Congo Special Disciples Information Bulletin
The Community President visits the Posts located along the Momboyo
The Community President visits the Posts located along the Momboyo
The Community President on a trip
Who will help polio victims?
A trip to stimulate young people
A health center out in the forest
New doctors for Monieka and Bosobele
What our schools in the interior are like
Ordination of Pastor Loanga at Ifumo
Ecumenism, a living experience
Nkasa, a living parish
Health Center at Bongindji dedicated
Figurehead – Joseph Whitmer
John 4:41-42 And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
This text shows us how the Samaritans believed in Jesus because of the message received from the woman. But when they themselves met Jesus they had even greater convictions that Jesus is the Savior of the World. That’s why they ended by saying, “We know that this man really is the Savior of the World.” What was added to their faith was the word really. This shows that there is a difference between hearing a message and living it ones self, between theory and practice. We exhort the brothers and sisters to live the messages instead of just hearing them. From actual practice we have certain lessons that theory cannot give. We know many Bible verses, we have Bible doctrine in our heads, but what remains for many Christians is to live what they confess, what they proclaim. All the promises of God only become real in acts of blessing in the life of those who put into practice his commandments. Moreover, to love Jesus Christ, he himself said, is to keep and put into practice his words. Many times talk will destroy couples, the church, and even the country, but with practice in the word of God we can hope for good things.
May God bless you.
The Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo is the work of American missionaries who implanted it in 1899. This great work included evangelization, education, and health care; buildings were built and people were trained. At present missionaries no longer come and the church works in the framework of partnership with American and German churches. However, the people continue to live as during the missionary epoch, expecting everything from the exterior. The change of vision is a long term process. And yet the 21st session of the General Assembly has set the tone by adopting the vision of a strong church from now to the year 2015. It’s a matter of the local church being responsible for itself. But, in the face of social and
economic difficulties of the present time, namely poverty, weak schooling, low purchasing power of the people, endemic illnesses, lack of infrastructures suitable for development, etc., it is certain that the vision will not be realized without the support of partners. This will be a different support from the missionary epoch, but a support which is, in reality, a sparkplug for development, an investment in which to make use, yet different from the finished product ready to be consumed.
However it is not possible to hope to end up with something, in the sense of the vision adopted by the General Assembly without a good comprehension of the process by the base that is by the members of the parishes.
It is in this spirit that we have made our visits throughout the posts. It is a matter for the Administrative Committee to explain the vision in order to count on the activity of local people.
The strategy that we have determined is the purchase of cards of local effort. Our church has many followers. So if we can get everyone to participate in local effort by the purchase of cards of participation in local effort, the funds will be gathered in the parishes, posts, and the General Secretariat, and will serve for the realization of the development projects of the church.
The division of the receipts coming from local effort will have 40% remaining in the parish participating in local effort. Twenty percent will go to the parish’s post and 40% to the General Secretariat. The funds for the posts and the General Secretariat will enter into their budgets for supporting work in progress across the posts and the whole church.
We are aware that this process will not happen by waving a magic wand, but we hope and we have patience. Don’t they say that the longest trip begins with the first step? So the first Christian who participates in the local effort will launch the beginning of the whole process which, we hope, from now till the year 2015 will be taken up by everyone.
May God bless you!
Rev. Eliki Bonanga
Community President and Legal Representative
The Community President on a Trip
From Feb. 16 to March 5, 2008, the Community President, accompanied by the Community Vice-President, made a missionary trip along the Momboyo River, also visiting the posts of Ingende, Lotumbe, Mangilombe, Ifumo and Bongindji. This trip is in the framework of putting into action one of the decisions of the General Assembly of the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo which recommended that the Community President make a missionary visit to each of the church posts.
The 21st General Assembly, having adopted the vision by its decision no. 01/2007 which stipulates “to lead the Community to effective obedience to the Word of God in order to make the church unite, spiritually strong, and powerful.” The trip had four objectives: to see the work at its base, to raise the awareness of the parishioners about the participation in local effort, to organize evangelistic campaigns, and to perform pastoral acts.
The Community President was able to see the living parishes which are making efforts to improve by constructing buildings a bit more durable with local materials. Chapels, schools, and medical facilities in rammed earth are replaced by buildings in brick and thatch. Certainly the problem of labor arises, notably the lack of masons, but people are so determined that they don’t hesitate to invite masons from hundreds of kilometers, to be responsible for them until their work is ended. Other problems arise with respect to woodwork. Although the houses are built of bricks they are enclosed with simple screens, easy to break into.
