I have four grandsons and they are all my favorites. The youngest, who just turned nine is a fiery little redhead who lives life at 200 percent and is uncannily wise.
Often Will will ask me to come and watch him building his latest architectural creation in Minecraft. He's rather good at design and creativity -- or in Grandmother speak: "Amazing!" He asks me for input and rolls his eyes when I want to add window boxes and shutters. But we do agree on the vegetable gardens and ponds. He's actually quite good.
The other day he had been working hard on his latest creation for quite a while and took a break to play his mouth organ (harmonica). He's just beginning, but has -- well, "flourish."
"So, how do you like my playing?" he asked.
"Well, in what way?" I responded.
"If one is terrible and ten is great, what number would you give me?"
I thought about this for a while, because clearly, he has a long way to go. "Five," I said!
He looked at me- at first surprised and then with a big smile.
"Thank you for being honest, Shosho." (Shosho is what my grandsons call me). "I'm glad you said five because that is about right. And it's the truth."
"And is that a surprise?" I asked.
"Well, you're my Shosho and I know you love me, but sometimes I think it's not the best that you always say I'm wonderful and what I do is amazing --because that's not really true. When I go to school and think I'm totally amazing but I see that my friends and other kids don't think so, I could be really confused and upset. I'm not great at everything, but sometimes you make me think I am. So it's better that you tell me the truth."
Yikes! I thought to myself. I'm 72 and he's nine, and he just nailed it. One important component of love is respect that thinks enough of the other to tell the truth. I must admit, I pondered this for a bit. He was right.
"You, know, Will," I said, "You are right, and I will try better to respect you enough to tell you the hard truth, even when it's hard. But I do have one caveat -- I can always play the Grandmother card when the situation calls for it. Because you are an amazing grandson."
"Shosho!!!" he said and rolled his eyes and hugged me.
I was recently asked to share some thoughts at a baby shower for a new mom who is unexpectedly beginning motherhood in the NICU. I love a good alliteration and so these 3 G’s came to mind as I reflected on motherhood as a fellow, former NICU mom:
GRIEF, GROAN, and GLORY.
No one anticipates motherhood beginning in the NICU. No woman dreams of being wheeled onto a unit, meeting a tiny child covered in tubes and lines, living inside a box. A mother dreams of holding her baby. Bonding. Feeding her baby. Lying her child in a crib. Having a baby shower BEFORE the birth of her baby.
Expectations and dreams of motherhood are often not realized until they are not met, and the sting of this is felt profoundly as you sit at a NICU bedside, holding back tears, trying to cope with the trauma you’re experiencing. Grief is real and wields its accompanying emotions at unexpected times and in unexpected ways.
Which leads me to a second G, GROAN.
Not only do we groan, but all of creation groans in this fallen world. Pregnancy complications and premature births are evidence that this world is not as it should be – evidence that we are eagerly awaiting a Savior to return and establish His Kingdom, ushering in the new order. The former things will pass away – sin, suffering, pain, and grief. No more tears. No more hospitals. No more IVs or ventilators. No more loneliness or mom guilt. And as you await that day, our coming King invites you to pour your tears out before Him. To know that in Christ you have access to groan before your Heavenly Father.
In your GRIEF and in your GROANING, there is the GLORY, my third G.
GLORY belongs to God, and one of the great mysteries of motherhood (and really all of life) is that God is glorified in and through the grief and groans of His people. God is glorified when we find our hope in Him as we suffer. And God is glorified when His people reflect His love for one another in community, coming alongside one another in joy and in sorrow.
May you know the Father’s love in the lonely, joyful, sad, uncertain, exciting, bittersweet moments to come in motherhood. Rejoice in the godly women who surround you and want to love you well. Invite them to come alongside you in motherhood… when you have much to celebrate, when you need tangible help, when you feel misunderstood and lonely, when a new milestone surprises you with joy and laughter, when an unexpected diagnosis is given…
Fellow NICU mom, our Father is sufficient for your grief and your groaning. To Him be the glory.
Can discipleship be simple? Yes! There’s been a lot of talk about discipleship lately at PCC, and I want to provide you with a simple “roadmap“ to have discipleship meetings with someone. Simple can be defined as “easily understood or done“ and “uncomplicated in form”. I know I am more likely to do something If I feel competent and confident in it, and simple is best. Also, something that is simple will more likely be reproduced by other people, therefore helping disciples to make other disciples. So, here is the roadmap. I didn’t create it; just the messenger.
