Special Information Bulletin: Partnership, a New Orientation for Sharing the Gospel
Special Information Bulletin: Partnershi, a New Orientation for Sharing the Gospel
Democratic Republic of Congo
Table of Contents
- A Delegation from South Dortmund visited Bolenge
- To live with others, at their home
- SOS education in the encampments
- What infrastructure for schools?
- A glimmer of hope on the horizon
- With one’s own
- Four Bolenge pastors ordained
- One Post, two types of infrastructure
- The resurrection, a hope for Christians
- Baptism, a command of the Lord
- Micro-credit, an example to follow
- Figurehead: Justine Ndjoku Basele
“And having recognized the grace given to me, James, Peter, and John, who are regarded as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship. » Gal. 2:9.
The helpful hand in God’s work is always of great importance. Paul and Barnabas needed the support of James, Peter and John. In these days the Church of Christ must do everything possible so that its members everywhere hold hands with each other to evangelize those who are not yet joined to the Word of God. It is a partnership desired by God Himself, and which helps us remain together, in spite of geographic distances.
Mrs. Whitmer writes us in response to the Special Information Bulletin of February, 2008
I received the Information Bulletin of the Church in the DRC. It is very informative! The funds for the work at Ifumo, Kiri, and Lotumbe while the Whitmers were there came from many Christians and their churches. In that period, missionaries had what were called “funds” for the work for which they were sent through the national office of the church.
When we had permission, we traveled in many states to tell people what we were doing, and to encourage them to join with us in our efforts.
Churches and individuals everywhere in the United States wanted to send their gifts, designating them for the work of specific missionaries. My father was one of many Christians who strengthened the advancement of the work of Ifumo, Kiri, and Lotumbe with contributions.
The good news of Jesus Christ came to us in the Democratic Republic of Congo thanks to the missionary institutions/organizations whose objective was to announce the Gospel to those who had not yet heard of salvation through Jesus. Funds were raised from Christians and sent to the missionaries who worked around the world. Churches, hospitals, schools and other buildings were built everywhere that the Gospel was preached.
Today churches are built around the world and the era of the mission has turned around. Missionary organizations close one after the other in America and Europe. Former missionary organizations have new names and their policies change at the same time as their objectives change.
The churches, formerly supported by the missions, have Christians who must be responsible for themselves, as were those who financed the missions. However that doesn’t mean that the relationships between the churches of Europe and America and those of Africa are broken. A new era opens, the era of partnership, in which each church brings something which can be of help to the other. Unfortunately, this new orientation is not yet understood and accepted by many churches, notably ours. We continue to hold out a hand as during the missionary period.
Faced with this situation the General Assembly of the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo has adopted a vision whose success rests on local participation. Meanwhile, the partnership goes on, and it is in this framework that, from 16-29 March, we welcomed our brothers of South Dortmund who have a partnership with the Church Post of Bolenge. During all that time these Europeans endured African climate conditions which are very hard for them. The bright sun fell on them, the rain soaked them since they had to stay in the canoe. They spent the night in houses without doors, but rejoiced in the welcome, the African singing and dancing. They saw an impenetrable forest. They saw animals and fish, but also they suffered from mosquitoes. They saw churches full of people while they told us that at their home churches are closed and church buildings sold.
This enriching experience can only occur by the visit of the partners.
May God Bless you!
Rev. Eliki Bonanga
Community President and Legal Representative
From March 16-29, 2008, the Disciples of Christ Community in Congo, and especially the church Post of Bolenge, was honored by the visit of the German partners of South Dortmund.
Remember that the church Post of Bolenge has had a “jumelage” relationship with the German district of South Dortmund since 1985. The delegation was led by Rev. Dorothea Philipps, President of the Jumelage Committee of South Dortmund, and included Mr. Matthias Schmidt Kluegmann, Representative of Superintendant Rev. Klaus Worthmann, Mrs. Jutta May, Miss Christine Walkenhorst, Mr. Ruddiger Pelzer, Mr. Adolf Steinker and Mr. Andreas Denda.
