April 2017: Always Hope

April 4, 2017

Greetings,

One hundred twenty Congolese jurists and fifteen international visitors share the UCBC campus this week with our students and staff. The jurists, all legal professionals of various roles, join with seven lawyers from Uganda, Texas, Arizona, and Oklahoma, for the biennial Justice Conference. Three members of Blacknall Presbyterian Church (Durham) teach classes and engage conversations with students and staff. “Deep Common Journey” describes the Blacknall and Congo Initiative relationship, and so we are delighted to welcome this team. Two members of Faith Missionary Church (Indianapolis) visit with staff and students to develop understanding and relationships. An artist and a nurse with an interest in early childhood development fill out the visitor list. It’s a busy and exciting time, and we are grateful for God’s provision and protection. We are also grateful that all of our visitors obtained their Congolese visas in time to make their travels!
 
Yes, we rejoice in God’s provision and mercy. We rejoice especially in the midst of these uncertain times.
 
News from across Congo is unsettling. President Kabila gives no indication that he will honor the December 31 agreement brokered by the Catholic bishops to conduct elections. More than 400 civilian deaths at the hands of militia and rebel groups over the last six months have been reported from Kasai. UN peacekeepers Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan were recently abducted then murdered along with their interpreter and moto drivers in that same province. Political opposition groups call for ville mort (city-wide strike) across the nation. But my colleagues defy the evil and live in hope.
 
This past Saturday I joined our international guests on the first part of a two-day pilgrimage of lament, reconciliation, and hope. We traveled 30km north to Oicha where Pastor Peter Amani has led a revival church since 1982. In 2014 and again last year, Oicha flooded with refugees from surrounding villages. His hand sweeping the meeting room where we gathered, Peter explained how the church provided sanctuary, its rooms packed with the fearful and the weary in need of a safe place to sleep. His congregants, with limited resources, gave what they had and provided food and shelter.
 
Even as he told the story, Peter breathed hope and promise. Quoting Jeremiah, he confirmed God’s words, “For I know that plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jer. 29:11).
 
Such is the spirit I witness among my colleagues at UCBC. Confidence in God’s love overwhelms the uncertainty that taints the air. Every Monday morning my team gathers for prayer. Always, yes always, one of the team begins with, “We thank God that we are here together. We thank God for UCBC and for the work we have to do.”
 
UCBC graduate Francine Nabintu recently posted, “My smile doesn't mean that everything is great. It tells Satan that no matter his tribulations, my faith (and joy) in God is unshakable.” 
 
May such hope sustain you,
M