Lessons from the Congo

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Jane DeGroot, a member of Second Christian Reformed Church in Grand Haven, Mich., is not settling down and getting comfortable during midlife. For 10 months, DeGroot is living in the Congo and teaching English to medical students who learned French as their second language.

DeGroot, who has a master’s degree in English as a Second Language (ESL), teaches in a large Protestant university in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

The ESL teacher, mother, and grandmother said what attracted her to the Congo was “the opportunity to teach English in a specifically French foreign language setting.”

Dan Houston, from Lynden, Wash., is DeGroot’s son-in-law. He praised her strength, saying she has been “hassled and harassed” many times since arriving in the Congo, to the point of needing a bodyguard.

Lessons have been learned by both teacher and students. DeGroot spoke of what she has gained, including the friendships she has made with Christians in Kinshasa. “I have been so thankful for the kind friendship they have extended toward me as an outsider,” she said.

DeGroot said that life in the Congo “is pretty difficult by our standards; the people have very few material goods. In spite of that the people seem content and have faith that keeps them going—I have learned a lot from that attitude.”


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