“My heart hurts to see how people are suffering without Jesus.” Tom Desloges, AIM’s Unit Leader in DR Congo shares his conversation with Congolese missionaries Justin and Clement, who had just returned from a stint in one of Congo’s poorest and least developed regions.
Two months previous, they landed in Manonga, Bas-Uele to plant churches among the Barambu and Zande people, and disciple leaders in the few congregations found across that remote area. Now they’ve returned to the city of Bunia, Ituri, for a time of rest and reconnection with their families and sending churches. For Justin, having just completed some mission training led by his sending church, this was his first cross-cultural missions experience.
“It was just like in the book of Acts,” he tells us. Called ‘the Black Hole’ by some, the region is known for its heavy spiritual oppression. People, even pastors, are nominally Christian but their lives are steeped in syncretism and ruled by witchcraft. But, he goes on to tell us about one village where, “They burned their fetishes. Mothers accepted Christ and cut the talisman off their children.”
Annemarie Boks shares how God is using faithful church leaders to build his church in DR Congo.
Reverend Lalima took over as church leader of CECA following the untimely death of Reverend Etsea. Soft spoken and caring, he took charge of a church in mourning. In 2004, during the General Assembly, a young pastor, Reverend Kokole, was chosen to follow him and Lalima became his guide and counsellor, just as Paul mentored Timothy. During the war in 1999, the Congolese town of Kisangani had been caught in the crossfire between Uganda and Rwanda. Kokole and his family were protected by God for future ministry, as bullets flew over the church and their house. Under Lalima’s teaching, Reverend Kokole led and grew the church for 15 years. Since last year, Kokole has now become the counsellor of a new president, Agupio Amanio and the baton of faithful, mature leadership continues.
All these leaders have their own stories to tell, but the one thing that characterises them is their servant leadership, and willingness to change. In all, they follow Jesus.
“Whole families found peace and freedom,” adds Clement.
Over the course of eight weeks, almost 400 gave their lives to Christ. “We focused on preaching the assurance of salvation,” explains Justin. “People don’t know if they are saved. They believe they must work, or give offerings, or belong to the family of a pastor.” Our missionaries face a significant challenge: literacy rates are abysmal – people are unable to read the Bible, and there simply aren’t any trained church leaders. Who will take charge of these new believers? Justin and Clement told of one pastor who had walked 110 km with his family, young children included, carrying their household on their heads, so that he could attend Bible school. How can quality training be made more accessible?
For almost three hours I listen as the two Congolese missionaries share about the deep needs they saw, and the wondrous ways God has been at work. “People are thirsty to hear the word,” says Clement, “even the territorial administrator in Poko is calling for missionaries to come!”
Who will go?
Our partner church, CECA 20, is beginning to understand that they have an important role in responding to God’s command to go into all the world. They certainly have potential and the capacity, and their vision is expanding. We pray that the Holy Spirit would move his Congolese church to action. “In Matthew 28:20, Jesus says that he will always be with us. It’s true, and we see it while serving in mission,” says Clement. “We see the hand of God.” Pray with us that many would join Justin and Clement in seeing God at work.