterday in our small groups, the kids shared their testimonies - that was a great accomplishment as most are very reserved and don't know one another or us very well. Greg and I were blessed to hear five of our seven students share their hearts and "confess with their mouths" that Jesus is Lord of their lives.

Pastor Kiningani received your gift of a new guitar yesterday with great appreciation*. Many thanks to your generosity to him, and to us as well, for allowing us the incredible joy and privilege of being here. Please continue to pray for the hearts of the people here in Bunia. We look forward to sharing their specific stories with you we we return. May our hearts be forever changed. God bless.

- Mama Lauren (Joanne) for the team
Isaiah 55:6-11

P.S. There are swarms of little children here, who have beautiful smiles and joyful hearts in the midst of their poverty. We have felt like celebrities each day as they run to the road and wave at the "mzungos" as we pass by. How we love these precious little ones.

editorial note from Russell - Pastor Kiningani was so proud of his new guitar he brought it to church this morning and shared testimony of your generosity with the whole church.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Testimony from Amber

As the day started, we are all aware that this is the last day of camp. We all want to do our best but what I found after reflecting on today and this last week was that I learned so much.

Today's topic was testimony; sharing how God has worked in your life. After the Bible teaching, we split into our discussion groups. At first, my group was quiet but after some talking and reading Scripture, the students started to share. They did not share in a way that was a 20-minute long testimony, but they were consistent in understanding God's grace in their life or listening to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

For example, one student talked about how while her family was in their home, the militia came to tear down the door. Knowing that if the door was torn down, they would have died, the student gave glory and honor to God because the militia could not break through and they were saved. She understood that it was God's grace in her life that saved her.

Another student explained that his friend gave him two guns to protect himself from the militia. He was convicted by the Holy Spirit that only by God can he be saved and returned the guns to his friend. He had that teachable spirit that was sensitive to His convictions.

Through all these troubles, trials and tribulations, the students are still joyful, knowing that God is in control. How often am I completely content and joyful in my God when things do not go how I would prefer? It is something to think about. What an example these students have been to me and what a faithful, gracious God we have.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Girding up the loins of our tastebuds

This week of camp has flown by! We can’t believe tomorrow is the last day! Please pray for us as we prepare to finish up the teaching and play some games with the kids tomorrow. A couple thoughts before Jess gives an update...

This week has been very humbling. I spoke to one student yesterday who speaks eight languages (we speak English and a few words of espanol), and the students often correct us on our grammar rules. We are so thankful that God uses even our mistakes! We have been teaching the kids some games in our small groups, like “Simon Says”, “If you’re happy and you know it,” and “I Spy”. It’s so funny to see twenty-year olds loving these games! The other day when we played “I Spy” in my group, one of the kids said he was “spying something yellow.” After exhausting all possibilities of yellow objects in the room, he told me he was talking about me! Another student was “spying something chocolate,” and a different student guessed that he was talking about his body. They keep us laughing and on our toes for sure! It’s so cool to see how passionate, appreciative, and excited all of the students are for the things we are talking about. It makes it so fun to teach! On a more serious note, these people have been such an amazing blessing to us! We have heard heart-wrenching war stories from many Congolese, and their faith and joy is almost unbelievable. Their smiles truly light up their faces, and their commitment to serve Christ after losing family members, being beaten, and even being stabbed by the militias has been a huge encouragement to us all. It has been amazing to realize how many people here are praying for us as well. Yesterday I was talking to Jonathon (a student previously mentioned by Greg who lives next to where we are staying). He was ill a few days ago, and I told him that we had been praying for him. “Well, I am praying for you too, so I guess we have been praying for each other,” he answered. Wow. And then, a lady stopped me when I was walking through the seminary and held my hand and told me so genuinely how much she had been praying for me and how she hoped that God would use this trip to work in my life and change my heart. I have no idea who she was.

We often catch ourselves speaking very slow English in accents to each other as well. One more thing it has been very surprising to see how much UN are here. We often see helicopters, trucks, tanks, and armed soldiers. I didn’t expect them to be so present.

We are all loving it here, are building many relationships, and do NOT want to leave Congo on Sunday... although we miss you all very much!

Keep Kelly’s toe in your prayers, her weak toenail is currently at a 77 degree angle from its usual position!

- Lauren for the Team

... and now some thoughts from Jess:

Hey everybody! Yesterday was a very busy day and as a result we are all very tired. We woke up around six in order to have breakfast together and then be at camp which starts at eight. The whole team agrees that we are enjoying each day of camp more and more. Yesterday’s topic was about “cups running over”.* Kelly, Amber, Brynne, and Bethany taught the English portion, and Kelly introduced her famous “Simon Says” for a fun activity and completely embarrassed Greg and Lauren. The students enjoyed that.

