Congo needs to be allowed to overcome the evils of its tragic history - this must involve some form of repentance and reparation by former colonial powers. 19th-century Arabs raided the country for slaves. The horrific colonial rule of Belgium’s King Leopold II led to the deaths of 10 million people in the 30 years before 1908. Belgian control and international mining companies exploited Congo’s resources, but oppressed the people. Western countries then supported the corrupt regime of the dictator Mobutu, which caused much of the current chaos. Inter-ethnic hostility in the 1990s led to warfare and killings. Many people fled for their lives. Ruthless and wicked foreign interests exploit the poverty and chaos to plunder Congo’s rich natural resources, especially its minerals. These evils, past and present, must be confessed, repented of, and put right, in order for the Congo to have a workable future. Christian groups in Belgium expressed repentance for past evils their country committed, and this was a positive start.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is a failed state by any measure of the term. The lands under this name have no centralized government, no connectedness between the vast and far-flung regions, almost no functioning infrastructure and no single language or culture to unite its many diverse peoples. More than five million people have lost their lives through war, violence, starvation and the virtual collapse of the health system.
The Christian Church is an essential entity for rebuilding the DRC. It remains the only viable national social structure to survive and retain some credibility. Its role in rebuilding the nation is crucial. Most hospitals, clinics and schools now operate with Christian initiative. The Catholics admirably invest much into these institutions. Pray for Christian leaders of spiritual maturity and moral integrity to be raised up for ministry both in the Church and in society. Many leaders compromised and lowered their standards during the manipulative dictatorship of Mobutu and the chaos of the 1990s.
Pray for vision for the future. The DRC needs a complete re-evangelization. Colonial comity agreements and formation of the ECC served well in earlier eras, but they imposed rigid geographical boundaries on any outreach activity. This left many areas devoid of an evangelical witness and hindered cross-cultural outreach. There is great freedom to minister the gospel in many ways, but lack of vision, resources and stability hampers potential outreach. The work of the Holy Spirit in some areas has led to increased love for God's Word, prayer movements, mobilization of youth and a new indigenous hymnody. Pray for:
- New initiatives in research. After radical change prompted by the past chaos, destruction and displacement, a nationwide survey is desperately needed to reveal the state of the Church and the needs of the nation. Before strategies can be developed and implemented, the real situation in this vast, populous and complex nation must be understood. Pray for a team of capable researchers, supported by the national Churches, to undertake this daunting task.
- New starts in evangelism and church work. The trauma experienced in the DRC betrays the failure of discipleship. But out of the ashes, new models of ministry - holistic in approach, community-based, discipleship-focused and sustainable in nature - can be developed. Pray that this opportunity for fresh ministry might be seized by believers, both indigenous and expatriate.
Leadership training at every level is a priority that is more important than ever.
- Lay leadership was neglected for years, and TEE programmes were few and localized. Even these were often forced to shut down due to upheaval and lack of resources. Pray for re-establishment of TEE, a vital model due to Congo's sheer size and poverty. Training courses are often held by churches for lay leaders, many of whom are then sent out as church planters to unchurched villages. Bible Training Centre for Pastors and Evangelism Resources are two such lay training ministries. Pray for these visions to be implemented throughout the country.
- Bible schools once abounded, but some were closed due to the conflicts. Pray that all might reopen and acquire the resources, staff and students they need. There are large numbers of primary local-language and trade-language Bible schools and a smaller number of French ones. They often function with scant resources (books are rare and precious). Pray that spiritual material and teaching content may be constantly improved.
- Higher-level institutions, both seminaries and Christian universities, need prayer. Some important ones are Institut Supérieur de Théologie in Kinshasa, Shalom University in Bunia and several denominational schools all under the umbrella of the Association des Institutions d'Enseignement Théologique en Afrique Central. These are strategic for shaping a new generation of well-educated pastors and leaders. Pray that such evangelical institutions may mature theologically and stand firmly for the truth of the gospel in the face of doctrinal challenges. Pray too for imaginative and appropriate means to maintain themselves financially.
The Pygmy peoples, long despised and exploited by the Bantu majority, are becoming very responsive to the good news after long resistance and suspicion. They have been enslaved, poorly compensated for hard labour and even hunted, killed and eaten by militia fighters for the alleged magical properties of their flesh. Ministries such as Mission Evangélique du Pygmée en Afrique, the Covenant Church, Baptists and Presbyterians (as well as others) defend these Baka peoples and help to evangelize and disciple them. Justice and advocacy as well as literacy training, oral teaching and church planting are all much needed. Pray for the maturing of this movement, provision of adequate, spiritual leadership and emergence of a truly indigenous Pygmy Church.
Missionary involvement is reduced to a mere fraction of what it once was, due to war, instability and the breakdown of communications and government. Due to fruitful past ministry, most agencies are highly integrated into their daughter indigenous movements and churches. But the staggering needs and the lack of workers mean that the DRC has openings for expatriate Christian ministers on a greater scale than any other African nation - church planting, discipleship, development and holistic ministry, Bible and leadership training and specialized areas such as media, translation and medical work.
Christian help ministries will be essential for the foreseeable future due to the destruction of recent years. The government nationalization of hospitals and schools in the 1970s was a disaster. Churches and missions work hard to maintain and restore them, but the demands in funding and personnel are staggering. Pray specifically for:
- Health Services. A large number of major and smaller hospitals - too many to list - are run by networks such as Interchurch Medical Assistance (an association of 12 Protestant agencies) and agencies or churches such as Baptists, Adventists, Community of Disciples of Christ, WEC and others. Intercommunity/mission hospitals, such as Centre Médical Evangélique at Nyankunde in the northeast, are both a good testimony and an essential ministry. Expatriate personnel are in constant demand.
- The school system suffers, with plummeting enrollment, negligible financing, lack of educational resources and a shortage of good teachers. Poverty and lack of opportunity constrain many families from sending their children to school. It is a minor miracle that the education system continues to function at all. Thank God for the educational ministries of the Catholic Church and increasingly Protestant churches, without which an entire generation may have gone without education. Around five million children still go without schooling today. Pray that churches and missions may use the immense opportunities for the gospel in the desperately needy education system.
- Transportation. The breakdown in surface transportation adds to the strategic importance of the seven agencies with aviation programmes (the largest of which is MAF, with eight aircraft in the DRC). Pray for safety in flying over trackless forests and swamps, provision of fuel, finance and personnel.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.