Tearfund helps church rebuild Congo water source

Women fill plastic containers with water at “Source Lokole,” a rehabilitated spring near the United Methodist Mission Lokole in Mikelenge, Congo. Photo by Judith Osongo Yanga, UMNS.
Women fill plastic containers with water at “Source Lokole,” a rehabilitated spring near the United Methodist Mission Lokole in Mikelenge, Congo. Photo by Judith Osongo Yanga, UMNS.

For years, a spring near the United Methodist Mission Lokole in Mikelenge provided a natural source of drinking water for much of the town’s population. But during repeated wars, rebels destroyed the spring.

Thanks to a partnership between The United Methodist Church in East Congo and the nongovernmental organization Tearfund, the water source has been rebuilt.

“I am delighted to see this rehabilitation work completed,” said the Rev. Omba Paul, project director for the East Congo Episcopal Area, who was assigned by Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda to oversee execution of the project.

Paul said that during the wars, he lived at the mission and was kidnapped and carried into the bush by rebels. “Thank God,” he said, “we returned alive, and today, we have the joy of seeing this spring rehabilitated.”

Mikelenge Mayor Kipalamoto Penewawo called for a committee to monitor and maintain the water source. The urban community, he said, “has serious water problems. More than 85 percent of my population does not have access to drinking water provided by the provincial water supply.

A long dirt road leads to a source for clean water in the East Congo. Photo by Judith Osongo Yanga 

Women carry clean spring water back to the United Methodist Mission Lokole in Mikelenge, Congo. Tearfund, a U.K. Christian relief and development agency, helped The United Methodist Church in East Congo rebuild the water source, which had been destroyed by rebels. Photo by Judith Osongo Yanga, UMNS.

“Today,” he continued, “I am more than happy to see The United Methodist Church concerned about the well-being of the population of Mikelenge and its surroundings.”

Expressing gratitude for the partnership, Meshack Bondo, Tearfund area manager, encouraged the people of Mikelenge to care for the Lokole spring. The U.K.-based Christian relief and development agency also provided handwashing kits to the Mikelenge community, including a United Methodist church school.

“Water is life,” said the Rev. Felix Okende of Kitumaini United Methodist Church. He called the partnership with Tearfund U.K. “a blessing for The United Methodist Church in general and our women in particular,” who had to leave their homes very early and walk long distances —sometimes as far as 10 miles — to get drinking water.

Thérèse Tshomba, president of the church women’s organization at Kitumaini, said, “Not all those who come to get water here are United Methodists. Every person who comes to draw water speaks of the well-being received through The United Methodist Church.”

Some even have joined the church, she said.

The rehabilitated spring provides water for drinking and other uses to Mikelenge and surrounding communities, including the city of Kindu, said Joseph Mbeleko, a member of the maintenance monitoring committee. Every Saturday, he noted, is “a day of maintenance called ‘salongo.’”

“I am delighted with the water quality provided by the United Methodist Lokole source,” said community resident Maisha Séraphine.

“Thank you to this church and these partners for thinking of us. We have suffered for many years since this source was damaged. Today, I have the joy of drinking again ‘the water of Lokole,’ as we like to call it.”

Osongo Yanga is the director of communications for the East Congo Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church. News media contact: Vicki Brown, Nashville, Tennessee, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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