Evangelization is going along in a satisfactory manner. Six worship services were organized during this trip and in each one there were more than 400 participants. In route and at beaches where they landed, a crowd formed to greet the Community President and Vice President You could read the emotion on all their faces and the people didn’t hesitate to declare that in their memory no Community President had ever gone so far as to visit a parish. This supportive gesture impressed everyone.
Another preoccupation on this trip involved raising the awareness about local effort. Remember that the Disciples Community has given itself the objective of putting in place a church that is spiritually and materially strong. This is only possible to the extent that the members of the CDCC become involved in building up their church, especially by their participation in local effort, which is the support of the church by the base. For this year the Community treasury has sent out cards of participation in local effort in three categories: cards for 300 francs, cards for 500 francs, and cards for 1,000 francs. So everyone has the possibility to participate in local effort according to his means. The Community President explained the impact of this contribution at the level of the parish and the post, as well as the General Secretariat. In fact, if all members of the CDCC could contribute to this program of local effort, the Community budget would be significantly increased and projects would be realized to bring about a materially strong church.
The attraction of this missionary trip was without doubt the campaign of evangelization. In the evenings the young singers organized musical gatherings during which campaigns of evangelization were organized with the theme “Why believe in Jesus only? Hundreds of people crowded around a bamboo fire to here the Community Vice President tell them about the will of God. Many people made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and others came with worries, illnesses and other problems and the Vice President prayed for them to the point that even the next day after the campaign people came to ask that he intercede for them. Four campaigns were held at Mangilombe, Ifumo, Bongindji and Eungu.
Finally we note that the parish pastor of Ma Nsamba, church post of Ifumo, was ordained. Four couples of clergy received wedding benedictions, two at Ifumo Bafake and two at Ifum’Isaka. Six children were presented for God’s blessing at Ifum’Isaka. The building of the health center of Bongindji was dedicated, and the gravestone of the late Rev. Bakalandjwa was placed at Ifumo Bafake. The problems of the posts were brought out in the framework of limited meetings of the post Councils.
In general, the church in the interior of the Community is very much alive. There is also a clear willingness to build the church for the members of the ECC/10-CDCC to understand more and more that the missionary epoch is past and from now on the church must depend on its own means. That’s why they are building with bricks to make their work durable, as much as possible.
In the schools, the benches burned by the Rwandan Hutus during their flight in 1996-1997 are replaced by benches of hewn wood so the children don’t have to sit on the ground. Trips like this will only reinforce this new mentality with emphasis on raising awareness.
However, we must recognize that the people are in an indescribable poverty to the point of lacking even machetes and files to clear the fields. It is evident today that if the people can get support in the sense of having access to basic agricultural material with an appropriate framework they can themselves become strong materially and the result will be visible at the level of the church. But in fact how much would it cost for an agricultural kit needed by a farmer member of the CDCC to farm one hectare? Not more than $25, and that would make him able to produce goods worth $300 at the first harvest.
Another problem which constitutes a strangling bottleneck for evangelization in the interior of the Community remains that of transportation and communication. The posts of Bongindji, Mangilombe and Ifumo have no radio, which cuts them off from the General Secretariat and the rest of the Community. For example, the Supervising Pastor of Bongindji has to go 74 kilometers to communicate by private radio, and the pastor at Mangilombe must go 60 kilometers to Wafanya and enter into contact with the Community by the radio of the Catholics. All these distances are covered on foot and require precious time which could be used for something else. As for transport, it is on foot and the pastors are obliged to travel the tens if not hundreds of kilometers to cover their regions. Bicycles, motorbikes, outboard motors and canoes are needed to make the work of evangelization in the interior more effective.
In reality the Community is still in a state of being behind with respect for civilization. But with the facilities that present technological knowledge offers, it is not difficult to catch up. We must have the will and the means.
We must also note the frank collaboration that exists in our church in the interior, both with the Roman Catholic church and with the political administrative and traditional authorities. It is in this framework that at Wafanya and Imbonga, the Community President and Vice President were received by the priests of those parishes. At Monkoto the Territorial Administrator, absent from the city, asked his wife to receive the President and his following for a meal, and his assistant didn’t hesitate to offer presents to the President. Likewise, the patriarchs, notably those of Bagake in the post of Ifumo, also presented their gifts, a sign of the good collaboration between the church and third parties.
Who will help polio victims?
In January 2008, the building of the vaccination program for the Equator province in Mbandaka burned. That took place the day before the campaign of vaccination against polio organized across the country, and especially in the Equator Province where several cases of polio had been diagnosed.
