". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to Congo

Last year around this time my husband spent ten days in Congo teaching hymns and liturgy to French-speaking African Lutherans. He was invited to go there by Pastor James May of Lutherans in Africa. Pastor May was my husband's co-teacher and traveling companion and is also now a good friend.

It was a trip my husband will never forget. You can read much more about it under the listing for Congo here on my blog. Next week he will be returning for another round of teaching. As he did last time, he will also be delivering several boxes of Liturgies et cantiques luthériens for distribution to our fellow Lutherans there.

Last year when he did this I was quite nervous about the distance he was going to be traveling (21 hours of air travel to get there) as well as about his safety. That is still in the back of my mind, but I find myself right now thinking less of those things and much more of what it is going to be like when he arrives once again among his friends in Brazzaville. For they are most assuredly friends, and I can only try to imagine the joyful reunion that will be experienced by both my husband and the people he came so quickly to love and who came to love him. When he said goodbye last year he was presented with several articles of African clothing. One of the things he is looking forward to doing is taking back a picture of our family wearing the clothing we were given. Here is a photo of me, Caitlin and Phillip doing just that at a recent presentation on his trip that Phillip gave at our church.

Phillip will be leaving next week on Thursday. I would appreciate your prayers for his safety and well-being as well as for his work, that it might be a blessing to the Congolese Lutherans. I thought I would leave you with this video from his last trip. It is a drive through the streets of Brazzaville a day or two after his arrival. The other two people in the video are Pastor May and Pastor Mavoungu of the EELC (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Congo). You can get an idea from the video of the living conditions in Brazzaville. But what I am most struck by is the joy of these three men as they do the Lord's work. Shortly into the video they start singing. After a stanza or two of the song, Phillip interjects a comment. The comment is acknowledged, but notice what happens next. Instead of returning to conversing, Pastor Mavoungu picks back up on the next stanza of the song. He will not be distracted from singing! Phillip told me that this is typical: once his Congolese friends started a song or a hymn, whether in a formal (church) or informal setting, they did not stop until they sang the whole thing. We in our hurry-up, cram-it-in, cross-it-off-the-task-list lives could learn from those priorities.

If you would like to support Lutherans in Africa and specifically their efforts in Congo-Brazzaville, let me know and I will put you in touch with the right people.


Leah said...

The joy is definitely apparent in the singing and conversation. Oh, that we all would sing continually with such childlike shamelessness about the Gospel Of Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Loving these guys and the work on the Kenyan hymnal as well. Praying for you all.

Phillip said...

Thanks for your prayers and support, Dan. Both projects need them.

First, in regards to the french hymnal, the good news is that there are thousands of french-speaking Lutherans in Africa who want this resource and will use it. We have the books - but getting them the books is difficult and there so far has been little interest in teaching and promoting this book other than from Lutheran Church-Canada and LIA. There are many reasons for this - from the lack of French-speaking Lutherans available to teach to the crazy import & tax laws in various countries. But there it is, a "supply" problem.

With the Kenyan project, the challenge is on the demand side. Only 10-15% of ELCK members worship in Swahili. So even if the copyright issues with the Tanzanians can be worked out so that this project may go forward, it is likely that most of these books will end up on dusty shelves. The good folk of the LCMS will make sure that thousands of hymnals rain down like manna all over Kenya - but between the language issues and CoWo, they may not be used. On the language side, the Kenyan government is trying to make everyone speak Swahili and Obare also is pushing Swahili as a way of creating unity, but many in the majority are resistant. They prefer to worship in their own languages.

And then there is the preference for CoWo. Even at Obare's cathedral they use an evangelical songbook called "Mission Praise" for the English services. In several places in Kenya they have access to a magnificent Swahili hymnal from Tanzania that is thoroughly Lutheran and also donated copies of LW for worship in English, but they continue to use "praise" music from neo-Evangelical and Pentecostal sources. I know Obare wants to change this, and so the Kenyan Hymnal Project is well-intentioned, but those are the realities the church is dealing with. So we pray that there be a demand for this book that so many of our friends have put their hearts into over the past couple of years.

Again, thanks for your prayers and support.