From the 11th to the 20th August 2019, the UEM General Secretary, Rev Volker Martin Dally, the Project Officer, Mr Uli Baege and the Africa Executive Secretary, Rev Dr John Wesley Kabango visited and had meetings with church leaders and supported population from UEM member churches ECC in Kinshasa, CDCC in Mbandaka and CADELU in Basankusu, the Democratic Republic Congo. We travelled extensively going from community to community for eight days. We visited six rural and two urban communities, connected with the UEM support, and had meetings with church leaders. In the process of all of this we also received updates and points of view from church leaders, members and co-workers.
The visit to the CADELU: The delegation attended and took actively part in the inauguration of a UEM-funded CADELU vocational school in the 12 million capital city, Kinshasa, scheduled to function in mid-September 2019. The church has visibly a lot of needs but shows a strong commitment towards self-reliance strategies and local resource mobilisation. The delegation was introduced to UEM supported church buildings in Kinshasa and Bongunda (Basankusu), an opportunity to appreciate the work of former co-workers in the 1990s.
The ECC President, Dr Andre Bokundoa Bo-Likabe and his collaborators had meetings with UEM co-workers. We also visited the Kinshasa Cathedral, the project helping street children accused of “sorcery” and a group of women living with disabilities. These are actively involved in income generating activities supporting their families to get access to basic needs: food, clothing, health and education.
The visit at the CDCC in Mbandaka was marked by three main events – the CDCC General Assembly, the celebration of the church’s 120 years jubilee, and the launching of the 25th jubilee of international UEM. Moreover, the Ambulance boat, farming activities and the Bokilimba primary school were visited, the latter serving mainly children from underprivileged families of the area. In Mbandaka, the CDCC Ambulance Boat operating on the river Congo develops each year by providing required diaconal services, using modern medical equipment provided by international partners. Recently, a new machine was provided by Dortmund partners together with other German partners.
Generally, it is admired how women and men come together to implement remarkable projects in a difficult context of the Equateur Region of the Democratic Republic Congo. Church leaders, UEM health and development co-workers, ordinary farmers, mainly widowed women, orphans, ethnic minorities (Pygmies), construction workers, nurses/ doctors at the Ambulance Boat, all work together to address severe poverty challenges. In remote areas, the churches reach out to the poorest of the poor. It is a people’s success story and a high appreciation to churches who lead development initiatives in a way where a unique partnership work was able to be observed. It has to be emphasized that church projects are investing in education, healthcare, in social development, in all those aspects which improve the quality of life of people who live within the ambit of the project. The goal is to improve the quality of people’s lives in the most holistic manner. It was observed how ownership is growing through the involvement of local congregants.
Finally, it is encouraging to observe that churches are keen to improve governance measures. As decided by the 2019 UEM Africa Regional Assembly, aspects of democracy, loyalty, internal constructive debates, justice, collegial management, efficiency and effectiveness need to be addressed properly. UEM members in Africa are committed to applying transparency and accountability measures. This includes a transparent administration, a responsible use of financial resources and an application of internal and external audits, to name few examples. This is done as a way of insuring transparency and accountability to members of churches who are internal donors and external supporters, national or international bodies whose resources are meticulously managed. UEM strongly believes that the ideal of transparency is evident for African Churches and their international partners.
The overall impression gleaned from the trip in the West DRC is that UEM’s work with churches is laying the necessary framework to support the various dimensions of poverty reduction and development in a very difficult context. UEM support, emphasizing progress for the vulnerable population, mainly women and children, is helping churches to empower actors and stakeholders to continue and expand their development programs in a sustainable way.
Rev. Dr John Wesley Kabango (Executive Secretary Africa)