From the Bush to the Bush, Part 3

Today we complete the Guest Post by Matthew Harder. Click these individual links if you would like to read Part 1 and/or Part 2 of Matt’s story.

From the Bush to the Bush, Part 3
by Matthew Harder

I sat on an ice chest in the cockpit of an old Russian Antonov airplane because the rest of the plane had been overbooked with people and cargo. It was literally standing room only.

Right before take off people pounded on the cockpit door and shouted, “The door is open.”

I tapped the co-pilot on the shoulder to alert him. He stopped the airplane and closed the door. Somehow we managed to arrive safely.

The usual difficulties of travel in Congo confronted me. I spent a day obtaining obscure permits and licenses to travel from Tshikapa to Nyanga (these additional regulations were mostly due to the diamond mines).

The next leg of my trip was overland on a motorcycle. Two flat tires necessitated the use of locally produced glue to patch the tubes. We crossed a river using carved out tree logs.

A blown out piston required my driver and I to walk through the bush in the dark looking for another mode of transport. We ran into an angry policeman who accused me of being a mercenary. My driver venomously insulted the policeman’s tribe to the extent he was nearly thrown in jail.

I found someone with a motorcycle and bargained with him to take me to Nyanga. The policeman saw me negotiating around a campfire at 10:00 p.m. and became irate once again.

Matt's Nyanga home, a shell of its former appearance
Matt’s Nyanga home, a shell of its former appearance

Finally, I arrived at Nyanga at 11:00 p.m. I had never notified anyone I was coming. I found a house with a light on. Men who had worked with my dad on the SEDA farm sat outside. Their surprise at my arrival quickly changed to the warmest welcome I have ever experienced.

During my visit to Nyanga stories relegated to the distant past—long forgotten experiences that seemed to balance in the realm of myth now were validated reality. Our house, the farm, the village, and the people opened a floodgate of memories. It was all true. I was even able to understand and speak Kipende again.

When my visit was over I was able to put away the rich memories of this experience into a secure vault. We returned to Tshikapa by a different route to avoid the insulted policeman.

For a while my desire to return and/or to travel had been more from nostalgia or running away. I was restless and unsure what I wanted out of life. However, the Lord used those positive experiences I had growing up in Congo—the exposure and the adventures—to greatly influence me. I had seen a world that lived with far less.

The Drive that Pushed Me to Go Overseas was Two-fold:
1. A Christ-influenced desire to make a difference and help those less fortunate
2. To Pursue a life where I could choose my own adventure

During my first year on the job back in the bush, the bush of war-torn South Sudan, the restlessness molded into a sense of belonging to an international life, one that chased challenging professional growth while making the world a better place.

I have just spent the past four years working in South Sudan (most of the time being spent in country) and am now transitioning, once again, to a new job, this time in Saudi Arabia.

Often times the path to get to where you want to go is not straight, but instead ventures through years of preparation and self-discovery.
Well said, Matt.

Thank you for putting your experiences and emotions into words. God obviously had a purpose for all that restlessness. Indeed, He has a purpose for restlessness in each of us.

You have made us for Yourself (God) and our hearts are restless until they can find rest in You.
~St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.)


Congo in the News
The U.S. State Department has ordered family members of government personnel to leave the Democratic Republic of Congo because of continued instability. In recent weeks tehre have been violent street protests against the postponement of presidential elections. At least 50 people have been killed in clashes between demonstrators and the security forces in the capital, Kinshasa. The east of hte country remains lawless, with the government unable to exert much authority outside urban areas.

Prayer Requests
*Please continue to pray for the political situation in Congo.
When the state deparment order was posted a former missionary noted, “Wow, 25     years almost exactly to the day from when many of us left before, with great hopes certainly that things would be better by now, surely.

*Pray for the safety and ministry of Charles Buller and his partners

© 2016 Hope4Congo

From the Bush to the Bush, Part 2

Today we continue Part 2 of Matthew Harder’s guest post. Click this link to read Part 1.

From the Bush to the Bush, Part 2
by Matthew Harder

The environment of the private Christian college I attended fueled my restlessness. I was surrounded by its monoculture, its materialistic, small sliver of humanity and way of thinking. While this did lead to the redefinition of my personal faith, it also made me realize again, despite my appearance, I did not relate to those around me.

During my sophomore year of college we were forced to choose a major to study. As I tried to decide there was a moment when I was struck with the sense that I wanted to return to Africa. I wanted to build roads, bridges and infrastructure there to help those less fortunate.

This verse ran through my mind:
“…From everyone who has been given much, much will be required…” Luke 12:48 (NASB)

The eye opening exposure of my youth impacted my desire to return to assist those in need, to try and make the world a better place. I wanted a combined profession—one that suited my personal altruistic drive and quest for adventure.

