As we celebrated graduation at the end of June, and watch our graduates go out to their designations, we always feel like parents when their children break from the nest and head out towards the world! It is a happy –sad time and we are always in prayer for our graduates, their families and their ministries. Two years ago, we wrote about our graduates and how far they would travel to reach their designations, and what mode of transport they would use to get there. After we returned this year, we have been contacting some of them and wanted to share their stories … their testimonies.
Considering the continued instability of the country, the economic downturn, which has been very serious for Congo, because of the stop in mining, and the places to which they went, torn by the war and tragedy, they have been living in the midst of miracles! It is with great joy and praise to our Lord, that we share what He has guided them to accomplish! We want to call this “Burning bricks for the Kingdom!”
Rev Kabambe and Mama Ilunga
Rev Kabambe and Mama Ilunga went out to their first church assignment using train, steamboat and bicycles! The journey took three weeks and 250 miles. They were sent to Mulongo where there is a strong Methodist presence. They found a congregation of 250 members and a foundation for a larger Church! With vision and tenacity the Church family is burning bricks for the new sanctuary and also a pastor’s house. They are also trying to raise money for the roofing. Despite having been wiped out during the war, and returning to nothing, people have started to rebuild their lives. At the same time, Rev. Kabambe is teaching at the local extension of the national university in the College of Education. The graduates of Mulungwishi are highly sought after because of their academic preparation.
Mama Ilunga is sharing the knowledge she gained at the Women’s School with the women in the area and hopes to start a women’s sewing center. The Church is also working to organize a local kindergarten. Together, they are doing a great deal of counseling with victims of the Rwandese Rebels. Many women and children were raped and families torn apart and have lost everything because of the conflict. There is also a local radio station and Pastor Kabambe gives a weekly message on forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. So in the midst of devastation the Good News is being shared and lived out through Rev. Kabambe and Ilunga.
Pastor Timothy Numbi Lukengo and Mama Banza
Pastor Timothy Numbi Lukengo and Mama Banza were designated to Kyolo where there was no church building! It took them more than three weeks to get to their appointment using the train, steam boat, canoe and finally bicycles! They found a small and struggling congregation. During this past year, they have built the congregation to 500 and have made a temporary structure in which they are worshipping! Due to the incredible growth, they also are burning bricks in order to build a permanent sanctuary and a parsonage. The North Katanga Annual Conference has also provided 80 sheets of roofing. Pastor Timothy also teaches religion in the public school and classes at the Brethren Bible School.
Mama Banza is teaching women in the area knitting and other skills she learned at the Women’s School. Pastor Timothy is also working in a program of evangelism in partnership with the Church of the Brethren, the other Protestant Church present in the area.
Pastor Robert Kalau and Mama Umba
Several times in our letters we have shared about Pastor Robert Kalau and Mama Umba. They had been on route for more than a month to get to their appointment at Kongolo because the trains were not running as they should. They found a foundation for a large church and the existing Church filled. They went to work burning bricks to continue with the construction. A month later, Bishop moved them to Nyunzu where Robert became the District Superintendent. Again, it took them 7 days, on the back of an old truck, to reach their destination. Their work has been greatly involved with bringing reconciliation in the district because of the conflicts in the region with the Mai Mai rebel group and other armies from Rwanda and Uganda . One of the Mai Mai leaders, who was involved with so much witch craft, has become a Christian and is now the lay leader of one of the churches! Praise the Lord!
Other leaders, challenges
Other churches are being established with other lay leadership. It is difficult to describe the depths of the horror, death and destruction the local people have lived through. Now, with very little, their people are making a comeback! They are mainly building with mud brick and grass roofs , digging new gardens ... and trying to find some way of doing commerce locally including sending produce by train. However, these last three months the trains have not run and the prices of salt and other staples were incredible! Can you imagine having to pay $2 for a small glass of salt! It will take awhile to renew the land but also heal the memories of horror and loss.
The Lord is faithful and just this last week, Robert sent us a message that they had baptized 170 pygmies this past week, from a Church in his district! Besides his ecclesiastic responsibilities, Robert is also teaching at the local university extension in the college of education . Umba is taking nursing courses at the university and teaching women in Churches during weekend.
In each step of the way, we have asked for your prayers and you have been involved with support, encouragement and prayers for these ministers. Isn’t exciting to see more of the Kingdom realized! God through His people is bringing healing, redemption, and New Life! Thank you for being apart and for reaching out to people you do not know but giving in faith!
The reality is that not only are they burning real bricks but these young Pastor families are helping to build the growing members of the Lord's Kingdom! Thank you for praying and being faithful. Keep praying! We give the Lord all the praise and glory!