Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Thank you!

Click to watch our thank you video!


Thank you.... 


We have just returned from a weeklong trip to Masisi, where we are building a Community Peace Center (formerly called a Training Center). We were able to mobilize a team of five disciples from the Goma Community Center (GCC) for the first time. Why? Because we had our new Toyota Land Cruiser 105 Series! 

We have worked for more than four years with members of the Goma Community Center. They have prayed and contributed to the work in Masisi with the reintegration of former child soldiers, pastoral trainings, leadership seminars and many other aspects of our work in Masisi, though never having set foot there. 

“When will we go there to meet these people that we have been praying for? When will we also sleep in tents, eat new foods and minister in the most vulnerable areas in our country?” said one member of the Goma Community Center. 

We got these questions nearly a year ago after an outreach in Kibati (another village near Goma that we work in) where they gave clothes to the community returning to rubble after serious clashes between the M23 rebel group and the Congolese National Army. 

But Masisi was a 4-6 hour drive (depending on the road conditions) through more volatile territories. We knew that bringing a team of Congolese to Masisi from the GCC was a logistical nightmare without another capable 4x4 vehicle. So, we continued occasionally taking one or two members of the GCC once a month just to get to know them and allow them to see what God is doing out in the most volatile areas. Those Congolese brought back stories that ignited a passion at the Goma Community Center. 

People want to be mobilized. 

They want to serve. 

“There are no jobs in Goma at this time. Employment is a very big issue. People are stagnant, depressed and angry,” said Julius Paluku, a member of the center, “but if we could just mobilize those people to do something with their time and try to be a part of changing that situation, it will open the their mind and also other doors of opportunity for them.”


We work with universities, single moms, high school students, the unemployed and many others who WANT to do something, but have simply lacked training or an opportunity. We put them through some basic training and provide opportunities for these people to be a part of changing their community in practical ways, by mobilizing them to less-reached areas outside of Goma and allowing them to volunteer within their communities or communities they’ve never set foot in before. 

This opportunity provides a sense of camaraderie, encouragement and professional experience that will build their experience-level and confidence to generate new ideas within their own spheres of influence. It also provides a network of other people from varying generations, tribes, socio-economic classes and denominations for members to have accountability and support. 

Now, with this newly purchased Land Cruiser, we will be able to take larger teams from the GCC, mobilizing them as volunteers and workers in the harvest within the three locations that we operate in. We are thankful for the generous donors who’ve sowed their prayers and finances into helping purchase this vehicle. You’ve sowed into more than just a vehicle; you’ve sowed into mobilizing a solid team of disciples bringing peace, development, innovation and long-term change within themselves and the communities in which we work. Again, thank you. We truly don’t know the impact made until together we see in eternity.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day in the Life


Amethyst Roth

It hurts when I breathe in deeply, because there's so much dust that filled my lungs today. I just washed a mud-like substance out of my hair accompanied by at least three unidentifiable insects that fell out in the muck. I thought I had a tan, until I washed myself and realized it was dust plastered over pretty much every centimeter of my body. I passed two UN contingents carrying seemingly enough arms to blow up the whole forest. I passed a squabble between two soldiers and civilians. I also passed a group of soldiers beating the hell out of another soldier, whose gun was thrown on the ground in front of our vehicle. I drove over it as fast as I could, trying to avoid hitting some other soldiers involved in the rough-housing. All while Andrew and the rest of the Congolese were yelling, "Drive! Drive! Drive!" at me (as if I'm seriously going to stop and stare at a bunch of angry soldiers fighting with loaded weapons?) Halos flew over our vehicle more often than usual and our return home was met with news that only 30 km from the villages that we work in, another armed group abducted scores of children who were on the way to their final exams. I say all this to say that through a seemingly chaotic day (which is actually just a normal day for us)—we had so much laughter, so many smiles and I have so much appreciation for the villages that we work in, the people we work with, the boys (even though some of them can act like punks) we work with and wouldn’t trade this job for the world.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bring Our Boys Home

Some of our Peacemakers who are in secondary school.
Congolese young people all over the country are scrambling to collect their final payments for school fees, prepare for exams and make it through the last part of the school year.

This marks the end of the first year that we officially started the Peacemaker Program, a program that brings children past the demobilization and rehabilitation process and into reintegration. This is so key for villages and micro-communities who need their young people more than ever to thrive in the face of an ongoing war.

We put our boys into school as an approach to bringing stability, hope and vision into their lives. The vast majority of them passed and thirty percent of them are at the top 10 percent of their class. 

But the Peacemaker Program has never only been about school and academics. Our vision for these boys runs much deeper. We want to bring them home to the Father.

The idea of art healing in the program was formulated because we believe that artistic expression is a pathway to encountering God.