Break the discipleship meeting into 3/3s in this order:
I truly hope this helps you to disciple others. This simple, biblical, and reproducible method has created many disciples around the world. I’d love to encourage you in this and pray for you and your disciples; please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect.
Mary David is the pseudonym for a global worker from PCC. She enjoys spending time with her family, sharing the Gospel, and watching God work.
We know the term. We use the jargon in Christian circles. But do we know what discipleship is and why we value it as important? Do we value it as important? Do we see it as a call on each of our lives, or do we think it’s only something that other, stronger, more experienced, (fill-in-the-blank) believers do? What keeps us from it?
Being in full-time college ministry for seven years now, and being heavily involved in college ministry as a student for four years prior, discipleship has been a regular and important part of my life. I’ve so valued being poured into by older women, and I have cherished memories of pouring my own life into dozens of women through discipleship over the years. (I even gushed about my love for it on a recent instagram post.)
Yet, if I’m being honest, I’ve been discouraged at the lack of value of discipleship in the local church. (I will say though, as a newcomer to PCC, I’m so refreshed and encouraged at how discipleship is valued, discussed regularly, and implemented well.) My recent instagram post caused me to poll followers by asking, “If you’re not presently discipling someone, what is your #1 reason as to why?” Answers included themes of not having enough time, not knowing how or where to start, or not knowing enough to lead someone else.
If you’re falling prey to these fears, I hope these thoughts will give you hope & encouragement:
1. Discipleship is for you.
The call of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18:20) is not optional, but a requirement, for believers. The same is true of discipleship. They’re one and the same (literally in the same verse). We answer the call of the Great Commission by making disciples, and by making disciples, we answer the call of the Great Commission.
There are prerequisites, sure. But they are not unattainable or excessive. Professing faith in Christ yourself prior to investing in someone else and teaching them to follow Him is certainly the most solid place to start. ;) But endless theological knowledge is not required. A seminary degree isn’t necessary. Tons of hours of free time is not mandatory. Simply taking the initiative to invest in someone else, depending on the Holy Spirit along the way, to share your story, life, and wisdom with someone else is enough. Through God’s Word, you have been given everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3, and with His very Spirit indwelling you as a believer, He will do the work He intends to do (and in the life of the one you’re meeting with). All authority in heaven and on earth is Christ’s, and that enables us to go and make disciples.
In her book Spiritual Mothering, Susan Hunt gives a working definition of the discipleship/mentoring relationship: “When a woman possessing faith and spiritual maturity enters into a nurturing relationship with a younger woman in order to encourage and equip her to live for God’s glory.”
She also adds this comment, which I love: “Please note that giving birth biologically or being of a certain chronological age are not prerequisites for spiritual mothering.”
Paul was single with no children, but he was a spiritual father if there ever was one. He invested in and cared deeply for Timothy, even referring to him as his “true child in the faith” and his “beloved child” (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2). We know that God grows His family through the regeneration of souls, and that’s something we can each participate in. I want to pass the baton well to those I’m investing in, and I know I need the wisdom of those who have gone before me. Let me speak for myself and other 20-something females when I say to the older women of various other life stages: we need you.
2. Simple is better than elaborate or flashy.
The Enemy will make you feel like the small things don’t matter. Yet that’s the way of the Kingdom, isn’t it? The way of weakness and surrender, allowing the Holy Spirit Himself to work in and through us in the lives of other believers.
When I was in college and was a student leader in my campus ministry, a woman on staff invested in me. Her name is Debbie. She certainly was discipling her own high school-aged kids, but she spiritually mothered me and many others, too. The moments that are the most cherished from my times with Debbie are when she would pick me up at my apartment and we’d go get a treat at McDonalds in my small college town. Or the times she’d have me over and would always make popcorn. I remember eating so many napkin-fulls of popcorn on her couch. I also remember crying on that same couch as I poured out my heart to her when I faced various challenges. I remember her simple statements like, “Jocelyn, just pray that the Lord would make your heart soft and pliable, and that you would gain a heart of wisdom from this.” We’d open the Word together, and I learned so many things from her decades of walking with the Lord. I wanted to know Jesus like she did. I remember her saying, “Hey, I think you should lead a freshman girls’ Bible study during your senior year. I think you would be good at it and enjoy it.” If it weren’t for Debbie taking the time to invest in me and point out a potential gifting, I might not have seen it myself. I might not be able to sit here and tell you that leading other women in Bible study and Biblical literacy is now the thing I’m most passionate about. I stem that back to Debbie.
