Ron Goertzen served as a Pax worker in the Republic of Zaïre from 1969 to 1972 and continues to return to the country, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, every other year. He goes as an ambassador of Bethesda Mennonite Church in Henderson, Nebraska, to support the congregation's ministry, Dayspring. Dayspring supports Congolese Mennonite churches through women's literacy, scholarships, the building of schools and churches, medical work, and pastor training. Dayspring is part of Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission's Congo Collaboration, a group of small innovative initiatives. Mennonite Mission Network partners with AIMM. Here, Goertzen shares excerpts of a letter from Simplice Mbamvu, which he translated from the Chokwe language.
I received this letter from my friend in Kinshasa, Simplice Mbamvu. Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has an estimated population of 12 million people. People live on top of each other and physical distancing is not possible.
Simplice writes about general panic because of COVID-19. In Kinshasa, the search for food is a constant and daily struggle, even in the best of times. Temperatures rise to an average of about 90 degrees Fahrenheit each day and few homes have access to refrigeration, making food storage impossible. Medical care is at the barest of minimums. On Sunday morning, Simplice was distraught by 30 people suffering from COVID-19 and a death. By the end of the day, there were more than 1,000 cases reported (though not yet confirmed by WHO at the time of writing). Let the following letter be a call to prayer to remember our brothers and sisters around the world.
Life to you, my friend, Ron.
May God's love be with all the members of your family…
My friend, here in Kinshasa we are having great, great troubles because of coronavirus. Today, Sunday, Mar. 22, there is general panic in Kinshasa — 30 people have contracted the coronavirus and one has already died. All things are really troubling and deteriorating. They have closed schools, churches, restaurants, and open-air meeting places. They have shut everything down. Today, all my family worshiped at my house – that's what we will be doing. Markets sell nothing but food.
We don't see how we will live through this crisis. You should pray for us a lot and seriously. God is good all the time. [Several of our Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission brothers from North America would have been here but couldn't come because of borders closing.] We are tormented and in pain because of the coronavirus. I am troubled and have much grief and sorrow because of the precarious situation that is settling in here. May God rescue us. Please, would you pray for us? But I will not forget that, "in everything God always does good and all the time God is good."
May you all stay well with God,
In response to Simplice Mbamvu's urgent request from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rod Hollinger-Janzen offers the following prayer. Hollinger-Janzen is executive coordinator of Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, a partner agency of Mennonite Mission Network. He and Fred Suter, a member of Congo Collaboration, were planning to be in Congo Mar. 16-Apr. 10 before international borders closed.
We join the lament of our brothers and sisters in Congo, and indeed all the people of our global community, in pouring out our fear and our cries for help. Lord, in your compassion, in your mercy, give to all who call on you the peace that passes understanding. As you multiplied the loaves and fishes, multiply your provision. Carry us through this plague as you carried the people of Israel out of Egypt. Cover us with your protection. We pray in the powerful and healing name of Jesus, Amen.