Braving the rain and torrid sunshine, the delegation visited 20 of the 25 parishes which make up the church Post of Bolenge. Besides Bolenge Center, they were Inganda, Iyonda, Wendji Secli, Ikengo, Bolongo Mabaya, Penzele, Buya III-Bongidji, Kalamba, Bosombwakongo, along the road, and Mpombo, Wendja, Mantuka, Mpoka Kabeka Lokekia, Bobangi, Djili, Bokwango, Lilanga and Loka along the river. During this long trip, the German delegation, accompanied by the Community President and Vice President, Supervising Pastor of Bolenge, and President of the Jumelage Committee of Bolenge, shared experiences on the subject of evangelization, especially the ordination of four pastors at Bolenge and at Lilanga, the baptism of 34 new members in the river parishes, the celebration of Maundy Thursday at Mantuka with communion, the big Easter worship service at Lilanga, the presentation of 11 children for the blessing of God at Lilanga, and the dedication of the new chapel of Loka, etc.
In the domain of development projects, the hosts of the Post of Bolenge visited the small pharmacies they finance in the framework of jumelage, the livestock production and agricultural fields, and they had a discussion about the project of micro-credits, a new experience for projects which is now being carried out.
Concerned about the life led by their brothers and sisters, the delegates of South Dortmund enquired about the functioning of schools and health centers implanted in the parishes. In a general way they brought up the needs for school supplies, teaching materials, infrastructure aids, medicines and medical instruments.
Sympathetically they offered notebooks, pens, boxes of crayons to the different schools visited; and for the advancement of the gospel they offered Bibles and song books which are so scarce in the rural parishes. The Bibles were bought with a special fund, so each Bible carried a special mention with the name of the German donor pasted on the first page of the Bible.
Although their schedule was very full, the delegates from South Dortmund were greatly pleased to experience the expression of joy of the parishioners shown in song and dance. They performed some traditional dance steps, introduced into the worship service songs of praise to the Eternal God.
We point out that Andreas Denda had lived two years in Bolenge from 1988 to 1990 where he taught at the Congo Christian Institute of Bolenge before returning to his university studies. At the end of the visit, the Bolenge guests received Congolese names to seal the bond which unites them from now on to Bolenge and the Democratic Republic of Congo. So besides Mrs. Philipps and Andreas Denda who already had received the Congolese names of Mama Isuka Sala and Papa Bakalote, the new visitors received the following names: Mrs. Jutta May, Mama Lebeka Mbunga; Miss Christine Walkenhorst, Mama Anto Mpume; Mr. Matthias Schmidt Kluegmann, Rev. Marc Belandja; Mr. Ruddiger Pelzer, Papa Iyomi; Mr. Adolf Steinker, Papa Bosafo. By this ritual the CDCC preserves the memory of the children of the Disciples who labored for the advancement of the gospel, and who, today, have entered into our Father’s rest.
To welcome someone is always a privilege, but also a concern, especially if the person comes from afar with a culture, tradition and way of life different from one’s own. This is the anxiety which bothers all partners when they must welcome delegations. One wonders if Africans will tolerate European food, and if Europeans will tolerate African mosquitoes, etc. Sometimes seminars are organized to prepare the welcome of partners in order for them to feel comfortable. Sometimes what one really wants to do to please their guest doesn’t exactly correspond with what the guest expects. One questions (especially about food, lodging, the subjects for conversation), the behavior to adopt in the presence of the other, etc.
The delegation from South Dortmund certainly experienced what we are saying, first when they welcomed the delegation from Bolenge, and now that they have just been welcomed likewise by Bolenge.
To eat fish freshly caught in the Congo River, to swim in the river morning and evening, to sleep in a house without a door on a bed mounted on poles, to listen to the music of mosquitoes, to get burned by the sun, to travel without a precise schedule — these are many of the things our partners experienced and to which they could relate. But with all these differences and in this search for adaptation, love for one another dominates as the Lord taught us. In fact no one would tolerate all these changes without loving his neighbor.