Sure, a life can be impacted at a big conference with flashy lights or from hearing someone on a platform. But those people on the platforms don’t know me, and I don't know them. We’re not in the nitty gritty with each other. I would argue that true life change comes from one-on-one, eyeball-to-eyeball moments, with conversations over the open Word (& maybe some popcorn or chocolate chip cookies).
3. We get to participate in something eternally significant that is bigger than us and has been happening since the beginning.
One of my favorite books on discipleship is Chasing Infinity by Mark Liederbach. He takes readers from Genesis to Revelation to show the bigger picture of true discipleship. We’re all image-bearers, meant to be worshippers who reflect our God as the ultimate treasure. As we know though, our worship has become distorted, and therefore the mission and the things that we chase. Yet through the power of the Gospel, we get to redeem the chase. In making disciples, both in communicating the Gospel to those who don’t know Him and further investing in those who do already know Him, the mission and purpose of our lives is being restored. We have been reconciled to God and we tell and show others how to do the same. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
As we’re in this well-worth-it chase together, glorifying our Creator, let’s look to the ones who are running ahead, grab ahold of the baton, and pass it strongly to those who are behind us. As we “teach others to observe all that [He] commanded,” let us be sure that we ourselves are to be disciples of His Word, not looking to lesser pursuits or watered-down content. The investment of all of this is well worth it.
Some helpful reads:
*trigger warning for those who have had a miscarriage or have lost a child.
Two weeks ago, we lost our third child to a miscarriage.
That is not a line of our story I ever thought I would have to write. And I am sure you are thinking at this point that you didn’t even know that I was pregnant. We were on the verge of sharing publicly when everything changed.
We had kept the secret for weeks. A few very close friends knew that we were expecting (we have always told close friends as soon as possible, if the unthinkable would ever happen…who knew we would actually live it).
As a photographer, I went to family sessions, pregnancy announcement sessions, maternity sessions, even weddings where no one knew I was pregnant. And I was dying to tell everyone. I wanted people to know that my growing belly wasn’t extra Covid weight! We waited and waited to announce. We told family, friends, and eventually our children. We knew I was roughly 8 weeks along. (Some of you are thinking, well that is still early to tell people, but we had two completely healthy pregnancies before, and my belly was starting to show more and more.)
Our families were excited, our kids were thrilled. We bought them “Big Sister” and “Big Brother” shirts. Leland (2) was telling people, “baby in mommy’s tummy.” Kylie (4) was talking to my belly and picking out special items in our house for the baby. We were already thinking of names, thinking through bunk beds and our kids sharing a room, and I even booked a maternity session with a photographer I had been eyeing for a while. We were all in love with the new baby and already making future plans.
The one thing holding us back from announcing publicly was my doctor’s appointment. I went to my first appointment, and everything was normal until they did the ultrasound. The baby was growing; it was the right size for the number of weeks, but the baby’s heart was beating abnormally. They told me to come back again the next day to see the ultrasound technician and to get another ultrasound.
That was the quietest appointment I have ever had. As soon as the ultrasound picture showed up, the technician and I both knew that the baby didn’t have a heartbeat. She didn’t say anything and neither did I.
After that I had to call my husband, text my friends, and tell my parents and children that we had, in fact, lost our third child.
Telling our children was the hardest thing I had to do. Leland didn’t completely understand what happened. Kylie had a really hard time with the news. I had to tell them with tears streaming down my face, that the baby had gone to heaven to see God. Kylie’s (sweet girl) reply was that I needed to tell Daddy (Daniel) to talk to God and to tell God that the baby didn’t need to be in heaven.
After the emotional roller coaster of telling everyone that we knew that we were expecting that we had lost the child, I then had to face what my body was going to do. Unfortunately, your body does the same thing it does after having a healthy baby- it contracts, delivers, and has a long postpartum healing process (on top of the strong emotions of losing a child).
Why am I sharing all this?
Honestly, I was that person at one point who just didn’t understand or sympathize with women who had experienced this type of loss. I just didn’t get it. My brain and heart never understood the physical and emotional hurt that happens when you have a miscarriage.
The Lord is teaching me a lot of compassion for those families who have experienced this type of brokenness. For a lot of families, they are excited for the new life that is growing, they are dreaming of the future, and to hear that your baby, who once had life, is no longer living is heartbreaking.
I also think miscarriages are a “hidden” experience. It is not talked about openly, like women might share their labor stories. But my husband and I don’t want this to be a hidden experience for our family.
