Congo-Kinshasa (MNN) — Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of independence for the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country is using this milestone as motivation to construct and rebuild the country with revitalized gusto.
"It seems as though there's an effort this year to try and tie things back together again," says Dr. Sam Vinton, president of Grace Ministries International.
Congo has hardly made progress in the last 50 years. Some Congolese told BBC News that the living conditions are worse now than they were 50 years ago when the country was still under Belgian rule. Congo has had a history of militant violence over the last several few decades and struggles with medical care. Many people are still scattered from violent attacks in the late 90s through the early 2000s.
In light of the history of suffering, it is the hope of many that this celebration will have caused enough patriotic feelings for Congolese citizens to help turn things around. Trusting his country is ready to make big changes, the president of Congo has even asked the U.N. peacekeeping troops to leave. Some fear that this could be a mistake since there are known to be rebels hiding in the forests who have been waiting there from even as far back as the Rwanda conflict over a decade ago.
Dr. Vinton, however, views this celebration as an opportunity to move forward. Vinton, who has been working in Congo since before independence came to them, agrees that the country has made little progress, but he believes now could be the time.
"We are hopeful that this celebration, in some way, will get things started up again as far as helping the country improve medical services, schools and especially the roads, which are completely non-existent in many parts of the country," says Vinton.
Grace Ministries hopes this will be more than just a structural redecoration for the country. Their interests lie in replenishing the spiritual health of Congo.
"[Our hope would be] that this would be another way of getting people to do something of a very positive nature-going into the villages, into the area of the interior and starting new churches and encouraging the churches that are there to start evangelistically moving out from their own areas into neighboring towns and villages."
Vinton says their main projects lately have involved church planting for the many people that have relocated in the past decade, and follow up for new believers. Grace Ministries has seen over 13,000 students and adults respond to the Gospel and would love for this new year to be the push the church needs to persevere, disciple and grow.
Vinton says the church plays a vital role in their own expansion, but this will also overflow into the wellbeing of the country at large. The country can only truly heal under Christ's reign.
"[Pray] that the church would be a catalyst in this whole process of helping people see that this can only be done, in a true, genuine way, by the help of God and a trust in Jesus Christ."