Young people are the future hope of the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to one experienced British missionary …
The recent violence in eastern Congo has displaced thousands of refugees and discouraged many – but Judy Acheson remains undaunted.
Having spent the last 28 years in DR Congo as a CMS missionary, Judy has seen the country go through seasons of chaos and calm. She reflects: “It’s easy to be negative, but there has been much progress, particularly since the democratic elections in 2006.”
For Judy, the ultimate hope for Congo rests with its youth. Sixty-five per cent of the country is under 25.
“This is why we are working with young people, so that as they take up leadership positions there will be major changes,” she explains.
Judy knows firsthand the potential within young people. She was 14 when a man spoke about the Belgian Congo at her school. She suddenly had “this sense that God was calling me to Africa.”
Since arriving in 1980, Judy’s role has evolved, from setting up a Sunday school to becoming a youth worker to her current job as provincial youth coordinator.
Commenting on how much she’s learned from the resilience of Congolese Christians, Judy says: “I’m so grateful for how they’ve shown me the importance of bringing God into every part of everyday life.”
Years of dictatorship, poverty and tribal warfare mean the Congolese have to work hard to keep hope alive, especially among the youth.
“Throughout the years our youth department has trained young people to think for themselves and make their own decisions. We believe God is going to use young people to bring mighty changes within the country,” says Judy.
Judy and her colleagues have developed a manual to help youth get involved in political and social issues and take charge of their future.
Entitled Young People with God, Let Us Rebuild Our Beautiful Country, it is written from a Christian perspective and has been endorsed by the national government.
More importantly, it has been enormously popular with young people, who use the book in groups.
One first year secondary pupil said: “Learning French, maths and other courses, without also gaining a sense of responsibility, is time wasted. This manual shows us how to be responsible citizens.” Another student called the book “the Congolese Remedy”.
Judy says: “We saw changes in young adults who’ve gone from being politically apathetic to voting. In one city, the young people were inspired to set up a network, calling their peers to work through the book and decide together how they can change their community.
“It’s all about God’s timing,” says Judy, “If we’d sat down 28 years ago and said: ‘OK God, let’s write this book’, we couldn’t have done it. Walking alongside people all these years, listening to the pain of young people having no voice – that is what has brought us here.”
Judy urges people everywhere to let the youth have a voice, saying: “I never expected to develop such a love for the youth, who now are the great hope for the Congo.”
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