From despair to blessing during COVID-19

God reached out to Bercy Mundedi in her valley of tears. In turn, she reached out to others, risking long journeys by motorcycle to ease people’s isolation and fear.

Bercy Mundedi and her son, Serge, traveled by motorbike to encourage people isolated by COVID-19 restrictions. — Mennonite Mission Network Bercy Mundedi and her son, Serge, traveled by motorbike to encourage people isolated by COVID-19 restrictions. — Mennonite Mission Network

Allow me to share with you my journey from despair to a place where I could take new risks to share God’s love.

I was abused and betrayed by my relatives when I was young. Several illnesses left me frail and vulnerable throughout much of my life. My involvement with the Congo Leadership Coaching Network set me on a new path of experiencing God’s love.

In 2017, I became the director of Kalonda Bible Institute, the leadership-training school of the Mennonite Church of Congo.

Soon after I was named to this position, our region came under siege in the Kamuina Nsapu rebellion. I was targeted as a person belonging to the wrong tribe.

Then, more recently, the Bible institute was hit with a crisis. It involved a significant reduction to faculty and staff salaries and student scholarships.

If that wasn’t enough stress, my husband is without employment, and the pandemic has crippled the Congolese economy.

I found myself in a dark place, a valley of tears. But, even there, God reached out to me.

Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain. [God] gives to them a brook of blessing filled from the rain of an outpouring. — Psalm 84:6 (The Passion Translation)

By God’s grace, I did not lose my faith. I still had a little strength, and this strength helped me to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd: “Even though you walk through the dark valley of death, you needn’t be afraid. I am close beside you, guarding, guiding all the way” (adapted from Psalm 23:4).

Scripture teaches us to share God’s Word “whether the time is favorable or unfavorable” (2 Timothy 4:2). I could see that others around me were experiencing distress and poverty, like I was. But how could I reach them, given that the churches and all institutions were closed due to COVID-19 restrictions?

The idea came to me to travel among the towns and villages and share how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Central Committee ­offered financial assistance.

I started with the communities closest to me, in the Tshikapa region. Eventually, with the help of my son, Serge, we rented motorbikes and ventured further out. Sometimes we were away from home for more than a week at a time.

These journeys across hundreds of kilometers were difficult. One of our biggest concerns was the insecurity caused by the risk of a roadside ambush by people desperate to feed their families.

As I completed awareness-building assignments in villages and towns, I gained courage. The little strength I had increased. A sense of peace replaced my concern about my own future. I found myself growing in love for the people I taught.

Everywhere I went, people were astounded by my bravery and encouraged that someone had come to visit them amid their distress. They said things like, “We can’t believe you cared so much about our safety and well-being that you traveled so far.” Or, “No church leaders have come to visit us in years. You have restored our faith that the church is still alive.”

Though COVID-19 had not arrived in all the places we visited, our presence brought relief from another pandemic familiar to many people — isolation and fear. I discovered offering friendship in Jesus’ name is a powerful force that contributes to everyone’s growth and health. In my experience, being a channel of blessing to others is a form of evangelism.

Bercy Mundedi, director of Kalonda Bible Institute in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was one of the first three women ordained by the Mennonite Church of Congo. She and her husband, Calotin Ngungu, have seven children. This article was distributed by Mennonite Mission Network.

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