I (Amethyst) would have never met God if someone wouldn’t have told me to dance, even if it meant looking like a heathen at times—if someone hadn’t told me to write, even if it meant writing like a heathen, or to play the piano even if the songs were only an expression of the darkness inside of me. 

Andrew and his Land Rover Discovery XD, his first
introduction to technical off-roading: a skill he now
uses on a weekly basis here in eastern DRC.
Andrew would have never met God they way he did, if it weren’t for a Land Rover. He would have never even considered world missions, if it weren’t for his obsession with 4x4 technical off-roading. He would have never been trained with Overland Missions if he hadn’t known that the guy who was training him was the coach of the top team of the most popular technical off-road completion of its time: Camel Trophy. (Camel—yup like the cigarettes.)

Sounds pretty carnal, doesn’t it? God took those things that seemed….                              
Well, off the point and hit us point blank with destiny.

I can’t say that either of us would be here if we were expected to hear the Gospel at an open air meeting, repented, went to church, sought discipleship and so on. Not that I’m diminishing the importance of doing any of those things.

One of our Peacemakers drawing about a bad memory he
experienced during one exercise. This was followed
by him drawing a picture of a good memory. 
We tested the waters last year of what art therapy with kids in this situation looked like by going to see other programs who work in similar ways, we tried implementing a simplified version of the Hero Book, we spent time with the boys learning about what they LIKE to do: soccer, cards, dancing, singing, farming and drawing. We learned about their home situations directly and indirectly. Now we’ve got a foundation to work with. We have an idea and now understand where they are spiritually, mentally and physically.

The boys formed a relationship with their counselors and have established mutual trust and respect for them. We are now working with Congolese from the Goma Community Center to create a youth friendly curriculum that goes through the same principles of Phase 1 in a more simplified way. The curriculum is meant to take complex foundational principles like forgiveness, reconciliation, identity, self-discipline etc… and break them into 1-2 hour meetings that they have weekly with their counselors. The meetings entail games, traditional African proverbs and group projects.

The Arts Component 
After a group has thoroughly learned a concept, for example reconciliation, identity, forgiveness or justice--- we assign the group a project that has to do with using creativity to illustrate the concept in that they have learned. This can be through a skit, song, dance, painting/or drawing or any other method of expression. Local Congolese artists from the community center volunteer their time to teach them the basics about their particular art and offer a foundation for each group of boys to work with and  we give them the proper supplies. The boys are loosely guided by us, the artists and their caretakers to create and illustrate what they are learning.

Sharing with the Community
The groups are able to present their work and/or performances in a safe environment to their family and friends when we hold a special party/presentation get-together. We invite leaders of the community, family members and even visitors from Goma to come to see the boy’s presentations. We allow the boys to explain their presentations to the people after they finish. Our counsellors and coordinators work hard to make sure the boys have a good grasp on the concept and help them to formulate ways to explain why they drew, sang, painted or moved the way that they chose to.

This reinforces the concept that they have been studying with their counsellor. They learn it, they interpret it and they explain it back.

We don't force any of the boys to participate in the performance, they can choose to, if they want. But most are eager to try something new.

We are still in the process of formulating this program by organizing the curriculum, training the counsellors, partnering with local Congolese artists and finding locations for their performance for the community. It's no small task.

This is not the only way to bring these boys home. But we believe that it's one way.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Vehicle Update: The Last Push


Andrew's Vehicle Update:

This past week was a bit of a scramble as I (Andrew) was getting very creative with trying to get enough funds over to Congo for a United Nations vehicle auction this weekend. Unfortunately the vehicles of interest to me went for more than what everyone expected and one slightly more than we could afford (around $28,000 considering documents, duty, taxes and repairs.) I reneged on an $18,000 bid after calculating and being somehow explained the vague import and duty taxes that I would be assessed (making it $28,000) and as a result lost the $1,000 refundable entry fee as a penalty. It was a great opportunity to get a vehicle but it wasn't to be. (This is very disappointing to me and I want to be as transparent as possible with all that has transpired.)

In our quest to be strategic, good stewards and do the most amount of good with the finances we've been given, we've come to several ideas. (UN auction not being one of them any more.) 

We had an AWESOME response to our appeal for a vehicle last Christmas and since then, some other donors have made large contributions! Whether it be $20 or $2,000 or larger we are so happy that our supporters have really caught the vision for this need! It’s never easy to put out a plea like this one!

But, even with everyone’s support and generosity-- our goal of $45,000 is a large number!

Our Options:


So after giving it much thought and prayer, our team found another solution for transporting supplies from Goma to the village, which was one of the key MAIN reasons that we needed such a robust vehicle. After reevaluating, it seems that we can save money, by doing the following:

A. Fixing our current vehicle very well and lifting it 2.5” to handle the terrain better

.

