10th Community of the Church of Christ in Congo – Disciples of Christ in the Congo
Disciples Information Bulletin, March, 2007 Editorial
10th Community of the Church of Christ in Congo – Disciples of Christ in the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Église du Christ au Congo
Disciples Information Bulletin, March, 2007 Editorial
For us it is a great pleasure to witness to our gratitude to all the members of our community, especially our pastor, colleagues, and our different partners and collaborators. After a long moment of shilly-shallying which characterized our community with quarrels, conflicts of leadership, and greed, we have today the claim and the courage to say, loud and strong, without a shadow of a doubt, that the peace long sought, the atmosphere of confidence, tolerance, and friendliness has become implanted in the Disciples community.
A mark of particular gratitude goes straight to all our partners who spared no effort on their part in order that God’s work might always go forward.
This is certainly the work of the combined efforts of each and all in the service or the department he is called on to direct. Each one has shown his involvement and has worked non-stop with a high sense of responsibility. And especially taking into account the mission entrusted to us by God. This spirit of collaboration allowed one and all to overcome egotistical feelings, in order to arrive at the happy advancement of our common objectives.
We are working hand in hand and we will arrive at the accomplishment of the so noble mission entrusted to us by the Eternal, our God. We have an opportunity before us; we must seize the moment to make the choice of a real and lasting change in Christian life. We avoid all who might bring the division of our community. This year is a year for hope, a year during which we are asking again for everyone among us to give first priority to the most noble mission that the Eternal, our God, has entrusted to us. Let’s get to the Lord’s work even more, for the glory and the love of God.
May God bless the community, Community President and Legal Representative
Jesus replied to her: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”– (John 4:10)
This text shows us that it is through work that the Lord blesses. This woman had chosen the path of work, and thus she encountered him who gives salvation. She was blessed, she and all her town, Samaria. It is also true that the solution to our problems is not far from us. Let’s look around us and have faith in Christ. We will have the solutions to our problems. The solutions are not far away from us as some people think, but right where we are, with Christ, we can find solutions to our problems. So let’s imitate the Samaritan.
Visit of the First Vice-President of the ECC to Mbandaka
The Vice-president of the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC), Bishop SONGO, stayed a week in Mbandaka for a working visit with the Provincial Synod of the ECC. Profiting from his stay, Bishop SONGO went to present his compliments to the Governor of the Equator Province, His Excellency Mr. Yves Mobando Yogo, and he visited the Disciples Community as well as the community of Christians located at CADELU.
While visiting the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo (CDCC), the Vice-president of the ECC had meetings with the personnel of the General Secretariat, with the student community of the Protestant University in Bolenge, with the wives of pastors, and concluding with a visit to the farm project at Ikengo. In the General Secretariat of the Disciples Community he made a tour of the offices, visiting different services and departments before going to the chapel of the General Secretariat where he had a meeting with the gathered personnel. Speaking first on that occasion, the Community President and Legal Representative, Reverend Eliki Bonanga, outlined in summary the situation of the Disciples Community. Addressing the subject from a historic point of view the Community President indicated that the Church of Disciples of Christ (CDCC), formerly a missionary church known as the Disciples of Christ Congo Mission, DCCM, started in 1899 and became an autonomous church on April 17, 1964. However, it continued to collaborate with the founding church in the USA through the Division of Overseas Mission (later becoming Global Ministries). The CDCC later established a relationship with the United Evangelical Mission of Germany (VEM).
The Community President indicated that the CDCC was a well endowed church which had inherited a rich patrimony given to it by the missionaries, including residences, vehicles, motos, small airplanes, boats, and a communication network by radio, etc.
Today the CDCC experiences enormous difficulties because of the difficult period the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) faced , which reached its culmination in 1990. The civil wars of 1996 and 1998 arrived and plunged entire families into the incertitude of tomorrow, broken households, many deaths and destroyed infrastructure.
