Congo Trip Report

This is a report of a recent trip that Gary Gaddini, Doug Morton, Sharon Seeberger and Bob Seeberger took to the Ubangi/Mongala region of the Democratic Republic of Congo to evaluate how to support the unmet needs of the Congolese people.

We had the following specific goals:

  • Bring back pictures and videos to share the story of need and opportunity
  • Confirm that the medical supplies and diagnostic tools that were part of our world relief offering were received and effective
  • Evaluate the economic condition
  • Develop a plan for future sustainable partnering with Congolese people for their unmet needs.
 

Background:

To understand the work in the Congo it is important to know that the government of Congo has delegated the responsibility for education and health care to the churches.  The Covenant has assumed that responsibility in the 3 provinces in the northwest corner of Congo:

  • Ubangi Northern Province – Nord Ubangi – Capital: Gbadolite
  • Ubangi Southern Province – Sud Ubangi – Capital: Lisala
  • Mongala – Capital: Gemena

There are 4 hospitals and 93 clinics and 423 schools.  They provide medical service to over 500,000 people and education to 80,000 children.

The country has been continually ravaged by war and has a poverty rate close to 90%.  There is very little commerce, but there is an environment that would support micro business and there is a history and the remains of an infrastructure that would support micro business.  The major disease types and causes of death are conditions that could be controlled through education.  We concluded that CHE (Community Health Education) would dramatically improve the health and community conditions.

There is a partnership of organizations that includes Peninsula Covenant Church.  The existing partners include:

    • Paul Carlson Partnership
    • Rolling Hills Covenant Church
    • Kent Washington Covenant Church
    • Redeemer Covenant Church in Tulsa
    • CHE (Community Health Evangelism)
    • Help for the Aged- A Canadian organization that is making a significant investment in biodiesel to generate electricity
    • Hope International providing agricultural and medical supplies
    • Pasadena Covenant has also partnered in the past

We are also interacting with several other organizations that we hope will become partners:

  • Opportunity International – Potential for help with micro finance
  • US AID – PCP has a pending grant request
  • Rwanda Project – A bicycle concept

Where we visited:

  • Kinshasa – Capital of Congo (DRC)
  • Gemena – Capital of Mongala Province (Headquarters of the CEUM)
  • Bokonzo – Near Gemena
  • IPOK – Near Gemena
  • Karawa – Location of one of the hospitals
  • Loko – Location of another hospital
  • Gbadolite – Capital of Nord Ubangi
  • Goyongo – Site of the Covenant Seminar

What we found:

  • Overwhelming expression of gratitude: We were treated like heroes wherever we went because of the help that we have provided:
    • capital funding and laptop computers for building of solar powered computer lab at Goyongo (undergraduate campus for Ubangi-Mongala Protestant University), 2002-3
    • two cargo containers of computers, clothing, and other equipment in 2004 & 2007
    • provided in-depth training onsite at PCC for 3 CEUM leaders (2006) in English, computer applications, and business development
    • technical assistance with electrical and computer equipment in 2005 & 2007
    • rebuilding of some bridges (and roads) assistance from 2006 relief offering
    • last year’s (2007) relief offering that covered the payment of doctors that had not been paid during the war;
    • ½ container of pharmaceutical supplies funded from 2007 budget surplus
    • this year’s (2008) relief offering that provided diagnostic equipment and medicines for the clinics and hospitals 
  • We started our trip and ended our trip in Gemena where we visited IPOC and Bokonzo.  There is a busy market in Gemena and reason to be positive about the potential.  However, the clinic in IPOC, like nearly all others, is in desperate need of basic medical equipment including beds and examining tables.  The structure of that building also needed repair.
  • Our first opportunity to meet with the people of the village was in Karawa.  The hospital here was once the premier facility in the region, (known as Little America by the Congolese in the area because of its facilities), and it showed potential for reestablishing those credentials.  The need here is for investment into the facility and the infrastructure.
  • Loko was our next stop and was the location of a research hospital for Belgium and had infrastructure like water, electricity, decent roads, and jobs for the residents. The rebels damaged some of the infrastructure.  The water supply to the hospital was just reestablished by Rolling Hills Covenant Church.  The electricity is rarely on because diesel-powered generators fuel it and diesel fuel is scarce and expensive.  There is a good foundation for development of micro business and a community environment.  There are fish farms and palm orchards which provide a foundation for the economy.
  • Gbadolite was the town where former President Mobuto lived.  He established an International Airport, encouraged international companies to have offices, built a quality road system, and at one time it was a thriving city.  When he was overthrown in 1997 all of that was abandoned.  It was ravaged again in 2002 by the rebels and is now a ghost town.  The Covenant Church of Kent Washington built a school there, but the people of the town are very discouraged because there are very few jobs.
  • Goyongo is a remote village where the Bible institute/seminary has been based.  Since the missionaries were evacuated, the World Mission funding for the seminary has remained static at $3,000/year with some contributions by others.  For the seminary to survive there needs to be funding and investment in infrastructure.  It is President Mossai Sanguma’s vision to provide graduate level theology and bachelor level work in economics and medicine at Gemena.  Goyongo will remain an undergraduate theology school, a division of the newly formed Ubangi Protestant University.
  • We flew back to Gemena to complete our inspection of that area and then flew back to Kinshasa to complete our trip back to the United States.