I had been given a great growing up experience, an exposure to adventure and a world beyond the American shores that didn’t allow me to settle down. Meanwhile I gained a marketable education in civil engineering. Fortunately, my strong points were in the sciences and math.

For several years I worked in the corporate world going through what I considered the pre-requisite process with my sights set on returning to Africa. The restlessness kept me going—an unquenchable thirst for new countries and adventure.

The years dragged on. Finally I caught a break and was hired by an engineering company. They were building critical infrastructure in the war torn country of South Sudan.

I stepped off the airplane in Africa’s suffocating hot humid air. Sweat poured down my back as I stood there. Unique bird calls, sounds of everyday life and vehicles, the friendliness of people all combined to create something familiar and alluring. I felt welcomed by it all.

Even the headaches were somewhat endearing since this was my chosen adventure. It was all part of the package and I just rolled with it.

To further satisfy my restlessness, I returned to Nyanga when I was twenty-five years old. It had been over fifteen years since I was last in that village, ten years since I left Congo (then called Zaire).

The journey from Kinshasa to Nyanga is a story in itself with all the typical Congolese headaches and problems.

End of Part 2

This is a good place to stop since it gives us something to look forward to next week. Join us then for Part 3. In the meantime, here are some news items and prayer requests.congo-protest-9-2016-3

News from Congo:

  • According to Reuters, there have been anti-Kabila riots in Kinshasa this week. Estimates vary, but between 30-40 people have been killed or injured. The Congolese government officials now state they will hunt down and punish those responsible for the riots. Link to the full article here:
  • Charles Buller and his team from the Congo Leadership Coaching Network arrived in Congo this week. He reported: “…given that streets were still largely vacant due to events of the last two days, we made it into town in 40 minutes (that’s fast!). Very thankful for traveling mercies so far. Thanks for keeping us and our Congolese sisters and brothers in your hearts over these next three weeks. By God’s grace we’ll keep walking forward under the Cloud and Fire (Ex. 13:21).”

Prayer Requests:

  • Pray for Peace and Stability in Congo. May cooler heads prevail.
  • Pray for Safety and Blessing on the Ministry of the Congo Leadership Coaching Network’s congo-9-2016-1team


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© 2016 Hope4Congo

From the Bush to the Bush, Part 1


Children of missionary parents experience firsthand the richness of another culture. Yet they often struggle to come to terms with their life experience.

Moving between cultures before he has had the opportunity to fully develop his personal and cultural identity is what defines a “Third Culture Kid.” His values and modes of behavior take on a different perspective than that of his peers who have not experienced another culture.

Feelings of identity, sense of belonging, rootlessness and restlessness provide challenges of which the outcome cannot always be predicted. Each person struggles with the same issues. However, the struggles and outcomes are unique with each individual.

Matthew Harder shares with us that richness and struggle. Join us for the next several weeks as Matt reflects and shares his insight as a “Third Culture Kid.” ~Brad Graber

From the Bush to the Bush
by Matthew Harder

Where are you from? Where is home? Over the years I’ve been asked such questions and rarely had a straightforward response.

How do you answer questions like those when you’ve spent a significant portion of your youth running around barefoot in a remote village of the Congo (then called Zaire)? Outwardly I looked like a typical Midwestern white boy from the United States of America.

My appearance belied my experience. This juxtaposition influenced my view and how I interacted with the world. Eventually, it led to my return overseas to work as an adult.

h4c-matt-harder-childI grew up as a missionary kid in the village of Nyanga. My childhood in the village and on the mission farm was simple and full of adventure. I spoke Kipende with my friends, played soccer barefoot, shot birds with homemade sling shots while always mindful of deadly snakes.

The fact that I lived in a foreign land, spoke a foreign language and had diverse exposure didn’t occur to me. I was a white boy surrounded by the African bush—a minority without knowing it.

When I reached the age of ten, I spent a year at a mission-boarding hostel while I attended The American School of Kinshasa (TASOK). After our family moved to Kinshasa I continued my attendance at this international, culturally diverse, and academically solid school.

During my mid high school years I returned to the USA. I was faced with a common missionary kid (MK) or third culture kid (TCK) complex. I looked like everyone around me, but my internal perspective was different. Specifically, my global awareness and interests didn’t fit in. Plus I lacked any pop culture knowledge.

Since speaking about my experiences and interests didn’t fit in, I spoke little about it. I suppressed and almost forgot a large part of who I had been.

It wasn’t until my first year of college that I accessed this forgotten part of me. I met other missionary kids. Even though we had grown up in vastly different countries and settings, we gained profound understanding as we talked about our experiences overseas.

Through those friendships and conversations, I re-discovered where I came from, understood the complexities better and suddenly restlessness attacked me.

End of Part 1.

We hope you’ll join us next week for Part 2 of Matthew Harder’s story. Until then, may you experience God’s blessings as you seek Him.

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© 2016 Hope4Congo