The Disciples Community did not escape this steam roller which brought the church to its knees. Its schools, hospitals, health centers, chapels, radios, solar panels, development projects, residential homes were systematically pillaged by Hutu refugees and other groups involved in the conflicts. In spite of this dark picture, the CDCC President added, God was gracious to the Community, for, meanwhile, the Good News of the Lord Jesus was constantly spread until it covered practically all of the south of Equator Province. Today the CDCC has extensions into the neighboring provinces of Bandundu and Oriental, as well as in the city of Kinshasa and the Province of Bas Congo.
Moreover, in order to take charge of the Church, the Community launched operation “local effort” and reinforces the units of production. It is true that the objectives have not yet been reached for it takes time to raise the awareness of the faithful and to fulfill the projects of the units of production.
To finish his address the Community President took up the problem of financial contributions of the CDCC at the provincial and national level. In spite of the difficulties which the Community faces, it is in compliance up to 2005 for contributions at the national level.
In reply to the CDCC President’s address, the Vice President of the ECC, Bishop Songo, asked those present to stand up for a minute of silence in memory of those renowned departed leaders of the CDCC. On the subject of former leaders, Bishop Songo made mention of Bishop Bokeleale, with whom he had worked and whom he knew as a man of action. When Bishop Bokeleale served as President of ECC, one would have thought that Bishop Bokeleale was only interested in advancing the work of the ECC. Bishop Songo expressed his pleasant surprise in learning that Bishop Bokeleale carried out many activities that immortalized him among the Disciples in his church of origin.
Bishop Songo recognized that the CDCC is one of the churches which continues to sustain and support the Church of Christ in Congo. His wish is that the CDCC continue to show its involvement for the survival of the Church of Christ in Congo.
Bishop Songo Met With Pastors and Their Wives
During his stay in Mbandaka, Bishop Songo, Vice-president of the ECC, had a meeting with the pastors of all the member churches working in Mbandaka, as well as their wives. On the occasion of this meeting, the Vice-president of the ECC explained that in his capacity as Head of Evangelization, Church Life and Mission, he must look into the situation of the servants of God and their families.
Gender and Leadership, a Preoccupation for the CDCC
From January 8 to 15, 2006, the Sub-Department of Woman and Family, directed by Reverend Christiane Ikete Engetele, organized, within the Lycee Nsang’ea Ndotsi, a seminar of great importance for the life of the Church using the theme “Gender.” This seminar, which had the participation of pastors and women from the Disciples of Christ Church as well as the sister church , CADELU, was staffed by eminent speakers such as, Mrs. Marie Louise Nsongo Bompolonga, Reverend Frederic Lombe Bampele, Reverend Jean Bokonga, Reverend Clement Mputu Yonganga, and Mrs. Beatrice Lombo.
This undeniably current theme was welcome in this period where the Democratic Republic of Congo enters the era of the third republic which recognizes the equality between men and women constitutionally. So it is not possible to speak of promoting women, nor of equality, as long as women have not yet mastered the terms of gender and of leadership. All of the speakers strived to explain to the participants that the difference between men and women is only biological and, therefore, desired by God the Creator, and can in no way justify the division of work based on sex. Competence is the only factor that should be taken into account in an occupation or position. Likewise, they continued, if women don’t develop real leadership they will always trail behind men who will continue to treat them as they wish.
The interest that the participants showed in the work-shops, and the resolutions they made, witness to the involvement of men and women of the CDCC and the CADELU in addressing the problems of the advancement of women. Among the many resolutions, the participants pledged:
- to fight against injustice between men and women.
- to train competent personnel for the promotion of gender
- to promote positive gender practices among men, women, and young people.
- to encourage the promotion of effective and competent Christian leadership
- to reinforce the capacities of everyone at all levels
- to respect Human Rights and endeavor to make them know
- to combat violence in all its forms
The General Assembly of the CDCC will take place in July, 2007
“The General Assembly mandated for the year 2007, will take place at the time fixed by statute;” such was the word of the community executive during the course of a meeting with a journalist of the CDCC.
