An update on the Jeremiah Center
May 2020

-Building a just and peaceful society in DR Congo. 

– Gathering leaders to articulate and promote a shared vision for hope which is spreading to the wider community through networking, research, and publications.

Greetings from Katho

Dear friends

It was Jeremiah’s lot to prophecy at a time when all things in Judah were rushing down to the final and mournful catastrophe; when political excitement was at its height; when the worst passions swayed the various parties, and the most fatal counsels prevailed. It was his to stand in the way over which his nation was rushing headlong to destruction; to make a heroic effort to arrest it, and to turn it back; and to fail, and be compelled to step to one side and see his own people, whom he loved with tenderness of a woman, plunge over the precipice into the wide, weltering ruin.

Campbell Morgan, “Studies in the Prophesies of Jeremiah”

This sometimes seems to be our own experience here at the Jeremiah Center and this is surely why the Center was created. In the last newsletter, we mentioned our efforts to negotiate between the army, the government, and a new group of rebels at Nyankunde, where our Jeremiah Center is located.

Unfortunately, the negotiations ultimately failed. After 15 meetings, the rebels attacked the army and they soundly defeated the government troops, taking with them a lot of military equipment. Rumors are circulating among soldiers, accusing me of not being sincere in the negotiation. Some suggest that I sided with the rebels. This accusation is normal — someone has to find a pretext to justify his defeat! It is comforting to remember that Jeremiah himself also was accused of treason by the army and the leaders of Jerusalem (Jer. 38:4).

Responding in the aftermath

This defeat of the army seems to have opened the door to more chaos in the region. At least 45,000 people have left their villages since last Sunday to run for safety. As I am drafting this newsletter, I have 21 displaced people in my house. This is not the first such experience for my family, but as you might imagine, it completely changes the way you live. Nonetheless, it is a joy to welcome them and share in their pain! On May 6 I spent two hours with the head of political affairs of the UN mission in DR Congo, discussing the possibility of peace in the region. On May 7, I was in a delegation composed of three members of provincial government, three members of provincial parliament and seven other leaders in our Province. Together we visited places recently attacked by armed groups. We sought to comfort those who are still in the villages, to listen to their stories and encourage them to go back to their houses (those who did not run far away are spending nights in the bush). After touring the region, we are now reflecting on what can be done.

The start of a magazine

Another main activity at the Jeremiah Center this month has been the design of the cover of our magazine, “Faith and Society” (Foi et Société, in French). We hope to be able to publish the first issue in August. The theme for this inaugural issue is: “The reasons for hope for Ituri Province.” We want to reflect on what we can do as Christian leaders, as churches, to encourage hope in our region. As one can read at the bottom of the cover, our hope is rooted in the promise of Yahweh, the God of Israel, who told Jeremiah to proclaim that despite the destruction of the nation, “fields and vineyards will still be bought in this land.” (Jer. 32:15).

The whole ministry of the Jeremiah Center stands on this promise that there is a future beyond the present chaos. We are profoundly grateful to each one of you who are praying for us and contributing financially toward this effort. We are aware of this extremely difficult time in the world because of coronavirus pandemic that has left millions jobless and struggling financially. As we pray for you and your families, we humbly ask that you remember us, as well.

I cannot overstate how much I appreciate your prayers for us, and for whatever the Lord puts in your heart to help us continue with this ministry.

Katho

An update on the Jeremiah Center
April 2020

-Building a just and peaceful society in DR Congo. 

– Gathering leaders to articulate and promote a shared vision for hope which is spreading to the wider community through networking, research, and publications.

Greetings from Katho

Katho anticipates the challenges of COVID-19 for DR Congo

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. (Jer. 17:7)

In these dangerous days of a global pandemic, my wife and I have been praying more than ever before for our friends in Europe and the USA. We also have been praying earnestly for our children who are in Nairobi, Kampala and Kinshasa.

How does it compare?
 

The question that keeps coming to my mind is this: “Since Europe and the USA are so affected, what will happen to us, in Africa, in DR Congo?” According to Dr Kiiza, the head of nearby Nyankunde hospital, there is not a single ventilator machine in our province of about 8 million people, nor is there one in the next province of North Kivu. In Ituri Province there are about 12 oxygen machines. That is all! Yes, this is all we have at the moment as we anticipate the onslaught of a deadly novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Unfortunately, it has already arrived to our province at the end of March with the first positive case declared at Nyankunde hospital. The person infected happens to be a member of my family, my cousin, Singoma.