Fortunately the doses of vaccine were not damaged and the fuel that burned was replaced. The campaign took place effectively. Meanwhile, there are cases of people in the country who have become handicapped following polio. That’s the case with young Blaise Mbola Bosenge of the parish of Ingende center. This young person lost his father and was abandoned by his mother because of the infirmity resulting from that illness, and was raised by his grandparents who are now both dead. So he has never had the opportunity to go to school and hardly knows the date of his birth which he says was in 1977. We discovered him in the choral where he sings with great joy and thanks to God.
In order to subsist, Blaise has learned to repair shoes and slippers. That occupation earns his daily bread and keeps him from being the responsibility of someone else in spite of his handicap. One of his cousins taught him this trade which he performs with much love. But he has no support to redo his threads and rk with a crochet hook that he made with a piece of a bicycle spoke.
It is well known that the Democratic Republic of Congo is firmly involved in the fight against diseases by vaccination. Many millions of dollars are spent for major campaigns for the eradication of these diseases, and major activity results. But what do they do about the victims affected by these diseases? Blaise would only need a good crochet hook, some glue, some nails, a little hammer and an anvil to get him started and to get him out of this misery. There are millions of Blaises living in the world and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. If the disease (polio) has made lots of victims, it is time, while combating the disease, to think of the victims it has already made.
A Trip to Stimulate Young People
Philemon Ilumbe Kayo, the person responsible for the Office of Youth and Chorales has returned from a trip he made before Christmas to the posts of Longa/Ingende and Lotumbe where he held meetings of stimulation for the young people. During his trip which led him into several parishes of these posts, he was able to appreciate the involvement of the young people in the service of the Lord. We can note that many young people, through lack of effective training within their parishes, let themselves get carried away by new doctrines, often perverse, which new church groups circulate. Through the chorale campaigns many young people heard the Word of God and have come back into their mother community. Armed with his synthesizer, and a skilful musician, Philemon Ilumbe charmed the young people who saw him at work and who would like to see him visit them more often. We note that, at present, Kayo is preparing a new tour to the post of Boyeka where, as at Longa/Ingende and Lotumbe, he will visit the parishes and warm up the morale of the young people.
A Health Center in the middle of the Equatorial Forest
Mangilombe is a village located in Equator Province, Tshuapa Disstrict, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was to evangelize this village that Robert Ray Eldred met his death trying to swim across the river Lokoro to reach the other side where there was a canoe that could help them cross, him and Mr. Hobgood and the Africans who accompanied them in order to reach Mangilombe.
Now this village, which was a simple parish, acquired the status of post in 2003. There is a primary and secondary school, but also a health center. We point out that the village, which is presently located in a new place after having been moved to free up space because of the enlargement of the Salonga national park, is now very far from the hospitals of Monkoto and Lotumbe. The access routes (the road and the river) offer no means of taking sick people to these hospitals. So it is necessary to have a health center which depends on a hospital of reference.
The health center of Mangilombe is under the responsibility of a young nurse couple, the couple Ise Boets Djou which has been there about 2 years and which struggles to relieve the suffering of a population of 6,923 people. Each day the health center receives at least 25 new cases, but how can they be taken care of without medicines? To take vital signs there is only a thermometer and a stethoscope. They also accept pregnant women who come for childbirth. They have made a delivery table from a mat. Many children suffer from infectious diseases like malaria, worms, diarrhea. The poverty of the population located in the middle of the equatorial forest prevents Ise Boetsa from making the health center function without outside help.
Also there are cases of illnesses which require surgical intervention. These patients cannot cover the distances which separate them from the hospitals, in their condition. So it is necessary for a surgeon to be located at Mangilombe or that Ise Boetsa receive a period of training in surgery to take care of these patients.
Two new doctors for the hospitals of Monieka and Bosobele
The medical personnel of the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo has just been enriched with two new young doctors who have recently completed their studies at the University of Kinshasa. They are Dr. Bosolo and Dr. Itela who are now in an internship at the general reference hospital of Wangata and the general hospital of Bolenge while waiting to go to their assigned positions at Bosobele and Monieka.
These young doctors both come from Disciple families where they began their studies with Christian education in a Disciples Sunday school. Dr. Bosolo, after having completed his nursing studies at the Higher Institute of Medical Technology in Mbandaka worked at the General Hospital of Lotumbe before resuming his studies of medicine. Dr. Itela went directly from secondary school to begin his university studies of medicine. Their arrival is a veritable puff of oxygen for the hospitals of the Disciples Community which function with a deficit of doctors. The editors of the Disciples Information Bulletin wish these two young men a fruitful career.