Speaking more precisely, the Community President stated that this assembly will take place the 4th Monday of July and invitations, along with the agenda, will be sent to the various participants.
The announcement was made to encourage the regional leaders to start preparing for the assembly. Leaders should start mastering all the points noted in the agenda well in advance in order to make the debates clearer, more transparent, more objective and less political.
This points to the urgent need of preparing mature delegates now who are not easily manipulated, who are wise and devoted. This is to say that one must choose people who are capable of taking a position for the good of the entire community.
This assembly will be preceded by an Administrative Council (July 16 this year) authorized to prepare for this meeting. The delegates to the Administrative council will come from their respective congregations in compliance with the constitution of the CDCC.
Everyone must be committed to the positive interest of the Community instead of a place of individual privilege and partisan interests.
The Work of Women
The liberation of women can only come effectively when women have also acquired economic and political power. Economic power will permit them to be free from dependence on men and political power will permit them to be present in decision making.
It is against this backdrop that the sub Department of Women and Family started, in Mbandaka, a project of training women in sewing and clothing design which will permit women, once trained, to carry on a money making occupation which will allow them to save and to improve themselves financially.
Today this project is in its second session, the first having permitted 10 women to become seamstresses and to enter the business world. Ten others are in training and will finish next April-May.
The CDCC Connected to the World Wide Web
The whole world lives today in the era of globalization. Telecommunication is so developed that in these past years the world has become a large village.
The CDCC seems to be outside the margin of progress, for in order to communicate with the posts in the interior the church continues to utilize ham radios. To communicate with our partners outside of the country, one has to travel to Kinshasa or go to private cyber cafes at hours of the day which do not correspond to the time overseas.
The current situation is that the ham radios are old and the cost of traveling to Kinshasa in order to take care of documents for the outside partners has become burdensome. So, after making a request to Global Ministries, the CDCC, which is presently connected to the internet by a computer, received the visit of an American delegation accompanied by Mr. Art. Mehaffey, and consisting of Dan Owen, Garry Sparks, and Dan Erickson. This delegation had the task of evaluating the situation of communication within the CDCC. Their report will permit either replacing the radios, or establishing a satellite network for the Community. The latter solution is the best solution in the context of globalization.
Our President’s Trip to Rural Communities
From February 17 to 26, 2007, the Community President and Legal Representative, Reverend Eliki Bonanga, carried out a visit to the ecclesial post of Bolenge, notably in the region of the Ubangi, parishes of Mpombo, Bobangi, Djili, Lobanga, Mantuka and Loka. He was accompanied by Community Vice President, the Reverend Clement Mputu Yonganga, responsible for Evangelization, Church Life and Mission, and also accompanied by the Regional/Conference Minister of the Bolenge post.
During their stay in these parishes they were able to notice the progressive return of the population which had fled the hostilities of the armed conflicts of the period before the transition. As in all the regions which come out of the war, the problems of destruction of social infrastructure (schools, health centers, chapels) and the residences are still evident.
Added to that is the recrudescence of endemic diseases especially malaria, diarrhea, worms, and diseases from water. Likewise the livestock and the fields abandoned during the period of war have completely disappeared.
It is in this dark picture that the Community President had to carry the gospel of salvation of our Lord. Thirty five people were baptized, 20 children were dedicated to God, 3 new pastors were installed, and two couples received the wedding blessing of their unions.
Also, the Presidential delegation met Christians from the parishes of neighboring Congo Brazzaville and a seminar of evangelization was organized. The good news certainly was sown, but the people are confronted by enormous difficulties caused by the absence of social infrastructures that they are rebuilding with the means at their disposal, but medical care must be assured, the fight against HIV/AIDS undertaken, and the violence against women stopped.
We note that at the time this visit was made a large part of the population who fled during the war had not yet come back, so we must think of organizing their return and putting in place the infrastructures which can receive a large population in distress.
