Mbote Baninga! (Hello Friends!)
This is the story of how three rural Nebraska Covenant churches – Oakland, Wakefield, and Waverly – have stepped out in faith to embrace a rural health clinic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For decades these churches faithfully rolled bandages to send to Congo. Salem has been supporting Covenant missionaries Pete and Cindy Ekstrand in Congo for many years. In May 2014, Kitty Hoden of Salem, a registered nurse, traveled to Congo with Women Ministries director Meagan Gillan and saw things firsthand. Then, at the 2014 Annual Meeting, Salem’s pastor, Steve Hoden heard about the Paul Carlson Partnership Congo Clinic Initiative, a new vision to sponsor local health clinics in the Congo. Steve presented the vision to Salem, and with Kitty’s experience fresh in their minds, Salem said yes to the Congo and voted to help sponsor one rural clinic. Pastor Steve says, “I’m proud to be the pastor of a church that says yes to mission.” Steve invited other Covenant churches to join Salem in this new mission.
Oakland, Wakefield, and Waverly have now partnered together to commit $10,000 yearly support to the Boyasebego Clinic for five years. This clinic is one of many clinics of the Congo Covenant Church (CEUM), which operates to help provide healthcare for over 1,000,000 people in the Equateur Province in northwest Congo. Each clinic cares for almost 10,000 infants, children, and adults. The Boyasebego Clinic is 31 miles away from the nearest of five CEUM hospitals and is accessible only by foot. The clinic currently has no electricity or clean water, yet the dedicated local staff, (one nurse, two nurse’s asst., one midwife, one lab assistant) makes due with limited medical supplies.
Our three churches recently held an inspiring Congo Clinic brunch on September 26, 2015, hosted by Salem Covenant in Oakland. Salem flew Meritt Sawyer, Executive Director of PCP, in from California for the event. Twenty five people attended with members from First Covenant and Community Covenant in Omaha joining our three sponsoring churches. Nadine Anderson from Salem prepared a delicious Congo-theme brunch, and the room was decorated with Congo fabric and Congo artifacts Kitty brought back from her trip. Meritt shared about the history and current conditions in Congo, and how the CEUM is following Jesus as they care for the present and future medical needs of the people of northwest Congo. We laughed, cried, and prayed for our partnership with the CEUM and the Boyasebego Clinic. Meritt preached at Salem on Sunday and met with our adult Sunday school class. (For these Congolese recipes, download the CCI Quarterly Issue 3.)
The first two years of our sponsorship will address the prioritized need for electricity and refrigeration. A talented local Congolese electrician is training people to install and maintain solar panels that will provide dependable electricity for Boyasebego and other clinics. Year three will address the need for clean, safe water. Along with these areas our support will provide medical supplies, operational support, and staff training and salaries. Years four and five are yet to be determined, but the PCP and CEUM will work together to identify the most needed improvements.
The Oakland, Wakefield, and Waverly Covenant churches want to develop a knowledgable heart for Congo that is more than just writing a check each year. We are confident our churches will grow closer to each other and the Congo through our CCI partnership. We encourage our fellow Midwest Conference Covenant churches – rural, suburban, and urban – to say yes to the Congo and help sponsor one rural clinic. Invite other Covenant churches to partner with you and sponsor a Congo Clinic!
Steve Hoden, Salem Covenant Church