I am also sharing because we ultimately know that the Lord is in control. When I went into my second appointment, the phrase “cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) came to mind. We had a “cloud of witnesses” praying for us and over us. As I sent text message after text message, I knew that we had a “cloud of witnesses” again praying for us. And as I told our kids that the baby was heaven, the words, “the Lord is in control,” came right out of my mouth as though the Holy Spirit was leading me with each and every word I spoke to our children.
So, Baby Flamingo (nicknamed by our 4-year-old…because the baby needed a pretty name and she liked the name flamingo…) was the one that we lost.
Sojourners Magazine came today.
It’s sitting over there on the coffee table and I’m wondering whether to read it.
I’ve been following Sojourners magazine for many years. It began in 1970 when I was in college in Chicago. The mission statement of Sojourners Magazine (SOJO) is “To inspire hope and action by articulating the biblical call to racial and social justice, life and peace and environmental stewardship.” I was a Canadian student trying to find my way in a very volatile time in America when young people around me were protesting the Vietnam War and Chicago was in foment. It was actually kind of exciting for a Canadian who lives under the moniker of being from a “nice” country. I remember looking out my dorm window and seeing military tanks going down LaSalle Street on their way to Lincoln Park where students were protesting during the Democratic National Convention. The founding editor of Sojourners is now a professor at Georgetown University, in DC, and I will admit, he can be radical; but relentlessly seeking to live a godly life in every area.
Politics was HUGE, but, unlike today, lots of conversation went on across the political divide. Civil discourse was welcomed and opinions debated. We went to coffee houses back then in the city, where people were invited to give their opinions on open mic night. Lively and engaging events.
But today, when Sojourners arrived, I wondered if I should read it. I wondered if I should just pitch it. Will it just put another sliver of a wedge between me and some of my dear friends in my faith community – not just the ones here in my local body of Christ, but friends all over the country.
Finally, I asked my husband how to handle my inner turmoil. Was living with so much political angst not good for my soul? Should it really matter that much? How do I do a good job of loving my friends on other sides of the political divide?
As usual, Mark had a wise answer: “Sure, read Sojourners. But read First Things as well. Read them side by side.” First Things, is a conservative religious journal, founded by Richard John Newhaus, that is “aimed at advancing a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.” Neither magazine is perfect, but they speak from different perspectives. Maybe for you it will be two different magazines, or TV channels, or radio programs in your car. Listening to thoughtful believers from both sides should help me grow.
I feel good about that. Jesus didn’t back down from controversy and debate. Even those with whom he disagreed, knew he loved them and knew they were “seen.” That sounds pretty good to me.
I’m new to PCC, and new to the Peninsula. I recently moved here from Fauquier County, where I’d lived for nearly forty years. I’m building an in-law suite onto the house owned by my daughter, Becky Chappell, and her husband Chris.
As I write, men are pouring concrete into carefully dug ditches in the backyard. They’re laying the foundation for what will be my new home. They’ve followed the plans, measured and re-measured. They’ve smoothed the sides of the ditches, and laid in reinforcing bar and a copper “ground” wire. At this moment, they’re using a Georgia buggy to transport wet concrete from the truck out front to the back yard. Load by load, they’re expertly guiding it into the ditches and smoothing it so it will dry level.
It’s important to get the foundation right. I appreciate the care they’re taking with it.
I was raised in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C., the middle of three daughters. Growing up, my family was active in a mainline-denomination church. Innumerable Sunday school lessons, children’s choir practices, and vacation Bible schools filled my growing up years. I figuratively climbed Jacob’s ladder, learned about “a wee little man,” and earned a whole string of perfect attendance Sunday school pins.
It was a good upbringing and I am very grateful to my parents for it. But as a spiritual foundation it was flawed: I was taught Bible stories but not the Bible. I knew nothing of sin or salvation. Miracles, I was told, were explainable, natural phenomena used to illustrate a point. I believed in God, but I didn’t think he was involved (or cared about) my everyday life. I was well-behaved, a “good girl,” or so I thought. I never knew just how very much I needed Jesus.
For various reasons, I entered my college years riddled with insecurity. One by one my compensations—academic achievement, marriage, and fast career success—failed me. By my mid-twenties my emotional life was falling apart. My spiritual foundation was too shaky to support me. I found myself deep in a miry pit.