Brief News From Our Posts
The Disciples of Mbandaka have come to understand their responsibility at the heart of the Church. Each month efforts are made to accomplish certain actions with their own funds. It is in this framework that the mothers, who met at their general assembly (a special worship service to raise funds for a precise objective) collected $1,150 to buy a motorcycle for the regional/conference minister. This motorcycle today helps the minister in his travels. This action is not the only one, for these Christians have already begun the construction of a residence for the minister. The work of enlarging chapels continues, notably in the parishes of Basoko, Ville, Bongondjo, and Mbandaka II.
Moreover, during the regional pastor’s visit of rural communities along the river, the Christians located at Mampoko (local church of Bosombuki), a parish recently born on the Lolanga river, presented a canoe as a gift to the regional/conference pastor, since the parish is only accessible by river. However, Mampoko is not the only parish accessible by river. The development of the Post of Mbandaka is not tangible only on the material plan, but also on the social plan. It is in this framework that the Reverend Ilumbe Ndjongo, also a regional minister, has enrolled pastors working in the parishes of Mbandaka in the National Social Security Institute (INSS), a public institution that pays retirement benefits.
Dianga and Ingende
The posts of Ingende and Dianga have just acquired two new eight horsepower outboard motors in the framework of their sister relationship with the District of Mettmann. We remember that this new acquisition is a replacement of two old motors which will allow the regional/conference ministers to travel easily from their posts to Mbandaka where they go regularly to take care of their correspondence with sister churches overseas. Always within this framework, a series of buildings of public interest have just received permanent roofs. These are especially the chapel of Bokele and the school of Itotela.
The Community President inaugurated the Lucy Otaenga Foundation at Lotumbe. This project is the initiative of the Doctors Bolingo couple who obtained the support of Mrs. Lucy Otaenga, granddaughter of former missionary Hobgood who was the main architect of the post of Lotumbe, and daughter of Ben Hobgood Ndjoji, born at Lotumbe and missionary for many years in Congo, first Dean of the Congo Free University, now the University of Kisangani. The project of the Lucy Otaenga Foundation has five main facets: micro-credit, community store, health, agriculture, and a sewing school for women. It aims first at helping women, and secondly the minority pygmy population.
In the framework of sister relationship between the ecclesial post of Boende with the district of Iserlohn, the health center of Botsini has just benefited from a gift which permitted it to obtain roofing for the building of the center. With that action the health center can offer a lasting service to the population in a healthy infrastructure. One certain thing is that the building must be well cared for and the center provided with medicines.
Since the arrival of the present team at the head of the Community, an obvious effort is being made in the sense of the extension of the CDCC across the country. Posts have been opened in the eastern Province, in the province of Lower Congo, but also in Equator Province, notably in the Equator District at Basankusu. The Rev. Jean Robert Ingombe was assigned there and already 15 parishes are operational. For these parishes to be effective, the Rev. Ingombe invited Rev. Jean Boetsa Djou, director of the portable school, to train 19 catechists. At the beginning of the month of January, 2007, we learned that the post of Basankusu, whose central parish is located in a public building belonging to the ministry of youth and leisure, held its first council. This event was a first in the capital of the Equator District for, ten years ago, nobody would have bet that there would be the presence of a member church of the ECC developing alongside the CADELU. Today the cohabitation between the CDCC and the CADELU has become a necessity to the extent that the two sister churches cooperate in the framework of the Churches United in Mission. A connection between the two facilitates the exchange of mutual understanding and a favorable common evolution in the framework of the Churches United in Mission. Born and developing in the Equator Province, it is often abnormal to find contradictions between two churches working in the same region and knowing the same constraints simply because of misunderstandings. Also the more the two churches draw closer, the more that exchanges will multiply, and the more mutual understanding will erase the contradictions.