What has been done?

        Paul Carlson Partnership (PCP) has provided funding and medicines for the hospitals and clinics and coordinated much of the rebuilding of bridges.  They recently formalized their micro credit strategy by hiring Texa to become the Paul Carlson Projects Manager.  This provides hope for the communities that an economy can be rebuilt.

  • Kent Covenant is involved in several projects focused on schools.  They provided the roof structure for the schools in Gbadolite, Gemena, IPOC, Bogone, Karawa, and Bosobolo.  The walls at Gbadolite were not yet complete when we were there. We have subsequently learned that a high wind blew down the roof and damaged many homes in Gbadolite.
  • Rolling Hills Covenant is investing in Loko where they have a water project and are also supporting the fish farm, Palm orchard and a solar energy project.
  • Peninsula Covenant has provided computer equipment, clothing, technical assistance, paid doctors for their service during the war, and recently sent medical equipment and supplies.  In addition the Lamplighters are providing medical equipment for the clinic in Gbadolite.  Our investment in bringing Texa Dembele, Pastor Zabusu, and Mireille Zangagbia to the US is showing great dividends as all three are now important contributors to the work of the CEUM.
  • Help for the Aged is developing biofuel that can be used to run the generator
  • HOPE International of Canada has provided medical supplies and is supporting agriculture extension work at two new locations.
  • The graduate level theological training has begun on the Ipok campus of Ubangi Protestant University, where Sharon taught a course in Immersion English to the current students (pastors) as part of their requirements (along with 20 other pastors and CEUM leaders).   The graduate school has become possible with the combined efforts of the CEUM and Evangelical Free Church leadership.  For the first time, CEUM pastors can receive in depth theological training without needing to find ways to fund expensive tuition and cost of living in Kinshasa or other countries.  It has been President Sanguma’s dream since he was a student at Fuller 10 years ago (when he saw the value of investing in that first computer lab at Goyongo), to elevate the thinking of CEUM leaders to a new vision of hope for a sustainable future.
  • In addition we are approaching businesses to see if they will partner with us by creating a social business that will provide equipment such as Solar Panels, Computers, Pumps, and other needed equipment for the infrastructure.
  • Finally we are looking for people who are able and willing to serve the CEUM in the Congo, on short-term teams as well as extended periods of time, in areas of medicine, business development, and English teaching.

The Cast

 In addition to our team the following individuals were involved in this trip:

  • Mossai Sanguma – Past President of the Covenant Church of Congo arranged our meetings and greetings
  • Sabuli Sanguma – Mossai’s wife provided many meals and hospitality
  • Byron Miller – Past CEO of Paul Carlson facilitated the distribution of medical supplies and will help us collaborate with Partners
  • Keith Gustafson – Missionary currently domiciled in Seattle who joined us for part of the trip and served as a guide and interpreter
  • Texa – Projects manager in Congo for Paul Carson Partnership will help identify and manage projects funded by Paul Carlson Partnership
  • Nzuzi – Regional Executive for Community Health Education (CHE) is willing to do a visioning meeting with Covenant Church of Congo leaders
  • Pastor Zabusu – Administrative Coordinator for Mossai helped with many of our meetings