B. Buying a similar vehicle to our current one (Only getting an 8 seat, manual diesel version instead.) People in the U.S. know this vehicle as a Toyota 4Runner.



C. Buying a Yamaha dirt bike to go through the areas where the vehicle cannot make it.
  


This would cut our expenditure for vehicles down from $45,000 to about $35,000 and most importantly, it would allow our team to work in multiple locations simultaneously, which is a big deal. This is a strategic move because we work in multiple sites that have vast distances in between them.


This means that we need about $10,000 more to hit our goal…
 


We know that many of you have given faithfully and have contributed to this vehicle fund. But if you haven’t we really encourage you to contribute.
 


We know it’s hard for our friends abroad to comprehend our need for these vehicles…  But if you are a doubter, please invest your money in a plane ticket and pay us a visit in Masisi. You will quickly understand the urgency!
 


This month is a huge infrastructure building and logistic planning month for us as we are about to receive short-term visitors in June, July and August. In addition, we are ramping up our Women’s Program and Peacemaker Program. In having multiple vehicles that can be in multiple locations, we are able to double our work, involve more personnel, making a greater impact.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Celebration

At Global Outreach Foundation Congo (GOF-C), we have four core values: christlikeness, innovation, celebration, culture.

We did a time of worship and sharing memories at the
celebration. Moses, a GOF-C worship leader who lost his
wife and was left with five small children to raise by himself,
came and happily lead worship. We were all really grateful
to see him after this month of mourning.

I (Amethyst) want to expound on one particular value in this post. Celebration.

Congolese are a people of celebration, but the last two decades have dramatically shaped and even changed the culture of this region. People who were once trusting and hospitable are now afraid to help a stranger. People who were once rich and generous are now poor and reluctant to help anyone from outside of their community without the guarantee of payment or monetary reward. People who once laughed about village life and family now sneer and jeer at each other’s tribes, their government and even themselves for living in a ‘failed state.’

There’s even a joke that many people say in Congo.

George W. Bush died and went to hell. When he arrived, he asked the devil if he could make a phone call to the United States. The devil said that the call would be $5 per minute and that he would have to wait in line to make the phone call. 


Members from the Community Center volunteered
to cook and planned pretty much the whole celebration
by themselves. 
 Bush followed the devil’s instructions and met Mobutu (the president who changed the Congo to Zaire and ruled for 32 years) while waiting in the line. When they began to talk to one another, Bush found out that Mobutu was only paying $1 per minute to call Congo, while Bush was paying $5 per minute. Bush immediately approached the Devil. “Why do I have to pay five times more to call the U.S. while we are both here in hell?” Bush said. “Because you are calling long distance. If you were to call Congo, the price would be cheaper because it is a local call.”

We bought a grill and were happy to see that even the men
(which is not usually culturally accepted) were pitching in
to help cook!
Andrew and I not a huge fan of this joke, but Congolese actually find it hilarious. It’s actually quite sad.

GOF-C isn’t a huge organization, but we believe that there’s more to laugh about than the misfortunes of this nation or others. In order to change the culture of a nation we must find the things that are worth celebrating.

There’s always something to celebrate and we think it is important to find those things in life here to celebrate: our salvation, our family, holidays, individual achievements/milestones and team achievements and milestones are just a few things that we highlight with the GOF-C team.

One milestone that we’ve reached is the opening of an HQ office. It’s not larger than life, but it’s not too small either. It’s just what we need for this season in the organization.

We decided to do an Easter “Pasaka” (Pasaka, is Easter in Swahili) celebration to give other members of the Community Center who have graduated Phase 1 an opportunity to see the location of the main offices, eat and have fellowship.

Pastor Balumu, one of the pastors who is an active member of the Community Center stood up and said something very special.

Pastor Balumu has been a member of the Goma
Community Center for three years. He gave a very
encouraging word for everyone at the celebration. 
“This celebration really illustrates all of the values of this fellowship at the same time. We are people from different tribes and most importantly, churches and denominations: Catholic and Protestant, Baptist and Pentacostal, and we are celebrating the resurrection of the One who unites us all. This may seem simple, but it’s not—because no where else in this city is there a group of people that can lay down cultural and denominational differences and just celebrate Pasaka. This is the embodiment of Christlikeness, innovation, celebration and culture.”

We know that life isn’t easy hear in Congo, we know that many people have suffered and are continue to suffer at the hands of injustice. We also know that many of our own members of the Goma Community Center are victims to this injustice.

But I’d like to end this post with a quote that really sum up our philosophy on celebration, here, in the U.S. or anywhere else that we go in this world.

 Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving. –Dale Carnegie


This is a picture of only a few of the over one hundred members of the Goma Community Center. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Congolese are Like Onions: They Have Layers

Meeting with the North Kivu Director of the Province.
Congo is a Francophone country, which means that French is the primary means of professional communication here. Swahili, Lingala, Kikongo and Tshiluba are also considered official languages. However, when stepping into a government office, we are expected to know French.

Congo also uses the French legal system, which we know as Civil Law. Anglophone (English speaking) countries like the United States do not operate on Civil Law; instead we operate on Common Law.

The Francophone influence in Congo presents a host of challenges for us, primarily because we face layers of cultural differences.

The Bantu Layer
The first and most obvious layer is that Congolese are Bantu people, which means they are indigenous to Africa. Here are some Bantu ideologies that we can find throughout all of Africa. There are of course, some exceptions to this, I’m not an anthropologist, but here’s a general idea:

1.) LIFE – The most valuable thing in the Bantu culture is the human life and fertility. The idea of abortion or suicide is completely foreign to this culture. It’s really tough for them to wrap their minds around why anyone would even think of either of these things.

2.) Fate – Typically, Bantus see fate as predetermined and don’t believe that they could influence it on their own accounts. As a result, they except death without as many questions that a typical foreigner would have. They also see circumstances in life to be a reflection of blessing or punishment from some higher power. As a result, if a person is going through hard times, the community can infer that this person did something to deserve those hard times.

Specific to only North Kivu, Congo (DRC) the chukudu
can carry an immense amount of weight (over 500lbs).
This is a statue of a chukudu where symbolically this
"third-world" tool is actually carrying the whole world.
3.) Solidarity – Success is not considered success until it benefits the whole group, clan or village. One person being an achiever is not appreciated unless that person is doing something for the group to achieve. A man or a woman’s worth is determined by the amount of people who are with him through good times and bad times.

The Francophone Layer
This is a layer that I’m truly still really confused about. The French culture is incredibly different from culture in the U.S. and I can understand why Francophones and Anglophones typically don’t associate with one another. Here are some cultural layers that we’ve had to navigate through.

1.) Position and Title – Position and title are held at a higher esteem than US culture. Title and position separate you from others and it’s culturally accepted and esteemed to keep a gap between the titleholder and others. For instance, it is not legally possible to hold a director position, without having a certain salary to reflect that position.

2.) Justice system (Civil Law) – Civil Law determines the source of law through academic scholars, theorists and university professors. Conclusions are drawn in court by considering the point in abstract theory. The theory and the practice never really mesh and they are not meant to. Common Law, which is what we use in the United States, finds its source determined by the judges and practitioners. Common Law uses facts to draw the conclusion.

3.) Rational thought vs. religion: in contrary to Bantu culture, the Francophone culture believes that the individual primarily determines the future—people are either good or evil. Good vs. evil can be easily hand-in-hand with rational thought vs. religion. Good, being rational thought and bad being religion.

This may sound like intellectual gibberish, but it’s not. The Gospel is simple, but people are not. This creates a really big barrier in teaching concepts that defy rational thought such as: dying to self or taking your thoughts captive and even the French Bible fails to translate these thoughts properly. 

Francophone Africa (such as Congo, Burundi and much of West Africa) has a history uniquely different from Anglophone (Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Sudan, Tanzania and much of East and Southern Africa). The way colonization and independence occurred were particularly different. The effects are increasingly apparent today.
Not only do we deal with Francophone and Bantu cultures,
we often have meetings and interaction with those
a part of the United Nations. Contingents come from all
over the world including India, Pakistan, Uruguay,
 South Africa, and other nations.

Navigating through a hybrid culture of Bantu and Francophone language and culture requires a thorough analysis of the texts that we teach and how we teach them. It requires knowing the law or having a trustworthy person frequently on hand who can navigate through legal documents and protect us from lawsuits. It requires not just knowing the grammatical mechanics of the language but to know HOW TO use the language as a means to draw LIFE out of every individual that we speak with.

This is something that people who speak only one language and have never left their home country still struggle with.

Explaining the Bantu-Francophone layers only scratch the surface of  numerous other cultural barriers determined by socio-economic class as well as 400 different tribal groups each with their own customs. Moreover, we work in many sectors of the society: religious, economic, education, arts, culture and law-- each having it's own sub-culture to it, so-to-speak.

God calls us to embrace the differences and find His heart in the midst of every culture. I can certainly understand why wars happen and why people don't trust each other in our world. I'm still trying to figure out how to sit with French colleagues (because there are many of them working here) and make it through a conversation without insulting or feeling insulted. But I'm convinced that this is the beauty of the Kingdom.

God didn't create cultures so radically different from our own so that we could nitpick at them. He created them to remove the plank out of our eyes. He created them so that we could see better.

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