The schools of Bolenge Center are today provided with latrines. Formerly the children relieved themselves just on the ground, in the shrubbery around the school buildings. This practice was at the base of the spreading of lots of diseases, each time that rain drained fecal matter across the school paths. This action, we hope, will contribute to the diminution of diseases, especially worms and diarrhea. Moreover we learn from Bolenge that a project of raising cattle has moved to Phase B. The idea is that each parish of the post will have a pair of cows in order to constitute a reserve which tomorrow will be a source of sure auto financing. The parish chosen this time for Phase B of the project is that of Lilanga on the Congo River.
Take Care of My Sheep!
This is the command of the Lord to his pastors. The Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo remembered this command in the ecclesial post of Mbandaka. So a decision of the Administrative Committee was taken in order that all the pastors working within the administration in the General Secretariat be transferred to the city parishes as Honorary Pastors. This decision will help the pastors to not forget their primary mission–that of taking care of the sheep. Therefore, eight pastors, including two women, Reverend Bafalanga and Reverend Ikete, given charge respectively of the Diaconate and of the Women and Family, have been received in the parishes to the great satisfaction of the faithful who have found their pastor again.
AIDS, A Time Bomb
The war is finished, long live peace! The elections are over, long live the new institutions of the Third Republic. Such is the cry of Congolese today. But peace doesn’t mean the absence of war. Other aspects must be examined, notably the aspect of health. It is no secret that the countries involved in the conflict in Congo since 1996 have a high prevalence of seropositives. They were Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.
The question nobody can answer is that of knowing in what circumstances and what conditions the combatants were chosen to be sent to Congo. If the detection of AIDS was not part of the conditions, then there is room to be worried.
In Mbandaka we have seen an exaggerated increase in prostitution. Girls, even under age, became prostitutes in order to get their subsistence. But the cost was high, we learn. The combatants proposed more money for relations without condoms! This rumor is confirmed when we have seen women become pregnant from these combatants. Besides this, danger is added because of sexual violence on women and children. Sexual violation of a woman not only carries the risk of physical harm and injury, but also exposes her to sexually transmissible diseases and AIDS.
Yesterday still, sexual violence was the privilege of soldiers, but we observe more and more cases of sexual violence committed by civilians and even by parents on their offspring or by superiors on their associates.
Today, statistics about AIDS indicate a certain increase of seropositivity in the city of Mbandaka and in Equator Province in general. So there is room to fear an explosion of AIDS which will come to decimate a large part of the population of Equator Province, and generally in Congo.
Local organizations and churches don’t cross their arms before this menace which is confirmed each day. Seminars, awareness campaigns, multiple actions and strategies are in place. The strategy in vogue today is that of peer educators. It is claimed, in fact, that the messages pass more easily between people who have certain similarities of age and sex than between different people who don’t trust each other. Also, all age groups are not menaced similarly, and women, often victims of sexual violence, are at more risk than men.
The strategy of peer educator consists of giving accurate information about AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases to combat rumors, which are often the basis of risky behavior. The CDCC and CADELU, have trained peer educators in the framework of the AIDS program of these churches with our German partners, Churches United in Mission. One thing remains, however, for the action of educators to be effective. They need the means to permit them more mobility which will permit them to reach a large number of their peers to educate.
62 New Schools for the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo
From its installation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Community of Disciples of Christ has had three social objectives in its relationship with the population: evangelization, education, and health. At each mission site, there were schools and hospitals around churches. In 1964, when the CDCC was getting its autonomy, there was only one secondary school, Congo Christian Institute, which provided a general education. But in the 1970’s several schools were created by the CDCC with the concern of bringing closer the students whose school age was becoming lower and lower to reach six years (beginning of elementary school) and absorbing the increasing number of children entering the schools.
In general each of the ten mission sites should have a primary and a secondary school. Unfortunately, these schools didn’t have the desired infrastructures. So when there was an inspection by the Service of Control of Teachers (SECOPE) several of these schools were closed momentarily or transferred to other management, either official or Catholic. That brought about a great decrease in the number of CDCC schools. Today, thanks to efforts undertaken by the authorities of the coordination of ECP/10-CDCC, efforts have been undertaken in view of opening viable schools. These efforts have just been crowned with success by the signature of the Ministerial decree of June 2, 2005, granting authorization for 62 maternal, primary, secondary, and professional schools. With that decision the CDCC counts on increasing its educational ministry. Even if the problem of school age can be resolved with bringing schools closer to the children, there remains another problem, the proper functioning of the newly created schools. Adapted infrastructures, appropriate school equipment, and competent personnel are necessary to maintain these schools.