After camp we went to the hospital, which is run by the Sukisa Church. It was very clean but also very small. There are only twenty-seven people on the staff and one doctor. Please pray for more doctors and more space as the UN has taken over two of their newest buildings, leaving them with only one building and a tent and no electricity. They have few supplies but are committed to serving Christ in this way. After our time at the hospital, we walked home with Rachel, and short termer helping at the hospital. The Congolese family she is staying with invited us in for tea, and as it’s culturally rude to say no, we gladly accepted and stayed for a while. We then went to hear the Tujenge choir. So many of the Africans we have met have amazing voices, and they sing acapella. Dan gave a little devotion to the choir, and Uncle Gregg translated for him. On the way home, the little kids on the street started marching behind us and chanting “mzungu”. Also on the way home, Carol was walking with us, and she translated what the people on the street were saying. Some of them were so excited to have white people in their tribe (Lauren and I), because they are known as the tall tribe. We hung out with Benjamin and Jonathon for a while and had some team meetings.

Miss you guys!

- Jess for the team

*Editorial comment from Russell - "Cups Running Over" is taken from the idea in Psalm 23 ("my cup runneth over") that the regular experience of the Christian faith is one of abundant joy (as spoken about in 1 John 1).


Thursday, July 05, 2007

I die to come gust.

Today's guest blogger is 2-G Greg:

Jambo! Hope you all are doing well... Africa is great and God is definitely blessing us with an amazing stay here. Some pretty funny things have happened here in Bunia. A few days ago, Amber tried in her usual, outgoing, caring way to thank a native, but said the word mzungu (which means "white person") instead of asante. My guess is that this was the first Swahili word that came to mind. Any of us could have made this mistake, its just that Amber is so much more faithful in communicating with the Congolese people.

For a picture of what our ministry is like at the English Bible Camp, this is a story from our small groups. Dan told his discussion group to make a sentence using the word "gust" (meaning quick, strong wind). Most of the students understood what he meant, however one student wrote, "I die to come gust." Yes. Dan was equally confused, but after much discussion he discovered that what the student meant to say was that "Death comes quickly like a gust of wind." Profound.

We are really enjoying our time that we have to walk around and meet other people. Some new friends that we have made are Enosh and his family. We enjoy the company of Benjamin (15), Beatrice (20), and Jonathan (16, who is attending the camp). We have also met a lady named Carol (a friend of Aunt Karen) and she has been very good to us, even taking Brynne, Vicki, and Bethany to choir practice last night. All our friends have been very helpful in teaching us culture and language.

Other interesting things include cold showers (which I personally like, but isn't necessarily a favorite of all...), no showers due to no water (which is a favorite of no one!), people wanting to take pictures with me, and frequent power outages. However we have come to love all of these.

Spiritually, God has taught me so much in so many ways. I have personally learned so much from our nightly devotions about Christian love. I have also learned so much from the Congolese. They are so faithful and excited about their education. They also are very hopeful to come to America and build friendships with us.

OK, well it's time to go. Continue to pray for us and we'll see you soon. Adios!

- Greg for the team

P.S. Please pray for Moses, a student from camp. He wasn't there yesterday because his brother died. Also pray for our team's ability to communicate with the students and keep God as the center thought of all that we do and say.

P.P.S. Also pray that Dan and Kelly will refrain from passing out Tums to African teachers and calling it candy; that might smooth things out. (No pun intended.)

Editorial note from Russell - not everyone had to go without showers when the running water quit... only those using the center bathroom who refused to acknowledge the effectiveness of the bucket method. Mostly Dan and Greg.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Synthese de Travail

Russell here, pinch-blogging for Lauren...
Sorry we have been out of contact now these past two days... it seems our schedule is not in sync with that of the seminary computer lab, so we have to juggle some ministry priorities in order to get word back home...

Today was the second day of English Bible Camp; we discussed the idea of brokenness (being poor in spirit as a prerequisite for revival) during our Bible lesson and I taught about present perfect and present perfect continuous tense during the English lesson. It was Congolese Independence Day when we arrived on Saturday, and now it is Independence Day back home. We started the celebration last night with warm bucket baths, and I whipped out a new shirt (it's blue) this morning, even though my old one wasn't due to be retired until tomorrow. We even had an American treat - corn on the cob - for breakfast.

Confidential to all of the parents of the team, your watoto (children) are all in good health, are all doing an amazing job, and are adapting extremely well to life in Africa. You would be very proud of all of them!

And now a page from Bethany's journal:

We have a lot of fun practicing our Swahili with the little children on the street. We make complete fools of ourselves, but they think it's great. I'm really excited to possibly have the opportunity to meet some of the people in charge of working with and caring for street children. I would love to talk to them about their ministry, struggles, and victories.

