To the ends of the Earth

Published 7:17 pm Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A husband and wife missionary team is set to depart Thursday for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they will coordinate church planting and evangelism.

Tyler and Jennifer Eiland were appointed as missionaries in March with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. But the couple had considered themselves missionaries long before that.

“Informally, we became missionaries ultimately when we became Christians,” said Tyler, a Clanton native. “Often missionaries are put on a pedestal as if they are doing something unusual or extraordinary. However, the Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples was given to every believer and every church. We’re nothing special. We’re just ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God.”

The Eilands will be working in the capital city of Kinshasa to start new churches and provide basic needs, such as drinking water, to city residents. Kinshasa is the third largest city in Africa with an estimated population of 8-10 million.

“If you can imagine New York City without the tall buildings and infrastructure, then that is sort of what Kinshasa is like,” Tyler explained. “It can be a bit chaotic at times and things that generally don’t take that long to accomplish here in the U.S. may take an entire day in Kinshasa.”

One thing the Eilands know, however, is that the people of Kinshasa are incredibly hospitable, despite their poverty.

“Even though they live in great poverty, they spend their resources to make sure a guest feels welcome,” he said.

The couple has been out of the country before. They participated in missions training in Zambia to serve in the bush of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They have also been to Kenya, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Thailand.

The biggest challenge will be language and culture acquisition. In Congo, they will have to learn both French and the tribal trade language Lingala.

“We have to learn the languages and be able to communicate well in both of them. This will consume most of our first year on the field,” Tyler said.

In addition, the Eilands will be raising their 11-month-old daughter, Hope, and their second child, which they are expecting in January 2010. The children will be with their parents the entire time while in the Congo and will start home schooling once they reach school age.

But the challenge hasn’t deterred the couple from their mission.

“We are ultimately doing this because God has called us to do it,” Tyler said. “Most people who attend church regularly are familiar with the Great Commission passage Matthew 28:18-20. Most could probably quote it from memory. My fear is that the Great Commission is viewed by most Christians as the Great Suggestion. Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, said, ‘The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.’ We are simply obeying what our Lord Jesus has commanded us to do.”

The couple will serve in Congo until they feel God leading them in a different direction. They do plan to return to the states after three years to reevaluate their mission.