The Hospital of Bolenge has an Ultrasound Machine
The hospital of Bolenge, which was just ravaged by a nocturnal fire whose origin remains till now obscure and which is currently functioning in part of its old buildings, has just acquired an ultrasound apparatus. This sophisticated equipment is up-to-date medical technology which will allow doctors to provide prompt and effective treatment to patients. However, it has been installed in an old, dilapidated building. So it is like new wine in old wineskins.
The news of this acquisition brought joy, not only to the population of Bolenge, but also to all the inhabitants who share the health zone of Bolenge, and the population of Mbandaka which has never hesitated to take advantage of the competence of the doctors and the treatment personnel of the evangelical hospital of Bolenge. Our prayer is that this contribution by the Congo government continues when the hospital is reconstructed for a model has already been made for the construction of a hospital worthy of Bolenge, the first post of our community.
The project of Ikengo, an Attraction
Ikengo, the old project from the Peace Corps period whose first director was Mr. John Loftin, has taken on a new aspect with the assignment of Celestin Engelemba. This young executive of our Community has taken up the challenge of resuscitating the project from the ruins of the 1970’s. Today not only has the project become operational, but the coordinator, Mr. Engelemba, has just organized a training program for those responsible for the projects of the ecclesial posts of the CDCC and the CADELU. Celestin Engelembe’s objective is to assist each mission site of the two sister communities to be endowed with a center of production like Ikengo. The participants in this training seminar received improved quality pigs to start up projects at their posts.
Good luck to all the graduates!
Regional Assembly of the MEU
The Community President and Legal Representative of the CDCC, Reverend Eliki Bonanga, has returned from a trip to Windhoek, Namibia, where he went to take part in the meeting of the regional executive committee of the Churches United in Mission (MEU). This meeting, whose objective was to evaluate all the activities of the MEU in Africa, had the participation of nine members of the council, including Reverend Bonanga, two executive secretaries, English speaking and French speaking, whose offices are in Wuppertal, and the Moderator of the MEU, the Reverend Z. Kameeta. From March 5 the representatives of nine African member churches of the MEU reflected on three points:
- How the African church can be responsible to the MEU?
- The evaluation of the level of execution of decisions of the regional general assembly and of the council which took place in Cameroon last year.
- Strategies for the proper operation of the regional African coordination of the MEU
These important points must be the preoccupying points of the nine African member churches of the MEU in order for them to present a worthy picture in the meetings of the three continents. The Africans must become responsible to bring more human and other resources which the MEU community needs. The CDCC, which is preparing for the next meeting of its General Assembly, must take this into account.
The CDCC has been at work in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1899. The missionaries who braved everything in order that God’s word be preached to the local people are today at rest with the Father. But while they opened the paths of home to the Congolese, they were accompanied by their spouses who gave them children, according to the blessings of God. Many of these were born and grew up in Congo and feel more at home in the land of their birth than in the land of their father, America.
It’s a fact that with the return of their parents many have never come back to Congo even though homesick for the land of their birth. Others, on the other hand, have either worked straight out in Congo, or have come for a visit. In any case, they recognize that the work of their parents remains a living stone in the heart of Africa.
Two of the children born at the mission, Chris Hobgood and his brother, Ben, have thought to connect their children in the movement of the love for Congo. Both of them made a trip, each with his family consisting of their own children, the spouses of their children, and their grand-children. They said they came to show their descendents the house where they were born. In reality these visits hid an intention, that of starting their children and grandchildren on the work of their father. And already at Lotumbe things have gone more quickly for, after the visit of the big family of Ben