Chipping in for the Congo

By Chris Johnson
Director of Communications

My friend and colleague Kirk Lyman-Barner dropped by my office yesterday to fill me in on the status of next week’s trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo that he’ll be making with Fuller Center President David Snell, director of international field operations Ryan Iafigliola, friends and representatives of the United Church of Christ’s Southeast Conference.

I appreciated his making the long 22-foot trek to my office, though I guess it pales in comparison to his upcoming trek to the jungle in the heart of Africa, which requires about two days of flying, navigating crazy airports, riding in taxis and other land vehicles and finally a five-hour boat ride up the Ikalemeba River just to get to Balomba, where they will start doing some real work. As if all that travel isn’t work enough.

Not only is the group closing in on its goal of purchasing a portable sawmill to help the village become more self-sufficient in its building (click here to donate toward that goal), but Kirk says support big and small is coming from all sorts of areas. For instance:

  • Trip participant Leslie O’Tool just found about the trip in July, prompting Kirk to question whether she would have trouble raising funds in such a short amount of time. She replied, "No, I was saving to put new windows in my house. That will just have to wait."
  • The Rev. Susannah Davis of Kirkwood United Church of Christ in Atlanta had a donor committed to buying new chairs for the church. She decided to go back to them and ask if they would redirect their gift to the Congo sawmill fund because it was more important. The donor agreed and sent $1,000.
  • Kirk recently preached at Middleburg Heights Community Church near Cleveland, Ohio, and relayed the story of how the United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ denominations helped Millard and Linda Fuller launch the project in the Congo (then Zaire) in the 1970s that birthed the affordable housing movement. On Sunday evening, George and Sandy Uhl surprised Kirk by telling him they had a pancake breakfast fundraiser that generated $500 for the sawmill.
  • During last year’s Faith in Action project, the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center did weatherization work on Ivy Nunn’s house, a project that has made her home more comfortable and saved her much money on utility bills. Ivy and her mom Edith dropped by with $35 for the trip. "Kirk is always looking out for everyone else — I just wanted to support this effort. God bless, and be safe," she said. It’s the epitome of what the Greater Blessing program is all about.
  • And, of course, there’s dear ol’ Dad, right?! Kirk’s father, a retired pastor who now drives a school bus, turned 75 on Aug. 8. He gives a little to the Fuller Center from each check (126 contributions so far!) with his most recent ones designated for the sawmill.

"Even in the worst of economic times, God never goes bankrupt," Kirk said. "As Millard used to say, ‘God has given us enough resources to ensure that all of his people live in decent housing.’ It is up to us, you and me, to make it so."


For more about the trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo that begins Sunday, click here.

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