Update from Didi Panzo, NALC Global Worker in Democratic Republic of Congo
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! — Psalm 143:10 (ESV)
Dear partners in mission,
We thank you for your prayers, donations of kindness and your thoughts that allow us to survive on the ground. We also thank God, the sustainer and protector of our lives. He is the one who used each of you to be faithful and helpful in our mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). With God and you, we were able to accomplish tasks that we felt were impossible.
The year 2018 was very challenging and discouraging because of the political situation in the DRC — unrest, strikes, killings and other situations that could have caused us to resign and return home. God was so good and present in the battle and through your prayers. Because of Him, we won the battle. The tough time was turned into a blessing. Here are some of the year’s accomplishments in our established programs:
Seminars: Men and women were blessed by trainings that helped them to discover their talents and capacity to serve God. Some of the themes we considered were a man’s responsibilities in a family, discipleship, empowering women to witness to the Gospel with other women, women standing for the construction of our homes, families, communities, churches and nation. We recently discussed the role of men as the head of the household. Many other topics were discussed that led the participants to discover Christ and accept Him as Master and Savior of their lives.
Church Development: A Community of Confessional Lutheran Churches in Congo (CELCCO) church, built by natives, struggled to develop and increase their attendance. Through motivation, training and seminars, the church of Boma, Matadi and Tshela had an attendance increase of 15 percent over previous years. Our theological seminary now has more than 35 Lutheran students who in three years will become leaders of the local church and on the national level.
Assistance to orphans, children in need and women in domestic violence situations: During 2018, we cared for 25 children who lived at an orphanage owned by an individual who lacks the means to fully care for the children. We assisted by providing food three times a week. We also helped to feed and pay school tuition for 10 children who live on the streets or in impoverished households. We counseled 45 women, many of whom are now out of the program with successful changes in their lives and the knowledge that Christ is their Provider, Protector and Savior.
Help to farmers: We find that farming plays a crucial role in helping families to generate income. In many of the small villages we visited, we noticed that women were often separated from men for farming. It was our job to show them that God is their Provider. They must put Him at the center of their household, work and lives, praying together and sharing the Word of God with their children. Through that, any crops they may harvest will help their family and not just the men. We helped to provide tools and seeds. Today at least 40 percent of the families we are working with have already noticed a difference in their income and are able to feed and pay school tuition for their children.
Theological training: In the initial days of the CELCCO, a lack of trained pastors with understandable theologies led the church to division. The way to strengthen the church was to only have trained pastors who would be able to faithfully preach the Gospel. With that in mind, the theological school was created in the city of Tshela. The school still struggles to fulfill its financial goals. Besides my other duties, I was called to teach at that school and I am currently serving as the general director. This year, 65 students are enrolled, of which 30 are finishing their associate degree and will be enrolled again next year, as we are projecting the introduction of a bachelor’s level program.
Visits: We were blessed by the visit of our brothers and sisters from the United States. Between the months of February and March, our son Enoque Panzo and his wife Anna Panzo visited us for two weeks. They visited to see where we live and the kind of mission work we do. While they were here, they spent time with the youth of the CELCCO and led seminars on how to become useful in the church and how to lead with a vision for the future.
We also received Dr. William Obaga, World Mission Prayer League (WMPL) associate director for Africa. His visit boosted the mission mindset of the church. We visited different projects, mission sites and the theological school. His visit served as preparation for the visit of the Rev. Dr. Paul Gossman, WMPL executive director.
In the month of September, we received a visit from Pastor Gossman and Gloria Sauk, our colleague in Kenya. Both came to learn what is happening on the west side of the DRC and discovered the tremendous opportunities for partnership between WMPL and the CELCCO. We also visited the city of Tshela, where the theological school exists and where the history of the church began. We visited the city of Kuakua, where Gloria is planning to promote a vision camp because of the high rate of blindness on the west side of the Kongo Central Province. We toured the city of Boma and visited some independent projects and organizations that are our partners. In Boma, it amazed our visitors to see that the roof of the church that was totally ripped off was replaced through help from our supporters in North America.
In summary, these visits brought a new perspective of cooperation and allowed us to together praise the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, let us remind you that through God’s help and because of you and your faithful work, prayers and giving, all these programs were able to happen. Please continue to pray for the mission work in the DRC, pray for provision to help fulfill most of the needs of each program and pray for this country that is going through a presidential election. Finally, pray for our protection and provision to continue to stand firm on the ground.
To learn more about our global workers with WMPL or to partner with the Panzo Family, please visit thenalc.org/gcs.