The past few months have brought about many changes to the DR Congo, as they have for the remainder of the world. Our closures in Lubumbashi have not been as radical as in some other areas, but certain aspects of Congolese society are completely different than before the Covid-19 pandemic arrived here. The two biggest changes have been to churches and schools.
On the evening of March 18th, DRC President Félix Tshisekedi officially closed all schools, public and private, at every level. That means that our Bible school program has been suspended until the requirements of this edict are lifted. The students at IBTAD Lubumbashi had just begun the last class before their Easter holiday, so the holiday began early and is still ongoing. Somewhat like having snow days in the northern hemisphere, this closure means that the long summer vacation looks like it will be much shorter this year.
We were also just three days into the first ever class for Lubumbashi's West Africa Advanced School of Theology extension, with a dozen students studying towards their BTh degrees in a class taught by Dr. Cécile Bomboko of Kinshasa. We were able to get her on a flight home before the nation's airports were closed, but this program will have to start over once the shutdown concludes.
No meetings with over twenty people have been allowed since the president's proclamation, so many Congolese churches have done the same thing as those in the West. They have gone online to stay in touch with their congregations and reach out to those in need of spiritual counsel. Our English services were already online, but broadcasts are created with a skeleton crew in a nearly empty church. Our sponsoring church on the French side has a very popular TV and radio station so we are broadcast live each Sunday evening. Here is a link to a clip from one of Bill's recent messages: (this was editted by Jeremy Dellsam, our sound and video "dude" for the English congregation) https://web.facebook.com/sonia.j.shaw/videos/10222953172483410/?_rdc=1&_rdr or
The English choir practicing social distancing. The "congregation" at la Parole Eternelle
during COVID-19 restrictions.
Because we have not been meeting as a congregation, this was a good opportunity to begin home cell groups around the city. So far, four groups have begun, and Bill is training the leaders each Saturday afternoon. This is the cell group from the Kassapa neighborhood.
Construction has not been a limited activity, so phase two of the IBTAD campus has proceeded on schedule. The roof is on, interior plastering is completed, the windows and exterior doors are in place, the electrical wiring is about halfway completed, and the suspended ceilings are being installed. We are looking forward to seeing the finishing touches completed and students using the building this fall.
For however long this lockdown continues, may "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).
Bill & Sonia Shaw
Lubumbashi, DR Congo