Expected, But Not Always Appreciated
by Paul Turner
It’s late summer, which mean it’s the dry season in the City of Mbandaka along the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Yes, a dry season in the middle of a rain forest. The red dirt and dust carried by the wind accumulates on everything and everyone. Unlike my home of California, the dry season doesn’t last for 3 to 4 years. There will be a wet season, and it is unrelenting when it starts. The impending wet season occupied my brain for a week. Local Congolese said the rains begin at the beginning of October. Plenty of time to prepare for elements associated with rain in the tropics - flooding, humidity, heat and mosquitos. A list of activities to accomplish ahead of the rains was created. It called for digging drainage ditches to move water away from the house, clearing the gutters so fresh rain water could fill the water tanks, and removing the pile of leftover dry cement next to the new well before it became an unmovable rock.
Delighted with myself for thinking ahead I went to bed knowing a plan was in place. Then at precisely 5:30am the very next morning, a torrential downpour began. Awakened by the deafening sound of Congo rain, I mumbled into the pillow “Isn’t this the dry season”. Yet, the rain brought cool air from the west. No heat, no humidity and no mosquitos. The rain did fill the storage tanks, but did not produce any flooding because the water was quickly absorbed by the thirsty soil. The pile of dry cement did not harden as feared because it was mostly sand.
This rain was a blessing, not a curse. That’s especially true when it corresponds with a new or returning arrival. Sure enough, that evening Rev. Bonanga, President of the Communaute Des Disciples Du Christ Au Congo (CDCC), had just returned home from the United States after attending General Assembly. While at General Assembly, Rev. Bonanga signed an agreement with Disciples4Water to construct more water wells in the Equateur Province to combat the lack of safe drinking water. Disciples4Water is an initiative of First Christian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. They connected with former oil drillers interested in finding a more precious resource for human life – water. You can visit Disciples4Water.org or like them on Facebook.
The Congolese concept of rain as a welcoming blessing was further demonstrated in mid-August when it rained during the first day of the CDCC General Assembly Administrative meeting. The opening worship was held outdoors at a secondary school under the hallway covering. When 150 Pasteurs Surveillant Principale, or PSPs, (akin to regional ministers) and visitors took their seats to hear the message from Rev. Jeanine Bodjimbe, a hard and fast moving storm came roaring through. It poured buckets. The sound was loud and a river of water began running pass the feet of the seated assembly. Yet, the speaker was undeterred. She was determined to be heard over the storm as she left the pulpit to walk among the congregation with a raised voice that got louder as the storm continued. You haven’t heard real preaching until you’ve heard it outdoors amid thunder and lightning. It was an impressive sight.
Now fully aware that rain comes to welcome those returning home and visitors alike, I wasn’t surprised when it rained the day Rev. Marco Cable, Africa Executive for Global Ministries, came to Mbandaka. Rev. Cable’s visit provided an opportunity to visit a few of the ministries supported by Global Ministries. A highlight of the tour was stopping by the recently completed Women’s Professional Training Center named after former Africa Executive, Sandra Gourdet, affectionately referred to as Mama Sandra. The “Centre Professionnel Maman Sandra Gourdet” is run by the CDCC Women’s Department, and provides vocational training, meeting space and offices. This center is a safe space where women can come together to improve their skills and plan new strategies for women in development.
Yes, the rain is a sign of blessings. Now, bring on the rainy season.
Paul Turner is a member of Abundant Life Christian Church of Los Angeles and currently serves as the Global Ministries Missionary with the Community of Disciples of Christ in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Paul is a Project Consultant on various community development projects designed to increase the quality of life for communities served by Disciples of Christ churches.