The challenges facing eastern DR Congo are illustrated by this case. The news of a COVID-19 case created a panic. Friends started calling from all over. Politicians added to the confusion with contradictory statements. Singoma lives in an isolated village near Nyankunde and has not been in physical contact with someone from outside the region. Yet the positive result came from a trustworthy laboratory. It is the only laboratory in the entire DR Congo, located in Kinshasa, more than 2 000 kilometers from our area.

Today, nearly two weeks since my cousin was admitted to the hospital, he is already back home and doing well. One doctor speculated that Singoma’s case might be a “false positive” result. Maybe! And may it be so!

But the battle continues. We are girding for a fight for our survival, without appropriate weapons, maybe like David against Goliath. Earlier this week, I went to Nyankunde to encourage doctors working in the hospital. I spent four hours with the leadership of the hospital praying, planning, and being an encouragement to them. We need to do our very best to delay the spread of the virus in our region, if at all possible! But is it really possible? We need wisdom, but also determination. We need to educate our people to behave responsibly.

Engaging with the Rebels

In our last newsletter, I shared with you my struggles and engagement with the new rebel groups at Nyankunde. 175 of the rebels (out of approximately 300) agreed to get out of the bush after long negotiations. Unfortunately, some of them are now creating a lot of trouble in the village. I visited there twice in the last week to see what can be done about this development.

Many returning rebels are complaining that they lost their jobs; some were teachers, others were motorbike taxi drivers, farmers, etc.. Others lost their wives who divorced them when they left the village to join the rebel group about nine months ago. I am seeking to organize an official meeting with them. We are aware that this can be very difficult because they are all appealing to demonic powers. On a positive note, a group of about 45 of them suggested to me that they would love to create an association of farmers (we have plenty of land). I like the idea, but this is not within the scope of the Jeremiah Center vision. With some local church leaders, we are now praying for a second-hand tractor that could help them.

Please join your hearts with us and pray for us at this difficult moment. We need sustainable funding to continue with our mission as the Jeremiah Center. As you may remember, we had hoped to publish our first magazine issue (Faith and Society) this coming August. However, we likely going to push the publication back due to lack of money.

Refugee Camps

My greatest concern these days is for those living in refugee camps. What will happen if the camps are impacted by COVID-19?

I was invited by three radio channels on Saturday and Sunday to talk about coronavirus and security concerns in our province. For us, the two go together. There are about 700,000 internally displaced people throughout the province and about 400,000 of them living in refugee camps without any prevention and protection

 The view of the  new refugee camps in our town looks eerily similar to some of the photos I’ve seen of makeshift hospitals in Central Park in New York City and in other areas around the world where the virus has taken hold. Let us pray for a speedy end to the pandemic and for people to use their God-granted gifts of discernment and wisdom to act graciously and responsibly in this time.

Katho.

An update on the Jeremiah Center
February 2020

-Building a just and peaceful society in DR Congo. 

– Gathering leaders to articulate and promote a shared vision for hope which is spreading to the wider community through networking, research, and publications.

Greetings from Katho

As we step out in faith and hope into the year of our Lord 2020, the Jeremiah Center’s vision and mission are coming into ever sharper focus. We seek to be agents of reconciliation and renewal in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the needs are many and increasingly urgent.

In the past few months, a new group of rebels has emerged near Nyankunde, the place where we established our office and operations. As a result, five people have been killed in the villages immediately around Jeremiah Center. For the time being, we are operating in Bunia city, where I live.

All the local chiefs, the army, and church leaders in the region are urging me to step in to mediate. I am directly negotiating with these rebel leaders, whose followers are estimated at 250 armed people. Not long ago, three of their leaders came secretly to Bunia to meet with me and Rose, my assistant at the Jeremiah Center. All told, we have made five trips to Nyankunde to meet with community leaders, young people, church leaders, army officers, etc.

I am negotiating as a leader in the region, as a Christian pastor, as an academic. Through these meetings, we are trying to understand the function of more than 120 rebel groups in eastern DR Congo — why and how they are created, how they operate, etc.