The jumelage between Bolenge and South Dortmund has had several aspects with respect to financial aid. One of the important areas around which the partners of South Dortmund have agreed to intervene was the sector of education.
Schools on the islands, notably those of Mpombo, Wendja and Mantuka, have benefited from financial assistance which permitted them to function, and for the teachers to receive a small salary which encouraged them to work. We note that these schools were created by the initiative of the parents who had to completely support the expense of functioning and the pay of the teachers. Since a certain time this kind help for the children in the islands was cut off. The Coordination of Teaching tried to mechanize (obtain government subsidy for) these schools and their teachers, but at the time of the visit of the partners from South Dortmund to these schools, only certain teachers were paid by the government; others were to be paid by the parents who were themselves in a most critical economic situation.
In the parish of Mpombo, the school functions with six teachers and a school director. Four teachers are not paid by the government. In the parish of Wendja, two teachers are not paid by the government and it’s the same situation in the parish of Mantuka.
Still more, in the parish of Wendja where the parents opened a secondary school for their children, not a single teacher is yet paid by the government. Everyone knows that children constitute the yeast of a country and their training is of the greatest importance. The Constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo stipulates, in Article 43, that primary education is obligatory. So infrastructures must be multiplied and rendered capable of receiving all the children who inhabit our rural areas and particularly our rural areas along the river.
Ruddiger and students in a class open to the sky
“Provide the children with a place to learn to read and write”, a parent of the primary school of the parish of Mpombo, in the church Post of Bolenge, told us. This school is only called such because it has more than 300 children each day in 6 classes. But when you see what it is like — rhe building is made like a hangar with branches above to protect the children from the sun, but in any case not from the rain. The blackboard is a piece of wood recovered from an old canoe, painted black. The benches are pieces of wood from old canoes cut up and placed on wooden posts. The wall is an enclosure of wooden poles which doesn’t provide partitioning between two classes. We wonder how the students can follow two teachers at the same time, for the voice of each one passes perfectly into the class of the other. The parents must make still more efforts to improve the condition of the school infrastructures for their children. When they will have built more suitable schools, then many people will be interested in them and may bring help within the limit of their means.
We also note the influence of the culture. The school building can only be a reflection of the residence houses. And the houses in these camps are of mud and thatch. The inhabitants agree that they have to renew their houses after each strong storm for they are often victims of inundations. These people need to be helped with more durable solutions.
With the third millennium well underway, there are populations which die from maladies that medicine has already conquered. In our special bulletin of February we mentioned wild poliomyelitis which continues to affect children in Equator Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. But there are other much more frequent infections which ravage in rural locations and especially among children younger than five years old. This is the case with malaria, acute respiratory infections, worms, diarrhea, and sexually transmitted diseases.
That’s why the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo, faithful to the American missionary tradition, tries, when it implants a parish, to open at the same time at least a primary school and a health center to relieve the suffering of the population and to educate the children.
In the church Post of Bolenge, especially in the parishes of the camps on the island of the Congo River, schools and health centers are implanted. They serve important populations. One parish on the river (counting no more than 2,000 members), covers a population of more than 7,000 inhabitants with a crushing majority being children of school age. One family, in fact, counts an average six children. In view of this the German district of South Dortmund, which is in partnership with the church Post of Bolenge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, had the generous idea to finance the opening of small pharmacies in the parishes of the islands in order to relieve the suffering of the populations who live there. This new experience has worked out for the small pharmacies effectively serve the populations which are really in need. They essentially buy the medicines which combat the most common illnesses, notably those that we have mentioned above.
In the health centers, the little pharmacies are even more useful and effective to the extent that the nurse can diagnose the illness and administer the medicines without having recourse to a distant pharmacy. However, the problem remains of a lack of instruments for taking vital signs, and microscopes to effectively relaunch these health centers.
