Established as a Belgian colony in 1908, the Republic of the Congo gained its independence in 1960, DRC is a country located in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world. With a population of over 75 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the nineteenth most populous nation in the world, the fourth most populous nation in Africa, as well as the most populous Francophone country.
A vast country with immense economic resources, it has been at the center of what some observers call “Africa’s world war”. This has left it in the grip of a humanitarian crisis. The five-year conflict pitted government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda.
1. IMCK (Institut Medical Chretien du Kasai)
IMCK Good Shepherd Hospital Institut Medical Chretien du Kasai (IMCK) is the health care facility and a center for medical education in the central region of Democratic Republic of Congo. Its medical services are centered at Good Shepherd Hospital, a 160-bed facility in the village of Tshikaji, where surgery, obstetrics, pediatrics, general medicine, ophthalmology, radiology and laboratory services are offered regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. IMCK also has a large outpatient clinic in the nearby city of Kananga.
2. IMCK Nursing School
Through an agreement of the American Presbyterian Congo Mission and the Belgian government in 1954, IMCK nursing school was founded as an institution for the instruction of qualified health personnel. It began as a three year nursing school, and a lab tech school was added later. Both have expanded to four year programs, graduating certified lab techs and associate degree nurses (A2 level) at the Institut Superieur des Techniques Medicales (ISTM). The addition of an A1 level program at Institut Technique Medical (ITM) in management, nurse midwifery, and pediatrics resulted in enrollment nearly doubling to almost 200. The A1 program graduates 20-25 associate degree nurses each year and about 8 lab techs.
3. Moma Hospital, Moma
Moma Hospital is a 125 bed hospital located in the remote southwestern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After the Congo gained its independence from Belgium in 1960, Moma became even more isolated as roads fell into disrepair.
Moma Hospital continues to work to serve the health needs of the population of this part of the territory of Luiza, a population of about 30,000 inhabitants, and is responsible for care of all seven sectors of the territory of Luiza and its surrounding area. Recently Moma went through some significant renovations which included a new generator to be able to do surgeries later in the day, repairs of cracked walls in several buildings, new operating table and pharmaceuticals and paving of the area between the buildings. These updates help Moma provide better quality care and care for more patients in a cleanly and safe facility.
4. Bibanga Hospital and Nursing School
Bibanga Presbyterian Hospital was established in 1917 by Dr. Kellersberger, a Presbyterian minister and surgeon, who received and treated patients under a large tree in a small village in the middle of East Kasai, The hospital is located in the village of Bibanga, in east central part of DRC.
The Hospital is a general referral hospital for the Bibanga Rural Health Zone and operates with about 100 beds serving a population of approximately 300,000. The community health program offers comprehensive services including health education, maternal and infant care, family planning, water and sanitation improvements, and prevention of local endemic diseases. The Bibanga Nursing School was established in 1982 and offers a four-year course with about twenty students in each class.
Bibanga Hospital operates as a health ministry of the Presbyterian Community of Congo (CPC). In recent years MBF has provided grants for nursing school renovation, staff housing repairs, hydroelectric system repairs and expansion of the palm grove.
5. Bulape Hospital and Nursing School
Bulape Hospital is located in an isolated part of the West Kasai region of the Congo about 180 kilometers (110 miles) northwest of Kananga. Medical work in Bulape began in 1915, but the first permanent hospital buildings were constructed in the late 1940s. The hospital has about 130 beds and the current facilities include an operating theater, a maternity ward with obstetric facilities, a pediatric ward, male and female medical wards, ophthalmology, dentistry, a pharmacy and laboratory. The hospital is the reference hospital for the Bulape Health Zone and it supports thirteen primary health care centers and twelve health posts.
Bulape is the most isolated of the CPC hospitals and is one of the most primitive with solar power as the only source of lighting. It has changed very little over the years, but still maintains a reputation for quality care. In spite of the isolation there is little turnover of its staff and many of the employees have served the institution for over a decade. The community health program serves a population of 103,000 through its 25 health centers and health posts.
The Bulape Nursing School is a four-year A2 nursing school. Medical training began in 1953, and in 1978 the technical medical institute opened its doors for the short cycle A3 level. The four-year A2 nursing program was added in 1993.
6. Mbuji-Mayi Hospital
Mbuji-Mayi Presbyterian Hospital Center is a health ministry of the Presbyterian Community of Congo (CPC). It is located in the Dibindi Zone of Mbuji-Mayi, the second largest city in the Congo. It was formed in 1997 by the merger of the Mbuji-Mayi Christian Health Center (founded in 1978) and the Mbiya Mulumba Maternity Hospital (founded in 1987).
