NICK DELPORT – GIVERS & TAKERS
In 2014 I was approached by Gill Shiels, who asked me to consider project managing the building of the Bukavu Bible College (BBC). Gill, who was born in the Eastern part of Congo to missionary parents, visited Bukavu in 2010 and saw firsthand the desperate need of the churches in Congo, which is predominantly the need for teaching, especially for the pastors. She also saw the sad state of the existing Bible College and, after returning home, felt the Lord speaking to her to do something about it. This project to refurbish the college, sponsor students to attend and send out teachers to visit and input the college on a regular basis was then born. Gill is the first example of a Giver in this article. She has worked tirelessly over the last few years to raise finances and to liaise with other givers to organise the different aspects of the project.
Working in Africa is never easy and personally, I think that one of the more difficult countries to work in is the Democratic Republic of Congo due to the continual wars, lack of infrastructure and widespread corruption. So when Gill first asked me to support this project in Bukavu, a town in East DRC, near to the Rwanda border, an unknown area to me, I was hesitant. I would be alone, working with people I did not know, speaking a language I hardly knew and working in unfamiliar conditions.
However, after prayerful consideration, I could see the need for a building project manager and felt that it was right to support this worthwhile cause and so agreed to do so. I was prepared to give but didn’t think that I would be taking anything away with me in the end. I was wrong! After working in Bukavu for two months, I come away with some valuable lessons from this experience, from God and from my project partners. For this I am very grateful.
The city of Bukavu is very hilly and every inch of land is used. The original college has been in situ for many years in an area which is now heavily built up, with no real access to the site, making it impossible for larger vehicles to enter. Someone referred to this new build as ‘the building brought in by hand’ because EVERYTHING, every brick, stone, sand, gravel and roofing sheet has had to be physically carried to the site. Faced with this challenge, excuses could have been made, but, instead, the obstacles have been overcome. Limited access has not stopped the work from continuing.
When the building is complete it will be like a lighthouse in that neighborhood. It has a cross shaped window in the middle of the front wall which when the lights are on inside will shine light far and wide. What a great project this is!
The man “on the ground” in Bukavu is Boniface Malanda, the Principal of the Bible College. Boniface, now in his early 70s, has faithfully served God for many years. Of late he has not been able to take residential students because of the lack of accommodation. Boniface is definitely a Giver. He is a man of God in the true sense of the word. He has given of himself for the work of God in that area for many years and is still pouring his life into the work. He was there every day translating and helping the project in any way he could. He came and picked me up from my accommodation each day and took me back at the end of the day and in all he did he never complained about anything. He is an exceptional man and the college is in very safe hands. I am grateful for his assistance throughout the project, both to Gill and to me. His knowledge of English, together with my limited knowledge of French, has meant that communication has not been an issue – another lesson for me to trust God in every situation.
Not long after arriving in Bukavu, I realised that God was the real Project Manager here, not me, and that He was in control of every detail! I had gone to Bukavu with real concerns about working with a team of unknown people. Would we be able to communicate? Would they try to fleece me because I am a foreigner? Would they be competent for the job? The selection of a competent builder and his team was crucial. While I was still in the UK preparing for the trip, I asked for three quotes for the work to build the new Bible School. Boniface, knowing no builders himself, randomly chose three to give their quotes. On receipt of the quotes, I chose Daniel, whose quote seemed well presented and reasonable. Boniface and I couldn’t have known the true value of our choice. We are thrilled that God directed us to Daniel and his team, all from Rwanda, who have worked extremely hard and with integrity in the short period of time we have had together. While we are trusting for spiritual benefits from this project, it has been exciting to see how God has been interested and involved even in the practical, humdrum details.
Sitting on the back of the motorbike one morning going to the building site, I was thinking about those who give and those who take. We had been visited the previous day by two groups of officials, both trying to take from the project. One group switched off the water to the property and then demanded $100 to re-connect it! The second group arrived with accusations that there was no paperwork for the construction and, therefore, demanding payment. These are the tactics of takers, corrupt officials who use their authority to intimidate for financial gain. Unfortunately that is a big problem here, especially when they see a foreigner around. Having lived in Congo, I was not easily intimidated and passed the situation to Boniface’s daughter, Martine.
There are takers, but there are also givers. Martine is a Giver! She has been responsible for the project administration, financial accounts and for making all the purchases, a hard working and competent lady. Not prepared to bow down to pressure, she very quickly got rid of the five officials by producing all the necessary documents. Then, she organised her own contacts to reconnect the water, paying only $30 for the materials needed! Did she have to do that? No! It would have been easier to spend project money and let the problem go away. But because she is a giver she was motivated to act.
I wonder how I would perform living under these conditions continually, day in and day out? I somehow think I would not have the patience to deal well with such issues. However, it has been a great experience to work with a team who are Givers.
We often say we believe in God until things get tough and then we realise that all along we were really depending on ourselves. Reflecting on my time in Bukavu, and remembering my doubts beforehand, I can honestly say that without the help of God and the great Givers I have been working with, the work could have gone horribly wrong. Thank You God! Thank you Givers!
We still have a long way to go but we are well on the way now.