Rev. MPUTU Clement, Vice President of the Disciples’ Community, recently sent the following message (translated here from the French):
“I am writing from the heart of the equatorial rain forest in the Salonga National Park near Monkoto. By the grace of God and the miracle of today’s technology I am sending you this message. We are meeting here for the training of pastors and laypersons of the area. The schedule for our departure by air remains uncertain and security in this region is threatened. Please pray for us. May God be with you.”
The Salonga National Park in the south of Equateur Province and stretching into two other provinces of the Congo, is the largest rain forest preserve in the world.
It is also one of the most isolated and challenging places to get to in the Congo. Although many bonobo, now a celebrity among the primates, roam widely in the Salonga only a few researchers and virtually no tourists have observed this celebrity among the primates in this habitat.
Several parishes of the Disciples Community of the Church of Christ of Congo border the Salonga National Park. The airport most often used by researchers is at the former mission “post” of Monkoto and the park entrance nearby is on the edge of Ifumo, another Disciples “post”.
Funded by UNESCO which named Salonga a World Heritage Site in Danger in 1999, a French conservation and environmental non profit oversees protection and preservation of the Salonga’s resources. The non profit’s on site operations director is ENGELEMBA Celestin, former Director of the Disciples’ Ikengo farm project.
Shortly before my departure in mid August from Mbandaka, Radio Okakpi reported that Congolese troops had been deployed to the Salonga National Park to curb illegal poaching – of elephants especially. Rev. MPUTU’s message implies security remains dicey in the area. In addition to praying for the people in the Park and in villages bordering the Salonga, there is need for prayer and action to preserve the forest habitat throughout the Congo. More on that in the next post.