After two years of service at Bolenge as a teacher, Andreas Denda left behind quite a few friends and acquaintances. During his recent trip within the framework of jumelage, Andreas met not only friends, but especially his former students, now become leaders in all the parishes that he visited. In spite of his 17 years of absence from Congo, Andreas speaks perfect Lingala. He sang with his former Bolenge chorale. His presence in the delegation was something that brought the Germans and the Congolese closer together. For he not only found his friends and former students again, but he did a lot of work in translating thanks to his knowledge of the three languages used during this visit, French, German, and Lingala.
Knowing the culture of both groups, Andreas was a bridge between the Germans and the Congolese. Whatever was said or done, it was Andreas who was best placed to show the way and to give the appropriate advice, using words and gestures which would not shock others.
We will always need people like Andreas to facilitate the jumelage and permit mutual understanding.
E. Boango Nkolito
The train of the ordination of Pastors continues its run. After the Post of Mbandaka where seven pastors were ordained in January, it was the turn for the Post of Bolenge. Determined to cary out Decision No. 020/2007 of the 21st session of the General Assembly, the Community President and Vice-President set aside the date of March 16 for the ordination of pastors Bekolo-be-Luengu, Lokwa Ndongo and Bolayoo Nzakata in the parish of Bolenge N’tsin’eotamba, and the date of March 23 for pastor Leon Likila Bokoto in the parish of Lilanga. We note that all this was done in the presence of the German delegation, conducted by the Rev. Dorothea Philipps.
On Sunday, March 16, the parish of Bolenge was crowded, and vibrated to the rhythm of the ordination of its two pastors, and another who came from the parish of Iyonda. The chorales Echo of Heaven, Seventh Trumpet, and Root of the Tree reinforced in the bass voice by the young German, Andreas, added to the worship service with songs adapted to the circumstance. The preacher for the day, Rev. Dorothea, directed her message to the help that the strong must give to the weak, following the word of Christ in Matthew 20:20-28. Here ae brief biographies of each Pastor consecrated in the Post of Bolenge.
Pastor Bekolo-be-Luengu Dieudonné
Born December 20, 1966, at Mpendjua in the territory of Kiri, Pastor Bekolo is married to Mrs. Bakondo and the father of six children, four boys and two girls. He had all his studies at Bolenge. In 1981 he obtained his primary school certificate, in 1990 he picked up his State diploma from Congo Christian Institute of Bolenge. In 2001 he finished his graduate theology studies at the Protestant University of the Equator in Bolenge. After six years of loyal service rendered at the Church as associate pastor and head pastor in the parish of Bolenge Ntsin’eotamba, the CDCC decided ordain him as Pastor.
Pastor Bolayolo Nzakata Séraphin
Born March 21, 1973 at Isene-Wala in the territory of Bikoro, Pastor Bolayolo is married to Mrs. Imomo Ifefe Blandine and is the father of three children. He did his primary and secondary studies at Boyeka. In 1987 he obtained his certificate of primary studies at the primary school Itemanongo; in 1995 he picked up his State diploma of Pedagogic Humanities at the Bakeke Institute. In 2004 he finished the graduate cycle of theology at the Protestant University of the Equator at Bolenge. After four years of loyal service rendered to the church as head pastor in the parish of Bobangi and as associate pastor in the parish of Iyonda, the CDCC decided to ordain him as Pastor.
Pastor Lokwa Ndongo Molos
Born August 8, 1960, in Mbandaka, originally from the territory of Ingende, Pastor Lokwa is married to Mrs. Ngongo Chantal and father of six children. He did all his studies at Bolenge. In 1978 it received a certificate of primary studies at the primary school Polele. In 1986 he picked up his State diploma at Congo Christian Institute in Bolenge. In 2001 he finished the graduate cycle in theology at the Protestant University of the Equator at Bolenge. After seven years of loyal service rendered to the church as associate pastor in the parish of Wendji-Secli and in the parish of Bolenge Ntsin-eotamba, the CDCC decided to ordain him as Pastor.