We are beginning to understand that some of the armed conflicts in the region must be approached differently than the way it has been done to date. We are excited to realize that God is using the Jeremiah Center to play a critical role in this. Due to our interventions and approach, at least 31 rebels have agreed to get out of the bush. The situation has been quiet in that particular area for the last four weeks. Just a few weeks ago, the Major commanding the army in the region told us: “You may be the true winners of this war, not the army.”

In addition, on January 15 a member of the Parliament from the capital Kinshasa, Honorable Uma Furaha, called me to request an urgent appointment. He was in crisis because, as he noted, our Province has been in deep trouble for the last three years, caused in large part by the militia and corrupt politics. We now have around 400,000 internally displaced people in the Province because of the terror caused by another rebel group near Lake Albert.

Honorable Furaha believes the Jeremiah Center can play an important role of gathering politicians from our Province to seek peaceful and sustainable solutions. Only two weeks later, on January 29, the political advisor to the Speaker of the Provincial Assembly of our Province (Ituri), also came to me with a similar request. He even proposed some names of people who could be invited to these meetings.

Pray that Jeremiah Center can be an instrument of God’s peace and reconciliation in our embattled region. It seems that this is God’s time for the Jeremiah Center to shine God’s light in the region.

For those of you who donated to our cause, we offer you our most heartfelt gratitude. Your support and prayers are vital to keep our Christian witness strong and our spirits high. If you have friends who might also be partners with us in this mission, please share this note with them. If your church has a global mission perspective and would like to know more about the work and the ambition of the Jeremiah Center, please connect us.

May God bless us all as we work to build God’s Kingdom, in our communities and throughout all of creation.

Katho

Time for Hope in DRCongo
19 JANUARY 2019

Dear friends and family, 

I wish to share with you recent events and occurrences with the Jeremiah Center for Faith and Society (JCFS).  You may recall in July we held a consultation of 25 leaders.  Per the plans from that, in September we brought together a steering committee of six to explore next steps.On September 17-18, this steering group wrestled with the following two questions: “What is it that we (JCFS) are distinctly called to do that others are not already doing and that can help our region?

The call 

The group reaffirmed what was said during the July consultation: that the Jeremiah Center exists to inspire, equip and sustain the church in its prophetic mission and discipleship for the transformation of our society. The group also recognized that the Jeremiah Center initiative provides a space for reflection grounded in the Bible.  This call is unique: we are not copying other organizations in the region. 

Where do we start?  Listening to the Church

To the extent that the mission of the Jeremiah Center is to inspire, equip and sustain the Church in our region, it seems natural to begin by listening to the Church herself. In other words, the first task is to understand how the Church in our region understands herself and the challenges in this country.  We will establish forums to systematically listen to our churches.  We will ask several questions of church leaders across eastern Congo such as this: 

  • How does the church develop her leaders and form mature and responsible citizens?
  • How do the leaders behave in the face of all the challenges of the context in our region (injustice, corruption, poverty, ethnic division, etc.)?
  • How is the church perceived by her own members and the society in general?
  • Does the church perceive the Gospel as “Good News” for the suffering and desperate Christians in the region?

   All other activities of JCFS will flow from this first project, which we call Listening to the Church. Knowing better where the churches stand will ual allow JCFS members insight on the steps needed to help our churches live faithfully in this climate.  It also will demonstrate to them our genuine interest to work through and for churches.  Our vision is to find out how the church can live her Christian faith in its economic, political, social, cultural, ecological, moral and

spiritdimensions. And on each of these issues, we wish to show concretely that the Christians gathered in the Church as a people and a family of God constitute the hope for our nation. 

Developing of the site     At the Jeremiah Center we cherish the idea of having a space where we can regularly meet to learn, to encourage one another, to pray together, to listen to one another and above all else, to form a “new” community of restored leaders in our divided society. In the midst of such profound suffering and uncertainty that characterizes our region, the Lord Jesus is calling us to walk together in our desperation, our hopes, and our fears. It is only while walking together that we can start developing a common vision for our ministry and our nation.  

Seed funding has come in to start the rehabilitation of buildings on a site in Nyankunde. Shown above is construction work on the 2nd of eight buildings.  This site is intended to give a treasured opportunity for the formation of a new community of leaders, for sabbath rest, reading, reflection, and writing/research to our Christian leaders in the region.  Therefore, we beg you to continue praying and supporting the development of this site of hope for our nation. 

