My own awareness and growing interest in the DRC began this past summer. I found myself in an airport gift shop browsing through the various book titles for something to read on the plane. I had narrowed my selections, when out of the corner of my eye, Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible caught my attention. I had been aware of this title for some time but had assumed it to be one of the new contemporary translations of Scripture. Not at all!
As one reviewer describes it, "This novel tells the engrossing story of quirky, feverish Baptist preacher Nathan Price who hauls his family off on a mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. The story's narration is shared by his wife Orleanna and their four daughters, ages 5 - 15, who seem much too tender and naive to survive the trials of harsh conditions, poor housing, language barriers, cultural clashes, and natural antagonists. What results is an absorbing story set against the backdrop of political and religious upheaval."
Suffice it to say, even though I was physically on a trip to Florida, my heart and mind were in Africa.
There is little doubt the book is a controversial one. It portrays missionary work in a distorted stereotypical way as often practiced back in the 50's and 60's. But even so, this novel needs to be on the reading list of every cross-cultural missionary today. It is 1) a well-written good story, 2) insightful about how one should go about taking the Gospel to different cultures, 3) an education on what has happened in the Congo and why things are as they are today. The insights into how we relate and understand those so different from us would go far in not only advancing the Kingdom of God, but in bringing about peace so needed in places like the DRC.
The following CommissionStories video is only 4:14, but introduces a small slice of the complexities of taking the Gospel to this needy, sad, war-torn country.
If you have time and interest there is plenty more to learn about what is going on in the DRC. I found Congo's Curse to likewise be an eye-opening piece. To read about recent Baptist efforts in the Congo read here.
To conclude, would you pause with me to pray for the peoples of the DRC? Pray that God's peace, mercy, forgiveness, healing, protection, and provision be over this nation, and that the Lord of the Harvest would send laborers to minister the love of Christ and bring hope to the hopeless through the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.