INDIANAPOLIS - South Indiana United Methodist leaders not only hosted dignitaries of the Katanga Province's government, but also brought them into direct contact with Indiana state leaders.

The Rev. Bob Walters, associate council director of the South Indiana Conference, introduced Dr. Ilunga Ndjoko, minister of health, and Sula Kabasa, judicial assistant to the Governor of Katanga, to officials of Gov. Mitch Daniels administration on May 19 at the Statehouse.

State Senator Patricia Miller of Indianapolis and a member of Old Bethel UMC helped with arrangements and hosted the two Katanga Province cabinet members of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The delegation met with Dr. Suellen Reed, Superintendent of Public Instruction; Virgil Madden, policy advisor to Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, and Matt Harrod, assistant director of Research and Policy Analysis with the Indiana Department of Agriculture. They also met in the governor's office with Steve Acres, the governor's economic advisor, and Earl Goode, chief-of-staff.

Ndjoko and Kabasa asked each of the Indiana officials for assistance and partnerships in developing Katanga and the DRC, a fledgling democracy, in its economy, education, health and agriculture. Ndoko said Katanga was blessed by God and contains copper, cobalt, gold, diamonds, uranium and other minerals. In closing, Goode commented, "We are excited about the possibilities."

Continuing conversation

Each of the Indiana state officials welcomed the idea of continuing conversations with the DRC in general and Katanga in particular. Taylor Walters Denyer, daughter of Bob Walters, served as translator for the delegation. She previously served in North Katanga as that conference's director of communication. She is now a student at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Katanga's Governor Moise Katumbi Chapwe and Bishop Ntambo Nkulu of North Katanga, also a senator in the DRC Parliament, were scheduled to meet with Governor Daniels' staff, but were unable to be present for these introductory conversations. Daniels was in Iraq.

The United Methodist Church has been an active partner with Katanga in education and health.

For relaxation, the delegation spent Sunday, May 18, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as guests of IMS CEO Tony George at the request of Mark Eutsler, a lay member of the Linden UMC and an officer of the 500 Festival.

Methodist Hospital

In addition to introducing the two-member Katanga delegation to Governor Daniels' staff and giving them a VIP experience at IMS, the Walters also introduced them to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis during a noon luncheon.

Ndjoko and Kabasa met with Dan Evans, CEO of Clarian Health; Rhonda Smith, VP for Patient Care Services at Methodist; Dr. Mike Niemeyer, Chief of Intensive Care Services at Methodist; and Steven Ivy, Sr. VP of Values and Pastoral Services of Clarian.

The first hour included a discussion of health care policy and financing as well as a review of their needed resources. Their needs include equipment to rebuild their hospitals and clinics, updated training for nurses and physicians, and trained hospital and clinic administrators. The next two hours included a tour of hospital facilities including mother-baby areas, intensive care, trauma, and radiology.

The two Katanga government leaders returned to the DRC the next day. Talks and more visits between Hoosiers and leaders of Katanga will continue. Walters told Together that their visits to both Ohio and Indiana United Methodists and to state leaders were a very productive first round.