This month, we give thanks for the following:

  • A successful second meeting of the Jeremiah Center.
  • The completion of the renovation of the first building.
  • A sense of assurance from the Lord that we are moving toward the right direction.

This month, please join us in prayer for the following:

  • A two-day meeting in October to develop the first project (“Listening to the Church”).
  • A one-day board meeting in November.
  • Funds to continue with the renovation of the Jeremiah Center site.
  • General funds for the development of JCFS ministry.

    We very much appreciate your prayers and supports. We beg you to accompany us as we seek to bring shalom to Congo through the presence, lives, and witness of God’s people there. Gifts can be made to Outposts of Hope, Inc. with clear indication that they are for Jeremiah Center:  Outposts of Hope 

C/o David Toole 

8 South Poston Court

Durham NC 27705

With gratitude

Time for Hope in DRCongo
11 AUGUT 2018

Dear friends and family,       

The Jeremiah Center is moving from vision to action and from a distant dream to a concrete reality.  Two dozen Christian leaders from eight denominations came together for three days in July to consider the urgent. need for the Jeremiah Center at such a time as this in Africa and in the Democratic Republic of Congo in particular. It was a time of reflection, lament, hope, and prayer — and confirmation that God is calling us to be strong and courageous in this endeavor. The inaugural consultation yielded a harvest of fresh insights and ideas for the Center, including a more descriptive name:

the Jeremiah Center for Faith and Society (JCFS). 

The first day of  the consultation focused on describing and understanding our context. The second day sought to clarify our calling as the church (and JCFS) in DRCongo.  The third day produced refined and targeted strategies that will guide the mission and work of JCFS as it seeks to bring reconcilaition and renewal to the people and the systems of DRCongo. By the end of the first day of the gathering, there was growing consensus around the six major challenges faacing the people of God in

DRCongo:

1. failed leadership

2. A crisis of identity and personality

3. A failed judiciary system

4.A failed education system

5. A failed socioeconomic system

6. Failure of churches in it prophetic mission and in its role to teach discipleship

To address those serious challenges, we forged a mission statement for JCFS that includes five core elements:

1.      To be a place of theological
reflection to equip and inspire the church for her mission

2.      To develop a spirit of unity among
denominations and churches so we might speak with one voice to address the crises in the country

3.      To help churches and denominations
develop a common  vision for society and to actively engage the challenges of our context (a reflection of the Kingdom of God present and growing as
described in Colossians 1)

4.      To help Christians develop character
that transforms and shapes the future of Congolese society according to biblical principles 

5.      To educate Congolese Christians to connect major issues and dilemmas in  contemporary Congolese society with a careful
study of the Bible. 
Finally, that led us to establish six initiatives for the Jeremiah Center to pursue as it begins its work: 

1.      Partner with denominations, churches, and Christian organizations (high schools, colleges, universities, etc.) that are already active in the society and that can help JCFS and as well benefit from its ministry

2.      Partner with research Institutions and experienced scholars inside and outside the country involved in similar activities  

3.      Facilitate the training of Christian leaders from different sectors of the society through conferences, seminars,
workshops, etc.

4.      Conduct research on issues affecting communities and publish the findings for a wider audience in order to inform and educate Congolese Christians

5.      Create a Christian magazine that will present a vision for the Congolese society that reflects Christ’s truth,
love, forgiveness, redemption, justice and restoration

6.     Create a publication series on issues affecting the nation.

Our Gratitude

As God leads and guides us, the JCFS will promote and pursue a God-honoring and peaceable kingdom vision for DR Congo.

It is our hope that you will continue to walk with us on this vital journey.   Without your prayers and contributions, we would not have been able to accomplish this first step in our dream.

Good news about the Jeremiah Center for Faith and Society is now spreading all over our region. We wish to express thanks to our friends and charitable foundations who contributed towards the establishment of JCFS.

In particular, we voice our deep appreciation to our partners at Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), who transported our participants from Bukavu, Goma, Beni and Aru free of charge! Of course, we know that someone paid for it, so we want to extend our gratitude to all those who help MAF continue flying in DR Congo. The church and the cause of Christ is greatly helped by the sacrificial of our courageous MAF pilots (Larry Strietzel, John Cadd, Chad, etc.) for all you do for the church in DR Congo.