But God had His eye on me the whole time. In the midst of my despair, someone came along and explained grace to me. A colleague shared the Gospel. A friend invited me to Bible study. Gradually, God lifted me out of that pit and set my feet on solid ground—the firm foundation of Truth, contained in the Word of God.
The Bible says a lot about foundations. Job wrestled with God over his circumstances until God said, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” and Job realized he was “of small account.” We all know about the man who laid the foundation of his house on sand—and the wise man who built his on a rock. Jesus is called the “chief cornerstone,” the most important part of a structure, the stabilizer.
But I think my favorite reference to foundations in the Bible comes from Ephesians 1:4: “… he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
This God who in my childhood I saw as remote and vaguely displeased with me chose me before the foundation of the world, before anything was created, before time began, long before I emerged kicking and screaming from my mother’s womb. And why? Not because He could predict I’d be a good little girl, but so that in my fallenness and failure I would grasp the hem of Jesus’s garment and receive his blood-bought salvation.
As I’m finishing this, it’s the end of the day and the workers are headed home, leaving the cement foundation to cure and dry. Soon they’ll add block and brick, then beams and joists, framing, trusses and roof. In due time, my house will be built, strong and sturdy, able to withstand whatever storms may come. And I’ll rest easy on my sure foundation.
One of the hardest things about being part of the Body of Christ is when brothers and sisters in Christ find themselves in conflict with each other. While conflict among people is part of life in this broken world, perhaps it’s so painful when it happens in the Body because we know it’s not supposed to be this way. After all, Christ died to reconcile us not only to God, but to each other. (1 Cor 5:18)
Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson speaks to the reality of conflict between believers. But more than that, the authors give practical and biblical counsel on how to work towards forgiveness, ownership of one’s own part in any conflict and reconciliation between warring parties. And while this book is just one hundred pages and looks more like a pamphlet than a book, I found its contents to be God-infused balm for my soul.
After a few brief chapters explaining the nature of conflict, the over-arching hope of the Gospel and figuring out our too-often misguided go-to response to strife, Sande and Johnson delve into the tools, mindset and faith we need to work through conflict in order to get to restoration and/or resolution.
Too often, the reason a disagreement or misunderstanding moves into conflict is because we forget or neglect to take our issues to God. But we forget that each and every situation that He brings into our lives is a chance to bring Him Glory and for us to grow in love and godliness. “Instead of noticing God’s higher purpose of using conflict to demonstrate his love and power in our lives, we continue to see conflict either as a threat to flee from or a chance to force our will on others.”
There were a couple of points that particularly resonated with me. First, we are called to overlook a multitude of sins in others. “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” (Prov 19:11) Too often we (I) can overlook a fault/sin/offense in my own heart but can be too quick to point it out in someone else. The authors remind us that, “the ability to overlook a fault is rare. Yet that is how God treats us.” While there are some situations that need to be pursued, our first question to ourselves should be, “Is this worth fighting over?” or worth pursuing at all.
And that leads to the second point any one of us needs to remember when engaging in conflict with the hope of restoration: we need to take that plank out of our own eye before we take the speck out of the other person’s (Matt 7:3). Here the authors make a penetrating point. “Even if I’m only 2 percent responsible for a conflict, I’m 100 percent responsible for my 2 percent.” Owning up to that 2 percent (although it’s usually more than that!), confessing it before the Lord and then admitting it to the opposing party is a sign not only of humility, but one of self-knowledge and maturity. The Lord can use such a confession to break the heart of the person who holds 98 percent of the responsibility.
“As far as it is possible with you, live at peace with everyone.” (Rom 12:18) God does not guarantee a completely restored relationship with another human when we approach someone else with the desire to work through a conflict. That takes give and take from both sides. But what we can work at, is our own open and humble heart before the sovereign Lord and a genuine desire to see Him glorified even in difficult situations and relationships.
These are just three things that stood out to me as I, a sinner in my own right, deal with other sinners both within and outside the Body of Christ. This little gem of a book holds much wisdom for a believer working to make amends where there has been a breach. Next time you find yourself with a roiling gut because of a perceived hurt, or maybe someone else has come to you with a roiling gut, pick up this book. Better yet, pick it up before your gut ever starts to roil.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” ~ Ephesians 5:15-16
A close, long-time friend of mine who did not marry until the age of forty, once (in a self-admitted bout of couple-envy) declared that Bryan and I came across as Ken and Barbie. When I bristled at this comment, she quickly clarified by saying, “Well, maybe more of a special edition ‘End Times’ Ken and Barbie.” This, I took as a great compliment as I envisioned the sleek packaging with the words, “Bryan and Kerrie: here to remind you not to tarry!” What child wouldn’t want to play with dolls like that? 😊
In all seriousness, one of our major goals as parents has been to instill in our children the fact that this present world is not our true home. Peter reminds us that we are strangers and aliens on this earth, and in Hebrews the author refers to the great people of faith as those who desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one.
