OAKLAND, NE (December 4, 2015) — Three Covenant congregations in rural Nebraska have combined their efforts and money to sponsor a health clinic as part of the Paul Carlson Partnership’s (PCP) Congo Clinic Initiative.
Salem Covenant Church in Oakland as well as the Evangelical Covenant Church of Waverly and the Evangelical Covenant Church of Wakefield are pooling their resources and committing $10,000 a year for five years to support the Boyasebego Clinic, which is 31 miles from any of the nearest of five hospitals operated by the Congo Covenant Church (CEUM) and accessible only by foot. Ten thousand people live in its service area.
Salem Covenant Church, which already has raised $10,000 to support a CEUM school for girls, to Lycée Vanette, will contribute $5,000 a year for the clinic project, and the other two will each add $2,500.
The clinic is one of 108 clinics operated by the CEUM that PCP is seeking to find sponsors for. The project is approaching 95 clinics being sponsored.
None of the clinics have electricity or clean water, and staff must make do with limited medical supplies. Solar panels have begun to arrive at some of the clinics with money churches have contributed so far.
Seeds for the three churches to work together were planted when Kitty Hoden, Steve’s wife and a registered nurse, traveled to Congo with Meagan Gillan, the denomination’s director of Women Ministries, and saw the desperate conditions but determined spirit firsthand.
Shortly after Kitty returned with news of what she saw, she organized women in her church to sew various items including snap purses using material from Congo. Selling the items has enabled them to raise $10,000 for the school.
“This is amazing that they keep finding new ways to bless the women of Congo,” said Gillan.
The decision to fund the clinic began with the closing of the church’s food pantry.
“We wanted to focus our money elsewhere,” Steve said. “I was wondering, now what, Lord? Then I heard (PCP Executive Director Meritt Lohr-Sawyer) speak at the Annual Meeting in 2014, and I said, ‘That’s it!’ ”
The church agreed when he presented the idea. “I’m proud to be the pastor of a church that says ‘yes’ to mission,” Steve said.
Salem invited the other congregations to participate, and they also were eager to participate. “When I first heard of the initiative I thought that was really a cool idea but there wasn’t any way that we could participate,” said Kelly Johnston, pastor of Wakefield Covenant. “We’re in a town of just 1,400 people.”
Her church has been excited to participate and is raising funds in creative ways. One member who is turning 40 years old next year wants 40 people to each contribute $40.
Kerri Olson, director of missions at Waverly Covenant, also said her congregation could not otherwise have participated in the initiative. She is excited that three town and country churches could work together to support such a large undertaking.
The congregations are now educating themselves about Congo and the ministry there. Following one of their services in October, the Waverly congregation transformed a picnic shelter gazebo that is behind their building into a clinic using reference material supplied through PCP. They covered the gazebo with canvas, adapted a bicycle to be an ambulance like the ones used in Congo and….
The Sunday school kids went through it as part of their class that day and it wound up taking most of the session. “The kids really took to it,” Olson said.
During Lent this year, the Wakefield congregation used PCP resources to construct a clinic that was set up in its foyer during the season.
This past September, Lohr-Sawyer traveled to Oakland to spend the weekend with the congregations. “That was one of the best weekends of my life!” she said. “It is incredible what they are doing, I am so amazed by it.”
Many lives will be saved, she said, because three small rural congregations in Nebraska that are far from any large city wanted to bring healing to a small isolated village in Congo.