It’s as close to a scene out of the African Queen movie as you can get. Situated on the banks of the Wamba river in DRC, even the name of the village sounds perfect: Kikongo.
|Proving that Kikongo is at the Heart of Africa!|
But that’s where the similarity to a 19th century story-book safari ends. Why? First, our visit to Kikongo started with a 59 minute flight in a Cessna 206 piloted by MAF program manager, Nick Frey. Second, instead of the romanticism of a jungle rainforest, we discover some of the tough, realities of mission work in the center of present-day Congo.
Glen and Rita Chapman both grew up in Kikongo as missionary kids. Now, they’ve been serving in this same place for almost three decades with the American Baptist mission. After a mid-morning snack served in the dining room of the house Rita’s grandparents built, we head out to tour the hospital and pastors’ school.
“Some of the things we see happening now are really discouraging and make us wonder if our time of service should end soon. The hospital no longer has adequate funds to maintain normal lab equipment and most doctors find they can make more money selling cheap Chinese medicines in neighboring towns than providing good service here,” Rita explains.
|Glen demonstrating his "magnificent flying machine!"|
At the pastors’ institute, Rita tells about an even more complex problem. “Self-trained pastors are coming into this area preaching a new version of the prosperity gospel based on an unhealthy preoccupation with spiritual warfare. By instilling fear in the local people about the power of Satan and evil spirits, they find a profitable business offering special prophesy and deliverance prayers for those who will pay for it in order to gain spiritual protection. Churches like these are popping up all over devastating our own congregations. Strong theological training is desperately needed for future pastors, but this competition is challenging their motivation for training altogether.
Despite these discouragements, Glen and Rita carry on with dogged and even creative endurance. A newly, MAF-installed satellite antennae gives them 24-7 connection to the Internet and regular ministry updates on Facebook. And thanks to help from missionary inventor, Steve Saint, Glen regularly flies a powered parachute at tree-top level to nearby villages in order to show the Jesus Film.
|Cruising the Wamba River|
But the Chapman’s real love for the land and its people is revealed on our dugout canoe ride across the Wamba for lunch at a neighboring village. Showing us the way, they help us dig our fingers into a meal of fish, plantains, squash seed, fermented manioc and stewed greens with caterpillars. It’s clear how much at home they are in this setting and how loved they are by these villagers. It helps me understand the pain in their eyes when they explain the troubling changes happening around them.
“Too bad you didn’t bring your swimming suits,” Glen yells above the din of the outboard motor on our way back to the airstrip for our flight home. “The water’s perfect. . . and the crocodiles stay pretty much in the swamps at this time of day!”
Glen and Rita—I thank God for you and pray for His strength and wisdom as you continue serving Him in this challenging “Heart of Africa.”
|Glen and Rita Chapman|