Along with this sense of foreignness, the Bible also conveys many reminders of life’s brevity. Psalm 39:4 is just one example: “O Lord, make me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” And to quote a famous bard (who knew his Bible well), “The time of life is short! / To spend that shortness basely were too long.” While Bryan and I try to live intentionally as we keep these two truths in mind, it does not prevent us from appreciating the saints on Earth that currently surround us.
Next month, we will leave behind our amazing church family as we retire from active duty and move to Houghton, NY. Naturally, this leaves us feeling very nostalgic since Peninsula Community Chapel has long ministered to our entire family. Lord willing, as of June 13th, all four of our children will have been baptized here, publicly committing their lives to Christ in front of fellow PCCers. Although no place is perfect, the Christian community in this church has been deep and genuine.
For those of you who may be newer to our church body, I want to encourage you to jump right in from the very start. We have moved enough to know that it can be easy to think that you must take a backseat to members who have been attending for a long time. Not true! So many opportunities to serve are available, and serving is always the best way to connect deeply with others. That, and joining a home group! Your home group will challenge you to grow in your faith, will be your lifeline in times of crisis, and will join with you in celebrations in a way that the larger church cannot.
Before COVID-19 disrupted life as we knew it, one of the things we loved the most at PCC (besides the youth group!) were the CD classes. Bryan and I had the privilege to lead several sessions over the years, but I always enjoyed the parenting classes the most. I doubt there is a message that I want to share with young parents more than this: make the church the center of your family’s life. Obviously, I am not encouraging anyone to make an idol out of the pastors or the building. But I do believe that if you make things like Sunday services, home group, service-projects, youth group, and global ministry trips a priority (instead of putting that time and money towards things of this world), you will not be disappointed. Impress upon the hearts of your children this basic truth from the great man of faith, George Muller, “Money is really worth no more than as it can be used to accomplish the Lord’s work. Life is worth as much as it is spent for the Lord’s service.”
Thanks to each and every person who has loved us even though we were a military family that planned to move away. We will always carry you in our hearts as we continue to seek to live lives worthy of our Savior.
The city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is ringed in the north by a stunning chain of mountains called the Virungas. For all of their beauty, these mountains harbor a simmering threat. Nyiragongo, the nearest to Goma, is particularly dangerous. This active volcano has destroyed portions of Goma's environs regularly over the past centuries. Most recently, in 2002, lava flows covered 20% of the city, killing almost 250 people and leaving thousands homeless.
Since that devastation, the city has gone through a phase of enormous rebuilding and growth. In 2002 about 250,000 people lived in Goma. Today, its estimated population is nearly 1.5 million. Better monitoring systems have been implemented around the volcano, which indicate the lava lake in the crater continues to rise. A future eruption is a certainty-- the question is only when. And yet the blossoming community in Goma continues to repair roads, build houses, and found new businesses.
As we establish our life, ministry, and work here, Nyiragongo illustrates the tensions of risk and value that have defined our life in DRC. We want our work to have impact, to change broken systems, to bring new life to our community. But is it worth it to fight for progress in the looming shadow of the literal and metaphorical volcanos of Congo?
This past year has taught most everyone in the world that there are many things we can't control, even with the most risk-averse planning. Here in DRC there are plenty of examples of plans destroyed or waylaid. Our first business-as mission endeavor, Cafe Kivu, saw its coffee production facility destroyed by rebels in 2015. Multiple evacuations from Beni, our first DRC home, kept us away from work at the primary school and university there. Our long-term commitment to that community was cut short by our son Eliot’s medical and educational needs. Corrupt and greedy government officials routinely threaten to put an end to our solar energy project which seeks to provide clean energy to hundreds of citizens who would otherwise have none. These are just a few examples that come to mind.
In the end, what can we really do? Our calling has to be one of a higher order-- a calling from God to offer hope. Hope of a better tomorrow, of meaningful systems change, of a better life for everyone in our community because we are living it together. Hope that means that, even if the things we've built get covered by lava, we'll return to rebuild together.
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” - Acts 4:32-35
Here you can read perspectives on life, ministry and God's Word from a variety of PCC's female leaders.