Jeffrey Cone Metzel ’78

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The body of the son of longtime Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) missionaries to the Congo has been recovered from the wreckage of
a Kenyan Airlines jet that crashed Feb. 1 off the Ivory Coast.

Jeffrey Cone Metzel, 43, the son of career missionaries the Rev.
William C. and Ruth Metzel of Richmond, Va., was one of 179 people aboard
Flight 431, which took off from Abidjan and slammed into the ocean a minute
later. Metzel – an agricultural economist – was on his way to Lagos,
Nigeria, in connection with his work for a U.S. consulting firm that helps
governments of developing countries make agricultural policy.

Metzel was a specialist on west Africa.

The plane broke up on impact. News reports indicate that it was nearly
two hours before rescuers arrived at the scene. They were hampered by a
lack of rescue equipment and imprecise information.

Only 10 people survived the crash; nine were picked up by boats,
according to a story posted by CNN on Feb. 1, and one swam to shore. By
Monday night, 86 bodies had been recovered. Most of the dead are Nigerian.

The flight originated in Nairobi, Kenya, and was headed for Lagos, but
because of bad weather went instead to Abidjan, the main commercial city of
the Ivory Coast.

“The Metzels are just a family that’s always caring,” said another
former PC(USA) missionary, Ruth Welch, who served with the family in the
city of Mbuji Mayi, in what is now south central Congo – the former Zaire –
for seven years. “Their children are still very closely connected to Africa
… Dan, John, Sarah and Jeff.”

The Metzels’ careers were spent with the Presbyterian Church of Congo
as evangelistic missionaries. Bill itinerated through Congolese towns
working with lay preachers, helping to organize congregations and develop
leaders. Ruth taught school for missionary children and African nationals.
The children grew up in the Presbyterian mission stations of Lubondai,
Bulape, Moma, Mboi and Luebo.

Having spent more than 30 years in mission service on behalf of the
Presbyterian Church, the Metzels are now serving as mission volunteers with
street children in Mbuji Mayi, a city of more than 800,000 people, whose
census indicates that more than 4,000 children are abandoned, orphaned or
runaways. According to the latest mission letter they mailed from there,
dated Nov. 1, the home they were living in had water, but no electricity,
refrigerator or stove. “We’re living more simply … which has its
advantages,” they wrote.

“Now that gives you an idea about the kind of people the Metzels are,”
said one of their former colleagues, Annette Washburn, of Chamblee, Ga.,
who also served in the Congo with her husband, Bill, who added quickly:
“The Metzels couldn’t turn their back on someone in need.

“And that [legacy] has gone onto their children.”

No date has been set for the memorial service, which has been delayed
until the Metzels arrive from Congo on Feb. 6.

Metzel is survived by his wife, Joann, of Dedham, Mass., and their two
children, Hannah, 5, and Sam, 10; one sister, Sarah Adams, who works with
the Four Square Mission, and her husband, David, of Kampala, Uganda, and
their daughter; and two brothers, John, who directs the Washington,
D.C.-based Congo Educational Council, and his wife, Amy, of Arlington, Va.,
and their three children, and Dan, who works with the Africa Program of
Lutheran World Relief, and his wife, Yenigul, of Baltimore, Md.

Both John and Dan Metzel have returned briefly to Congo as mission

“My brother was a very, very much loved person,” said Dan Metzel, who
was careful to remind a reporter that Jeff’s name in Tshiluba, the language
of the Kasai, was, in fact, “Kasai wa Muhindula.”  “Everybody who knew him
seemed to enjoy being around him … And, of course, we miss him very

Metzel’s wife has asked that memorial gifts be sent to the Kasai
Orphans’ Fund, the project where Metzel’s parents now volunteer. Checks may
be sent to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Central Receiving Service,
Account # 051617, 100 Witherspoon St., Louisville, Ky. 40202-1396.


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