What CDCC schools in the interior are like
One of the major heritages left to us by the American missionaries who brought the gospel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo under the banner of the Disciples of
Christ is the schools. At each of the 10 stations that functioned at the time of autonomy in 1964, there was a school built of permanent materials (except for the station of Longa). Today these buildings are in a state of advanced deterioration and there are practically no more benches. That’s the situation of the schools at Lotumbe Center. The increase of the primary school enrollment has led the head of the institution, Mr. Mbayo, to build another building of brick beside the building left by the missionaries. Inside the school building children are seated uncomfortably on benches hewn from wood with all the difficulties of lining up letters and numbers.
There is also the problem of textbooks and classic objects. This year UNICEF intervened at Lotumbe by providing notebooks and pens for the students and the teachers, which permitted the parents to breathe a bit easier for these classic objects are rare and expensive for the poor parents.
As for the secondary school, the first problem is the school building, built of unburned brick and now crumbling. The children are exposed each day to the danger of the walls falling in. Like the primary school, students use benches of hewn wood. The head of the establishment, Mr. Kongo Ememya Jean Roger, even tries to maintain a library with only a few books which he encourages the students to read.
The situation at Lotumbe is the same in all the Community, but the Information Bulletin has used this example to help understand the situation for education across the Community, especially in the schools in the interior. We especially call on the conscience of the parents of the students to become involved in helping their children by building decent school buildings, equipping them with benches made from lumber by competent carpenters to permit their children to learn and write better. Creating committees of parents with the mission of examining these different aspects and looking for solutions becomes an imminent necessity.
It is true that overseas partners can help the parents in the construction of school buildings much more durable and more decent desks. The example of the Nkasa Institute of Longa, built and equipped with the help of the German District of Mettmann in the framework of a sister-church relationship is encouraging, and something to follow. But isn’t there a saying: “He who depends on his friend sleeps without supper”?
Ordination of Pastor Loanga at Ifumo
It was in a packed church with children sitting in the windows that the ordination ceremony of Pastor Loanga took place February 24 at Ifumo Center. The service of ordination was presided by Rev. Eliki Bonanga, Community President and Legal Representative of the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo. He was assisted by Rev. Clement Mputu Yonganga, Community Vice-President and head of Evangelization, Church Life and Mission who presented the sermon, and the head Pastor of Ifumo Post, Rev. Dieudonne Ekoto Inano, who presided over the service, the Pastor of Ifumo parish, Rev. Jean Robert Bokele, the education director of Etsina Nkito Institute of Ifumo, the Rev. Emmanuel Imbolo Loma, and the most senior member, retired pastor Rev. Joseph Bongonda Mom’Ampela.
There were also five chorales in the service which lasted four hours: United Chorale of Monkoto, United Chorale of Ifumo, Chorale of Ma Nsamba (the parish where Pastor Loanga works), Elders Chorale of Ifumo, an the Staff of Moses Chorale of Ndomba parish.
Political, administrative and traditional authorities were present at this ceremony. We note that before the ceremony other pastors, not yet ordained, and catechists who had come to Ifumo Bafake for this occasion formed a procession to accompany Pastor Loanga to the altar. All these catechists and pastors were garbed by Rev. Dieudonne Ekoto Loango, head pastor, through local effort.
E. Boango Nkolito
Ecumenism, a Living Experience
Each year in January the Ecumenical Council of Churches organizes a seminar of church unity. This is a unique occasion during the year where Catholics and Protestants can gather, pray together, hear the Word of God together, and exchange experiences of their Christian Life.
In the city of Mbandaka this practice has become so customary that it has ended by raising the relationship between the members of neighboring parishes who dream of a day when they may share at the Lord’s Table.
In parishes in the interior, for Disciples of Christ in Congo the common ecumenical life is something which is lived out each day. The Community President experienced this during his trip along the Momboyo to Wafanya. He was received by the Abbey Bokele who offered him his hospitality within his parish. It was the same in the parish of Imbonga where he had intended to spend only a few minutes, but he felt obliged to remain an entire day because of the hospitality of the Abbey, vicar of the parish.
This hospitality was not just because of the visit of the Community President, but a situation that the Christians experience every day. Thus, at Nkasa the Catholics who no longer have a shepherd pray with the catechist of the Disciples in the Disciples’ chapel. And the Regional Pastor of Mangilombe can communicate with the General Secretariat and the rest of the posts thanks to the radio of the Catholics of Wafanya, 60 kilometers away.
E. Boango Nkolito
Nkasa : a living parish!
In conformity with the tradition of Disciples who want a parish to be an evangelistic, educational and medical complex, the parish of Nkasa, the last of the post of Lotumbe on the Momboyo River and forming the frontier with the church post of Bongindji, has a church, a primary school, and a health center.
