ON RETURNING TO CONGO
“What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.” (Lk 7:24-26)
It was nearly midnight when we entered the town on the Tshuapa River. Boende most likely. The church was packed still, the congregation having waited for untold hours, cement block walls decorated with palms. As we entered, the throng inside exploded in song. Kerosene lanterns lit the space casting shadows as Rev. Elonda preached for upwards of an hour. I understood little of the sermon but rode the waves of hums, the listeners’ acclaim for his words. It was the first of several “posts” with schools, clinics and churches we were to visit on the upriver trip. Each greeted Rev. Elonda, the President of the Disciples “community” of the newly united Church of Christ of Congo, and his entourage, with palms, flowers, song and hums. We returned to Mbandaka the day before Christimas.
In 1969 I went to Congo expecting to catch a glimpse of the future of Africa during my two year assignment. I was to serve as a “conseiller/advisor” to the Youth Department of the Disciples. Having studied African politics and history in college, I was excited about the potential of the newly independent nations of Africa, the wealthy former Belgian Congo outstanding among them.. Now looking back as I think about returning to Congo, the two years I spent there have shaped me like no other experience of my adult life.