Earlier this year, some friends of mine were putting final preparations in place to move their family from the UK to Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Central Africa*. Anthea, the wife, had a job lined up with an international aid agency; Martin, her husband, a vicar by training, would be working with the Anglican Church; and their three primary age children would be educated at an international school.

Just before the World Health Organisation decided to declare Coronavirus a global pandemic, they expedited their plans, brought forward their flights, and made it to Rwanda, from where they could easily cross the border, once restrictions were eased. Anthea started her job, remotely, while Martin pressed into language learning, home-schooled the children and provided support to the Anglican Diocese of Goma, as best he could, from afar.

As the weeks turned into months, the waiting started to seem interminable. Their visas for DRC expired, without ever having been used; the house they had secured in Goma was given to others, because the landlord could not afford to keep it empty indefinitely; and there was no sign of Coronavirus restrictions lifting, or the border opening.

The family began to wonder how long they would be held ‘in limbo’ in Rwanda.


Four months after arriving in Rwanda, some tragic news came through to the family. The Bishop of Goma, who had invited Martin to come to DRC to work with him, had died suddenly and unexpectedly. He had been ill in hospital for a few days, and on oxygen.

Loved and admired by all who knew him, and known by many in the UK, he was described as, “An outstanding disciple of Jesus, with a great heart for people and the Gospel; a humble man of God, a man of vision and action, caring for the least and the marginalised and, above all, that everyone should know and trust Jesus.” 

Suddenly, the Diocese of Goma, which is only a few years old, and very poor, was left in a fragile position. They had a God-sized vision for evangelism, discipleship and caring for the poor. But without the Bishop at the helm, who would support and strengthen the clergy and churches and wider Christian community in Goma? How would God bring good out of this tragedy, and raise up other leaders to take forward the vision?

Waiting in Rwanda, Martin and Anthea’s plans are, once more, thrown up in the air. 

How much longer will it take?


By the time Martin and Anthea, and their three children, eventually make it to Goma, it is five months since they left the UK … and Martin finds himself in the middle of huge uncertainty about his role, following the death of the Bishop.

Visiting different parishes in the Diocese, he discovers a vision for growth and church-planting, with a number of recent-church plants.

“What struck me most on my tour was the faith-filled vision of the pastors and evangelists in the face of adversity,” Martin says. “The Diocese is poor. The clergy aren’t paid. They are encouraged to get a second job – either teaching in one of the many Anglican schools, or working as school chaplains. The Diocese relies on minimal congregational offerings to build their churches and pay their clergy.”

What is clear is the scale of need in the Diocese.

Plus, the huge ‘hole’ that has been left because of the late Bishop’s sudden death.


In October, the family finally moved into their own rented house. “At last! After living out of suitcases for seven months, we have finally been able to unpack,” Anthea says, “which has really helped the children settle.” 

“The staff from the Diocese of Goma came to welcome us to our new home with a crate of sodas and a goat,” Martin says, “The plan had been to look after the goat for a few weeks before the inevitable but, because one of its front legs was injured, we were advised that its end should come sooner rather than later. It is now safely in the freezer.”

Just before the house move, the Archbishop of Congo, also acting Bishop of Goma, is in town and comes to visit Martin and Anthea.

After the introductory formalities, “I would like you to be Vicar General,” he reveals, “sharing administrative and pastoral oversight with me, until the appointment of the next Bishop.” He goes on to explain how it is really important that this new Diocese, having been born out of conflict, has someone neutral at the helm. “Because you were stuck in Rwanda for five months, it means you never actually met the late Bishop,” he says. “In addition, you’re not from DRC. So, you’re about as neutral as it’s possible to get for this transition season.” 

Martin is pleased. The new role fits with his experience, gifts and passions, and it complements his existing focus on theological education. It also has a sense of God’s call, and God’s timing, about it. And the Diocesan staff and clergy are happy about the appointment.

The commissioning takes place during a 4 ½ hour service at the cathedral, conducted purely in Swahili.


Looking back on all that has happened, Martin and Anthea are now able to see God’s hand in everything, timing all things to perfection. The timing of being able to fly out of the UK just before borders were closed. The timing of being delayed in Rwanda for five months, meaning they never met the late Bishop. The timing of their arrival in DRC just at the point when a neutral replacement was being sought for the transition period until the appointment of a new Bishop.

“There is an extraordinary sense of God’s hand and God’s timing in all of this, even in such tragic circumstances,” Martin explains. “We were sure God was calling us to Goma although we weren’t exactly sure why. But we had to wait until we arrived, six months after leaving the UK, to get the full sense of God’s perfect plan.”


How many times does God coordinate the circumstances of our lives, in ways that we only truly appreciate with the benefit of hindsight? And how many times does He turn tragedy around, bringing good out of bad, as in this case with the untimely death of such a beloved Bishop?

If you have examples, I would love to hear about them in the comments below!


*P. S. If you want a flavour of life in DRC, and in Goma in particular, check out Congo in Conversation, an award-winning series of fantastic photos and videos, by Congolese men and women, documenting everyday life.

First photo taken by Free-Photos from Pixabay.
Second photo taken by Martin.



  1. Jonathan Wardell Reply

    Just read your account of Martin and Anthea’s adventures in Africa, having just read an account of their adventures on their own website! What a beautiful story so far! I am based in the UK, but I have strong connections with Kenya and Rwanda, and have visited both a number of times. In my heart I am a non-denominational Christian, but have been with the Anglicans for half my life-span, and am now part of an AOG Pentecostal Church. I have been just over the border from Goma, in Gisenyi, and viewed the city (and the volcano) from the border post, across the lake, and/or other nearby locations! I’m really interested in DR Congo, have been for many years, and it’s been good to follow this news. Every blessing!

    • Thanks for taking time to read and comment on this blog post, Jonathan, and for letting me know how the story has resonated with you. I’m glad to hear of your interest in DR Congo, and the wider region. I’m sure you’ll enjoy following Martin and Anthea’s ongoing adventures there!

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