This parish is led by a young catechist who came out of the portable school of Rev. Boetsa Djou. This young man has convinced his parishioners to build new buildings of brick and thatch to replace the old buildings which were built of rammed earth. Today the church building is finished and work on the primary school has begun. But the big problem confronting the parish of Nkasa is the lack of qualified construction personnel. There is neither mason, carpenter, nor furniture maker. For their construction projects the parishioners are obliged to make use of masons from the territory of Kiri in the neighboring Bandundu Province. For these masons, who must travel more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) on paths through the forest, the parishioners must not only pay them for their work but raise supplementary funds for their housing and meals.
Some young people of the parish are ready to be trained in construction trades, for even if these buildings are built today in brick they must be equipped with desks, chairs, tables, benches, etc., and eventually construction carpenters will be needed to put up roofs of sheet metal.
The need for furniture that we have just mentioned for Nkasa is a concern for all the parishes. However, the whole Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo is located in the equatorial forest where wood is not a rare resource. Only the competence to fill this void is lacking.
The health center of Bongindji dedicated
The post of Bongindji is one of the last to be created by the General Assembly of 2003. It is a result of the division of the post of Lotumbe and covers all the sector of Eungu in the Territory of Ingende. The post is located between the posts of Lotumbe and Ifumo. At Bongindji there is a chapel, primary school, secondary school, and health center.
The parish was built by missionaries in the 1960’s and enlarged later with an increase in the community population. With the status of post, Bongindji is growing even more. New buildings are under construction, notably the residence for the Regional Pastor. The secondary school building is almost completed, and the health center was dedicated by the Community President during his last trip to this post. Curiously, a baby boy was born at this health center under high risk conditions, by the grace of God, and the parents gave him the name Reverend Eliki Bonanga to mark this coincidence.
As at Mangilombe, medicine and medical supplies are cruelly lacking at Bongindji and any help would be of great use.
E. Boango Nkolito
Figurehead : Joseph Whitmer, Engondolo
The station of Lotumbe, opened in 1910 by Herbert and Mary Smith, saw considerable growth with the arrival of Joseph Whitmer, Engondolo. The latter was involved mainly in the opening of other stations much further away than Lotumbe Center. First was the station of Ifumo. An attempt to open a station at Ifumo goes back to Miss McCurrie, Mam’Ilanga. This station was threatened with closure when the colonial government wanted to take back part of the terrain granted to the Disciples Mission at Ifumo Isaka in order to locate the population of Imom’a Mpako which had just been displaced from the left river bank to the right bank for the benefit of the Salonga national park. The missionaries, unhappy to see their terrain considerably reduced, decided to close the station. But a certain Basele, born at Bafake, did everything to keep the missionaries at Bafake. That happened in 1947 and Mr. Hobgood, Efoloko, Es’ea Mbunga, came to Babake with his wife and his youngest son, Chris Hobgood, Bakonga. The station of Ifumo grew larger with the arrival of Joseph Whitmer, Engondolo, who would accomplish several constructions to the point that when the missionaries again wanted to close the station because of distance, they were confronted by a fait accompli of construction with unbelievable speed of seven residences for teachers. Not being able to abandon such an investment, the missionaries decided to continue with the station of Ifumo at Bafake.
It was also Joseph Whitmer, Engondolo, who, in order to preserve the memory of Robert Ray Eldred, Lokofe, Is’ea Mpela, placed a gravestone on the grave of this deceased missionary who drowned in the cause of the gospel. The action of Joseph Whitmer, Engondolo, to enlarge the station of Lotumbe is also noted in the Territory of Kiri, Province of Leopoldville (present Bandundu). At that time, the colonial powers vigorously opposed the installation of Protestant missions in centers outside of native areas, but Engondolo braved them by projecting to install a station in the middle of a territory. He received the support of Disciple Christians working in the services of the Colonial government in Coquilhatville (Mbandaka). But to make it more certain, Joseph
Engondolo used the same strategy as at Ifumo Bafake. He quickly built houses for the mission personnel.
Tireless traveler, master-builder, hardy and courageous, Engondolo was seen by all those who worked with him as a kamikaze. Sometimes on his motorcycle, sometimes in his speedboat, sometimes in his truck, he devoted his life to building up a great church of Disciples in the heart of Africa.
Witnesses tell that he received his financial strength from his father-in-law, a rich American, who supported all his actions outside the mission budget. Still today his constructions persist at Ifumo Bagake, at Kiri, at Bongindji, at Longa, at Mondombe, and his memory remains alive in the community of the Disciples of Christ in Congo.
Upon returning to the United States he lived a very short time before, in 1969, entering into the peace of the Lord whom he served with devotion.