This month, we give our great God thanks for:

A successful consultation that created a surge of hope in the participants

A significant gift enabling us to begin renovation of the Jeremiah Center site at Nyankunde (this grant will enable the renovation of 1½ buildings out of eight)

Our first staff who will begin to build the network with churches, denominations and Christian organizations in the region Please join with us in prayer for: – A one-day board meeting in September to consider our organizational structure in light of the recommendations of the consultation 

-A two-day meeting in September with a core group of five people who will continue refining our strategies

-Funds to continue with the renovation of the JCFS site. It is our prayer to be able to move to this site in two years

-General funding for the development of JCFS.  

Please join us as we seek to bring shalom to DR Congo through the presence, lives, and witness of God’s people there. Your tax-deductible gifts can be made to Outposts of Hope, Inc., with clear indication that they are for Jeremiah Center:  Outposts of Hope  c/o David Toole  8 South Poston Court

With gratitude.

Time for Hope in DRCongo
29 SEPT 2018

Dear friends and family, 

I wish to share with you recent events and occurrences with the Jeremiah Center for Faith and Society (JCFS).  You may recall in July we held a consultation of 25 leaders.  Per the plans from that, in September we brought together a steering committee of six to explore next steps.

On September 17-18, this steering group wrestled with the following two questions: “What is it that we (JCFS) are distinctly called to do that others are not already doing and that can help our region?

The call 

The group reaffirmed what was said during the July consultation: that the Jeremiah Center exists to inspire, equip and sustain the church in its prophetic mission and discipleship for the transformation of our society. The group also recognized that the Jeremiah Center initiative provides a space for reflection grounded in the Bible.  This call is unique: we are not copying other organizations in the region. 

Where do we start?  Listening to the Church

To the extent that the mission of the Jeremiah Center is to inspire, equip and sustain the Church in our region, it seems natural to begin by listening to the Church herself. In other words, the first task is to understand how the Church in our region understands herself and the challenges in this country.  We will establish forums to systematically listen to our churches.  We will ask several questions of church leaders across eastern Congo such as this: 

  • How does the church develop her leaders and form mature and responsible citizens?
  • How do the leaders behave in the face of all the challenges of the context in our region (injustice, corruption, poverty, ethnic division, etc.)?
  • How is the church perceived by her own members and the society in general?
  • Does the church perceive the Gospel as “Good News” for the suffering and desperate Christians in the region?

   All other activities of JCFS will flow from this first project, which we call Listening to the Church. Knowing better where the churches stand will ual allow JCFS members insight on the steps needed to help our churches live faithfully in this climate.  It also will demonstrate to them our genuine interest to work through and for churches.  Our vision is to find out how the church can live her Christian faith in its economic, political, social, cultural, ecological, moral and

spiritdimensions. And on each of these issues, we wish to show concretely that the Christians gathered in the Church as a people and a family of God constitute the hope for our nation. 

Developing of the site     At the Jeremiah Center we cherish the idea of having a space where we can regularly meet to learn, to encourage one another, to pray together, to listen to one another and above all else, to form a “new” community of restored leaders in our divided society. In the midst of such profound suffering and uncertainty that characterizes our region, the Lord Jesus is calling us to walk together in our desperation, our hopes, and our fears. It is only while walking together that we can start developing a common vision for our ministry and our nation.  

Seed funding has come in to start the rehabilitation of buildings on a site in Nyankunde. Shown above is construction work on the 2nd of eight buildings.  This site is intended to give a treasured opportunity for the formation of a new community of leaders, for sabbath rest, reading, reflection, and writing/research to our Christian leaders in the region.  Therefore, we beg you to continue praying and supporting the development of this site of hope for our nation. 

This month, we give thanks for the following:

  • A successful second meeting of the Jeremiah Center.
  • The completion of the renovation of the first building.
  • A sense of assurance from the Lord that we are moving toward the right direction.

This month, please join us in prayer for the following:

  • A two-day meeting in October to develop the first project (“Listening to the Church”).
  • A one-day board meeting in November.
  • Funds to continue with the renovation of the Jeremiah Center site.
  • General funds for the development of JCFS ministry.

    We very much appreciate your prayers and supports. We beg you to accompany us as we seek to bring shalom to Congo through the presence, lives, and witness of God’s people there. Gifts can be made to Outposts of Hope, Inc. with clear indication that they are for Jeremiah Center:  Outposts of Hope 

C/o David Toole 

8 South Poston Court

Durham NC 27705

With gratitude