By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (January 11, 2013) – More than 3,000 children have been sponsored through the Covenant Kids Congo powered by World Vision initiative, says Reesheda Washington, the project’s leader.
Covenant Kids Congo (CKC) is the historic undertaking by the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), World Vision U.S., World Vision Congo, and the Congo Covenant Church (CEUM) to focus millions of dollars in Gemena, Democratic Republic of Congo. The funding will enable a holistic ministry that will provide water, health and hygiene, food and agriculture, education and literacy, and economic development.
The project officially began with Hope Sunday events in October 2012. So far, at least 75 percent of the more than 200 churches that registered have hosted events.
“In just three short months, the ECC and World Vision have made history through this partnership by bearing so much fruit in such a short period of time,” Washington said.
“We are humbled by the ways in which large churches have committed to close to 200 kids in some cases!” Washington enthused. “We are equally inspired by the ways in which both small congregations and new church plants have worked by faith to commit to the equivalent of 25 percent of their congregations’ regular attendance in child sponsorships.”
Matthew Cisneros, associate pastor of one of the newest plants, Chugach Covenant Church in Anchorage, Alaska, said, “In many ways Alaska is still a mission field, and so it was a blessing to be able to reach out to another mission field across the globe to share Christ’s love and compassion with our sisters and brothers in the Congo.”
Andy Goebel, pastor of St. Johns Covenant Church, admitted even he had underestimated the enthusiasm of the new congregation with weekly attendance of 40 people in one of Portland’s most challenged communities. “Our church responded, scooping up sponsorship kits and committing as individuals, families, and small groups to improve the lives of children in the most desperate part of the world.”
Children and teenagers have been eager to sacrifice for kids in Congo. One teenager in foster care at Brookdale Covenant Church in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, took the initiative to rake yards to raise funds. Another girl who had been in and out of difficult living situations also contributed money, even though she had little of her own.
The youth group from Hinsdale Covenant Church in Hinsdale, Illinois, did numerous belly flops at CHIC as a fundraiser. Children’s groups at churches adopted Congolese kids. “Life groups, Adult Bible Fellowships, and extended families were teaming up to sponsor,” said Shelley Kurth, one of the pastors at Forest Park Covenant Church in Muskegon, Michigan
Faith Covenant Church in Sumner, Washington, performed a play that highlighted the needs of Congolese children. Pastor Zabusu, who leads a CEUM church, participated in the production, “Hope for Every Tribe, Every Tongue, Every Nation.” The evening included African carols and drum lines.
Christian artist and guitarist extraordinaire Lincoln Brewster auctioned custom instruments and donated all proceeds from his Christmas CD to the project. Brewster, who also is worship leader at Bayside Covenant Church in Granite Bay, California, accompanied fellow congregation leaders to the denomination’s Annual Meeting last year when the church committed $1 million in support of the project.
Pastor Ray Johnston told delegates that Bayside was thrilled to participate. “I have never in my life – our staff, our church – have never been more proud and more humbled to be part of a denomination,” he declared.
It was a sentiment shared by Stacey Littlefield, pastor of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Lafayette, Indiana, who noted he had grown up outside the Covenant. “After first hearing about CKC, I went back and shared with our church council and they were on board from the start, in fact donating a tithe of a recent estate gift we had received to start-up costs for CKC.”
Despite the outpouring of support, Washington noted that many more children need to be sponsored in their dire need. “Of the 12,754 children registered for sponsorship in August 2012, several have already passed away,” she said. “Many who perished from treatable illnesses were quietly removed from the program prior to the October launch date, while on the ground volunteers and the CKC prayer team prayed for the families.”
Washington said, “Our goal is that by the end of the Midwinter 2013, we will have a total of 400 churches who have already hosted a Hope Event or have a committed date to do so in 2013.” Organizers also hope to double the number of children currently sponsored by October 1, when year two of the project will be launched.
“Our short but successful history supports the fact that these goals are reasonable and attainable,” Washington said. “However, it will take all of our churches operating as one larger church committed to this common goal for us to address the needs of our friends in Congo in sustainable ways that make a huge impact.”
Washington suggested several ways that Covenanters can continue to promote the initiative:
- Sign up for a 2013 Hope Sunday date online by the end of the Midwinter Conference.
- RSVP for the project’s Midwinter luncheon to be held at 12:45 p.m. on February 6 and to receive more information if attendees haven’t already hosted an event.
- Encourage other church leaders to host a Hope Sunday event.
- Email Karen Hallberg in the Department of World Mission to inquire about upcoming vision trips.
- Pray for the Congolese and Covenant Kids Congo team.