On Wednesday, May 10, a contingent gathered at Covenant Offices in Chicago to welcome the arrival of Rev. Theophile Duale Langba, president of the Covenant Church of Congo (CEUM), and his wife, Josephine. They were in the country at the invitation of Paul Carlson Partnership (PCP), a ministry of Serve Globally, for their semiannual board meeting.
Rev. Duale and Mama Josephine were welcomed by a receiving line, including Covenant President Tammy Swanson-Draheim, Serve Globally staff, Covenant leaders, and Covenant Offices staff. They welcomed the president, shaking hands and exchanging words of greeting in both Congolese (“mbote”) and French (“bonjour”).
“We are grateful this year to be able to celebrate 100 years of partnership in the gospel,” said President Swanson-Draheim when she addressed the gathering. It was her first in-person meeting with President Duale.
Renée Hale, executive director of PCP, shared a phrase that she and Rev. Duale had spoken to each other in Congo after a long, pandemic-related separation: “Together again, together for eternity.” Rev. Duale echoed those words in his own remarks.
The welcome party included additional words of welcome from Craig Anderson, director of medical and health programs with PCP, festive music led by Brandi Sanders, manager of ministry services for Serve Globally, Scripture reading from Adam Edgerly, director of Covenant World Relief and Development, prayer from Paul Robinson, executive minister of Love Mercy Do Justice, and greetings from Danny Martinez, superintendent of the Central Conference.
Grace Shim, executive minister of Serve Globally, sent video greetings from Korea. Dr. Darryl Griffin, senior pastor of Oakdale Covenant Church in Chicago, sent his own video greetings as well.
Rev. Duale and his wife expressed their gratitude. He spoke on the significance of the long-running partnership between the Covenant and CEUM, and noted how important it is for such partnership to continue for the sake of generations to come.
The ceremony was closed with a prayer by Rev. Curt Peterson, retired executive minister of Serve Globally who worked closely with Papa Duale (Duale Lengena Sabuli Petro, Rev. Duale’s father and former president of CEUM). Afterward, a lunch was served featuring African American soul food, including baked chicken, fried chicken, fried catfish, yams, collard greens, and macaroni and cheese.
“The participation of everyone was tremendous,” said Josef Rasheed, regional coordinator for Africa with Serve Globally, who organized the welcome event and served as its emcee. “The willingness to welcome the Duales was outstanding, and the Lord pulled it all together by providing us with wonderful weather and his presence.”
Typically, visiting international Covenant leaders meet with other leaders at their level during official visits, but according to Rasheed, that is not the custom when traveling to Congo. “When we traveled to Congo, the whole village came out,” said Rasheed. “I mean, like, everybody. So we wanted to do something similar to greet President Duale according to his own cultural context.”
Throughout their stay, President Duale and Mama Josephine participated in the Covenant Kids Congo Global 6K for Water, visited North Park University, spoke at Covenant churches in Naperville and Batavia, and spent time with Ruth Widman, 107, retired global personnel who served in Congo.
During the board meetings, President Duale presented an artisan-carved wood okapi, the official animal of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to Paul Carlson Partnership. He explained the gift saying, “The okapi is a rare animal, only found in northern DRC. It is a symbol of our partnership. PCP is a rare ministry; you have embedded within our culture and remained with us for nearly six decades. You are with us through good times and difficult times. You are truly our partners.”
Josef Rasheed and Renée Hale contributed to this report.