Mourn with Those Who Mourn

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Ever year we have an annual Team Conference, this conference was supposed to happen next week. We had speakers, childcare, events and activities all planned out. Then sometimes God takes over and says 'maybe not right now'. 

It started when we heard some news that the body of the main opposition leader that passed away a few weeks ago was going to come back to Kinshasa to be buried on the day we planned to start the conference. 
Here in Congo, mourning is something that the Congolese do well. They take the time to honour and mourn those that have passed away, they give themselves space in their lives and hearts to come to terms with their lost loved ones. But because of that the funerals take a lot of time and energy. When it is someone as important as the opposition leader dies it is unknown how much of the city will be shut down on the day his body is brought in and we still don't even know when the funeral will be. 
Then last weekend, there was some unrest right in our neighbourhood. Usually I am quite confident saying that our neighbourhood is beautiful and calm however a few weeks ago a spiritual leader issued some statements demanding some things of the current government. This spiritual leader is a very prominent figure with a large following and has lots of rumours of his 'mystical' powers and lives a few blocks from us... After his demands were made, the police went in to arrest him, but the spiritual leader with the help of many of his followers was able keep the police out of his compound. If you are wondering how he could do this, it is important to remember that this guy induces a lot of fear because what it is believed that he can do; such as turning sticks into guns, making bombs out of palm nuts and being able to disappear. 
Tear Gas Canister
Since then he has been barricaded in his house with the police just keeping a general watch. Then last weekend the police decided to go in a try to flush him out at around 11 am and finally arrested him at 7 pm. We believe they wanted to get him out alive so there was a lot of rubber bullets being shot, flash bangs and some of our friends that live nearby had some tear gas thrown into their yard (someone had bad aim!) but it still made for a interesting day. In the end they were able to get into the compound and apprehend the leader. Our neighbourhood has already returned to its normal calm state and we are thankful for Gods protection through it all. 
The day after the unrest in our neighbourhood we were going to have a team meeting to chat about what we should do about the conference, and then right before the meeting we got a call from our team mates in Lubumbashi that our MAF employee Binene Isidore Kayeye who worked for MAF over 25 years passed away suddenly from cancer. He handled finance, admin, flight following, government relations, employee relations, and much more for the Lubumbashi base in Congo. He leaves behind a wife and six children, and a big hole in our team. 
Binene Isidore Kayeye
Then just 2 days later we also lost Mangala Abram, an airstrip worker at our interior fuel base in Vanga. Mangala had been sick for some time with chest and breathing issues.  He worked hard to keep our grass runway cut, to guard the facilities, and to help fuel and load aircraft in Vanga for over 11 years. His wife and three children as well as our whole team will miss him greatly.
Mangala is kneeling in the green shirt far left
Because of what I explained before of the importance of mourning in this culture and because of our own need as a team to mourn and process, it was pretty clear that we needed to postpone our Conference. Our team in Lubumbashi is currently helping support Binene's family in the preparation for his funeral and Nick is working here to help with the needs of Mangalas family. 
It is times like this that reminds us for our deep and desperate need for Jesus, and for the body of Christ. I am so thankful for our team here that loves and supports each other in times of difficultly and for those far away that pray for us even if you don't know why. 
Romans 12: 14-16 encouraged us to 
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another... " 
As we mourn with those who mourn over the next few weeks, wether it be the congolese community in the death of the prominent political figure or with the friends and family of Binene and Mangala; as we shift schedules, visitors and expectations would you pray for us. Would you pray for our team, our leaders and for Congo.