Ian Campbell shares one of his richest privileges of serving in DR Congo – to have known Pastor Matayo Odama.
He came through the fires of persecution of the Simba rebellion in the early 1960’s. A slightly stooped, frail-looking man when I first met him in 1980, Pastor Matayo Odama was the main pastor for the churches in the area of DR Congo where we were then living. Initial impressions were that he was not an impressive man – balding with some white hair, slight, and no longer filling his clothes as once he did, he walked slowly and at times unsteadily as a man of advanced years.
Yet when he spoke in church council meetings, he did so with such wisdom and discernment! What was striking to me as a newly arrived missionary was the respect, appreciation and love that other leaders showed him. Issues that came up at these council meetings would often be resolved through his insightful biblical grasp of the issues. His proposed solutions would often be proved to be wise in the later unfolding of the circumstances.
A passionate prayer
On occasion I had the privilege of sharing a room with him when overnighting at council meetings, I would be awakened – very early while it was still dark – by him praying in the next bed. Interceding passionately for the advance of the kingdom, his intimacy in prayer with the Lord gave testimony to his deep love for him and for his people.
He was unafraid to go against current opinion when convinced of biblical truth. At times in his earlier years, he was ostracised and rejected by many within the church for taking a stand against what he believed was wrong. He demonstrated rare courage and was prepared to enter into the sufferings of the Lord, choosing rejection when a strong value at the time was belonging to the group. Eventually the tide turned, and opponents acknowledged his lead.
He gave full expression of his ministry when preaching. He fed congregations with powerful proclamation of biblical truth, often with prophetic insights. Challenging Christians to follow hard after the Lord and inviting others to faith, he was truly God’s gift to the church, thereby helping to prepare her for the challenges of the wars of 1990’s and 2000’s.
He was not without faults as he could be harsh, impatient and overly demanding. Yet though small in stature, he was nevertheless truly a giant. Unknown to the wider Christian world and with little schooling, this ‘nobody’ in the world’s eyes was a true soldier of the Lord Jesus.