Mbuji-Mayi is the capital of the East Kasai region of the Congo and is particularly known for diamond mining. The hopes of finding work attracts Congolese to the area, but the poor economic conditions and the continuing political conflict have perpetuated unemployment and high poverty in this part of the Congo.
The primary mission of Mbuji-Mayi Hospital is to evangelize through quality care to its patients. The hospital has 105 beds. It offers surgical, pediatric, male and female medical services, and obstetrics and maternity services. The outpatient facilities are offered at the Mbuji-Mayi Christian Health Center located adjacent to the hospital. The Center offers both outpatient and inpatient curative services, as well as having a public health department and a range of services such as well-child care, health education, family planning, and malaria control.
7. CPK Health Clinics
The Presbyterian Church of Kinshasa (CPK) Health Department runs 7 clinics in the populous city of Kinshasa mainly serving the urban poor population. Most are in hard to reach areas with poor road networks and crowded settlements. They offer outpatient services including laboratory services, maternity services and treatment for malaria and HIV/Aids. There is a demand for expansion of these services as the population continues to grow. The clinics are as follows:
1. Maternite Boo Nsuba
2. Maternite Liboke
3. Maternite Centenaire
4. Maternite Mayamba
5. Maternite Tshisuaka
6. Maternite Tshimungu
7. Centre Feminin Mudishie.
Jeff and Christi Boyd
Jeff serves as the regional liaison for Central Africa. He facilitates PC(USA) relationships with partner churches and institutions in Cameroon, DR Congo and Equatorial Guinea. He also provides supports for mission personnel and coordination for MBF projects in the region. In 2013 Christi took on a new role as Facilitator for Women’s and Children’s Interests in Congo, Niger, Rwanda, Madagascar and South Sudan. The Boyds have been serving in African mission since 1990.
John and Gwenda Fletcher
John’s ministry as Physician/Surgeon at IMCK focuses on working with the staff of IMCK to fulfill their vision of building and maintaining a unified network of support and collaboration with the Presbyterian Church of Congo (CPC) mission hospitals. Although John’s primary surgical responsibilities are at the Good Shepherd Hospital, his broader charge is to support the CPC medical program.
Every one of the CPC hospitals is carrying on exemplary work under extremely difficult conditions. Most have only one doctor who, with a limited number of support staff, struggles to provide medical care and Christian witness to rural, poorest-of-the-poor populations on thinner-than-shoestring budgets. John visits these hospitals on a regular basis to assist in patient care and to support staff in developing their surgical skills and services. He also teaches medical residents, medical students and nursing students at the IMCK and other mission hospitals.
Gwenda serves as Education Consultant working with the CPC to facilitate new visioning and goals for the churches in education and to enable adequate links for training staff and helping work with infrastructure and equipment/supplies needs.
Larry and Inge Sthreshley
Larry and Inge Sthreshley have been mission co-workers with the PC (USA) since 1987. For most of that time they have been serving in Kinshasa, the capital of DR Congo. They lived and worked in Cameroon for five years during the Congo war with Rwanda and Uganda, but Larry continued to work part time in Congo.
Both Larry and Inge were born and grew up in the Congo. Larry was born in Luebo, in the south central part of the country. His parents were missionaries appointed by the former Presbyterian Church in the United States. Inge’s parents were Methodist missionaries to the Congo, and she was born in Likasi, in the far southeastern corner of the country not far from the Zambian border. They have two children, Lisa and Michael.
Larry has three degrees in public health, including a doctoral degree in international health and development. Larry is the Country Director of IMA World Health for DR Congo, involved in health projects in 344 of the 515 health zones. These projects include a large gender based violence project in the East, AIDS and malaria programs with Global Funds, working with the government on their health information system and with neglected tropical disease and small agriculture and nutrition programs. He has also served on the board of IMCK (the parent entity of Good Shepherd Hospital).
Inge developed the Presbyterian Urban Garden program, which works through the Presbyterian health centers in Kinshasa to promote the use of home gardens to address malnutrition. The Garden program “branched out” into promoting the Moringa tree to combat malnutrition. Inge also oversees the management of the Methodist Presbyterian Hostel. MPH, formerly the hostel for Presbyterian and Methodist missionary kids, now functions as a guest house/conference center. The 24 room guest house provides a much needed service to individuals and groups traveling on church business. MPH logs over 6,900 “guest nights” a year and hosts on average two conferences a month. Many of the conferences bring in nurses, doctors and administrators from medical facilities in the interior for meetings and training.
Martha Sommers is a family physician. She has been under appointment since 1997; first as a mission volunteer, and then a PC (USA) mission co-worker. Martha is currently on home assignment in the U.S. and will hopefully returning to DRC soon.