I very much enjoy learning new songs in Swahili. They are so lively and fun. Also the Congolese sound so good they do echoes, harmonies and many other amazing things that make them sound so beautiful. I'm also really looking forward to singing with a Congolese choir while they practice. That will be so fun!

I have had an amazing time so far bonding with the team. I really appreciate their support and care to include me in most things. I am so blessed to join such an amazing team! We have had rain the last few days, which makes the air fresh and cool. It's very enjoyable. Thanks for your prayers and encouragement cards.

- Bethany for the team
P.S. from Russell - I haven't gotten wind of any official proposals for marriage, but at least one member of the team has been offered a potential job.


Monday, July 02, 2007

My Name Is?

Not too much has happened since the last post. (I)Lauren wanted to take a little break, so Brynne will be the guest blogger for the day!

Hey y'all! I love Africa! It is so much more than I expected. From the beauty that I saw from the plane to the excitement of main street it is wonderful! Yesterday we had a chance to interact with the people a lot, and the language barrier was fun/interesting. We met many kids as they exited from the seminary church and one girl Jaele came to meet us first. After we exhausted the traditional greetings, we stood there trying to remember something else to say and finally we thought to ask if we could take their pictures. After we took a few group shots we showed them the pictures, and they got very excited. They all smiled and laughed and wanted more. We took more pictures and then had to say goodbye. When we said "kwaheri" (goodbye) they still followed us up the steps! So we took a few more pictures, I taught them some silly faces and they had a blast seeing what they looked like!

In the afternoon, we went to an English service at on of the local churches. The service was so exciting and very sincere. I was most impressed with the singing, it was so passionate and we all sang so loud that we couldn't even hear ourselves! After some singing and Scripture reading, they opened up the service for people to share praises or requests to God. This was the most exciting part, the people who shared were so genuine and seemed so excited about God. The first man who got up shared a praise for his wife's survival from breast cancer. After praising God he led the congregation in "I will call upon the Lord." After praise the worship leader invited all guests to stand and introduce themselves and, upon seeing the amount of guests, said "we are TRULY blessed." Then they gave us all a traditional African clap greeting and blessing. Uncle Gregg gave the sermon and then service was over. We met a few people and then headed home for dinner.

This afternoon we will have the orientation for camp and will get to meet our small groups for the rest of the week. Pray for us as we do not exactly know how this will work. Right now we are also headed to the UN market to buy traditional African head scarves.

Our love to all and a quick fact: Jessy found her African husband, tall, skinny and wearing Ralph Lauren!

- Brynne for the team

Russell here again... as we are sitting in the computer lab at the seminary there was an outburst of cheering, singing, and clapping as one of the students finished their oral exams. They are quite expressive in their praise and encouragement for one another.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

First Impressions

Karibu! Karibu! Karibu!

We are so thankful that our plane landed safely in Uganda yesterday morning and that after a short delay, all 18 pieces of luggage arrived as well. Just before deplaning, one gentleman from Uganda asked Vicki whether we were coming as "missionaries from the United States". When she answered yes, he replied "What do Americans know about God?" It definitely was a refreshing perspective to remind us that we are coming not just to teach, but perhaps even more so to learn.

We had a sweet reunion with Aunt Karen and met Bethany (our additional team member, another AIM MK), changed into skirts and then boarded two small MAF planes for Bunia. Dan had the chance to take the controls for most of the flight (which allowed him to log an hour of flight time toward his credentials). We were taken off guard when we were greeted immediately with Swahili (Karibu means "welcome") and gorgeous sunny weather upon our arrival in Bunia.

We enjoyed our first African meal of Nile perch for lunch and have had quite an interesting time flushing the toilets and taking cold showers. But, Hakuna Matata, right? Many of us had a chance to walk through town yesterday and to meet some of Aunt Karen & Uncle Gregg's old friends. We enjoyed some time visiting with Carol (who used to care for the Lewis boys) and her three precious girls.

There are not many white people in Bunia so everyone stops and stares as we walk through -- we were the "first white people" for some kids yesterday. As Young Greg said, that was a special occasion to be a part of. Vicki amused us all when she joined in on a game some young girls were playing (she assures us it's much harder than it looks). We also had a chance to try grinding some leaves with sticks. Good stuff.

We have had multiple opportunities to use our limited knowledge of Swahili as well, as many of the students and their families at the seminary speak no English. Saint Jess led our team devotions last night on the topic of joy based on many verses in Philippians, and we went to bed early as we were all exhausted.

Today is pretty laid back - we will be doing some preparation for camp and attending an English service this afternoon. Overall, we have been blessed beyond measure already.

Some initial impression:

  • Very social culture
  • Lots of children
  • Close quarters
  • They have very little
  • Women have beautiful dresses
  • Roosters crow at all hours of the day and night
- Lauren for the team