By Carolyn Jacobs
In the midst of the horrific reports of violence and insecurity since the rebel take-over in the Central African Republic last March, we received good news to share.
Two youth and a pastor, Paul Schauer, from the Eastern North Dakota Synod met with five Central African youth and their youth pastor, Abel Safa, in Cameroon earlier this month after their previously scheduled trip to attend the National Lutheran Youth Conference in CAR in April was cancelled. The gathering took place in Garoua-Boulai, a town near the border with CAR. Four days of activities including visits with missionaries Susan Smith, Jackie Griffin and with Pastor Golike, President of the EEL-RCA (CAR Lutheran Church), kept the youth engaged. The Central African pastors and youth expressed how encouraged they were to have the companion synod group come, and how much it means that the U.S. companion synods continue to support CAR Lutherans.
During the youth encounter, there was also sharing of the fears and difficulties of life in the Central African Republic during this time of crisis. Many families from villages and towns that have experienced intense violence are now living in the bush, including families of pastors.
You can read more about the trip, including worship at a Cameroonian Lutheran church near the border with many Central African members and friends, in missionary Susan Smith’s blog.
The Village Education program continues to function, with 20 schools, 3,000 students and 65 teachers. Right now in CAR, Lutheran and Catholic schools are operational, but few public schools are open.Susan Smith, advisor to the education program, is able to meet with Village Education leaders when they travel to Garoua-Boulai, Cameroon. Susan has also been able to make a couple of day trips to Village Ed headquarters in Baboua, CAR.
The university scholarship program has enough funds to support 20 university students who are studying in Bangui, where the university is open. Scholarship recipients must have completed one year of university studies and meet academic and character criteria established by the church.
In Gallo, the Emmanuel Health Center is in operation, although its internet connection is down. The Village Savings and Loan program is continuing as well.
Also recently, President Golike participated, with Catholic and Muslim clergy in a mission to promote peace in a district that had experienced violence. Christians and Muslims have long had good relations in CAR and the clergy of both groups are striving to maintain these positive relationships.
Let us continue to pray for our Central African companions in our congregations and in our homes, to pray for peace in CAR, and to support our companion synod with our offerings.