Pasteur Likila Bokoto Léon
Born November 11, 1964, at Yalofete in the territory of Ikela, Pastor Likila is married to Mrs. Mabele Mbombo and is father of two daughters. He attended the Liziba primary school of Mbandaka and received his certificate in 1977. In 1985 he got his State diploma in Social Techniques of Humanities at the Ikongowasa Institute of Mbandaka. In 2001 he finished the graduate cycle in theology at the Protestant University of the Equator in Bolenge. After seven years of loyal service rendered to the church as head pastor in the parish of Lilanga, the CDCC decided to ordain him as Pastor.
E. Boango Nkolito
The church Post of Bolenge stretches along two axis, a river axis with 9 parishes and a land axis with 17 parishes in two sectors, the sector of Pygmies and the Ebale sector. When you visit these two axis you are surprised by the contrast which distinguishes them, even though they are all rural parishes.
On the river axis the houses are made of dirt walls with thatched roofs, both for the residences and the churches, schools, and health centers. On the land axis residences are made of bricks with thatch or sheet metal roofs, and the churches are 85% bricks and sheet metal roofs. Schools and health centers are of more durable materials than in the river parishes. What is the reason for this? I must point out that the land parishes are older than the river parishes and that the missionaries, in their time, built buildings in durable materials when they received funds from the mission for this purpose. Also the parishes on the islands are often subject to flooding which carry away the houses and the people must continually rebuild them.
Finally, in the river parishes, there were no working trained pastors. It is only now, with the policy of the current supervising pastor, Rev. Martin Ngoy Bondjokote, that young trained pastors are beginning to accept going to work in the river parishes.
The missionary epoch is certainly over, but our parishes are not condemned to live in mediocrity. Local effort is the way of salvation and of improvement, both for the Community and for the Posts and parishes.
The gospel is spread in the Community of the Disciples of Christ in Congo by several canals, notably preaching, teaching, but also, and especially, by singing, dance and theater. These two last canals, dance and theater, are the privilege of the youth. There are chorales who sing the current life of the Christian, praise to the Eternal, and the teachings of the Bible. These themes are also exploited in the theatrical productions. In all the posts, and since time immemorial, Christmas and Easter are marked by theatrical productions which retrace the life of Jesus at these two moments.
The evening before Easter, March 22, we had the opportunity to live the last days of the Lord Jesus in theater, in the river parish of Lilanga, church Post of Bolenge. The young people brought back to life the moment, both pathetic and engaging for Christians. The betrayal, the passion, the death, the burial, and the resurrection, nothing was omitted by the youth of this parish, that people think of as backward. In spite of some imperfections caused by amateurism and the lack of equipment for the scenery, the message was very well presented for at the moment of representing the passion you could hear sniffling in the audience, a sign of the compassion for the pain Jesus carried in our place.
The life of a Christian truly has meaning only by the resurrection of Jesus. An event which gives hope to everyone who believes in the Son of Man, whatever the sex, race, or social rank. Only one suffered on the cross for the salvation of all.
It was toward the end of his life on earth, we say in our language at the end of his mission, that Jesus Christ gave two formal instructions that we follow today: baptism and the Eucharist.
Ecumenical encounters are favorable occasions to express and exchange about the practice of these two commands. In the matter of the Eucharist, the practice today marks the differences between Christians to the point that many ask themselves to know who is right to practice the Eucharist as it is done. Should we use wine and bread as our German brothers, or lemonade and bread for the Congolese Disciples of Christ? Also concerning baptism, should it be done by immersion like the Congolese Disciples, or by aspersion like the Germans? However, one thing is certain, we live different realities. Where would Congolese get grape wine and bread in a rural parish? Why require the Germans to immerse their members with the cold they have and the few bodies of water? We must remember that we all obey the command of Jesus Christ in the basics. The form is of little importance.
The German delegation shared the Eucharist with their Congolese partners at Mantuka, a rural parish on an island, and baptism at Mantuka and at Lilanga. Rev. Dorothea, Mrs. Jutta May, Mr. Ruddidger Pelzer, Mr. Matthias Schmidt Kluegmann, and Mr. Adolf Steinker, all elders in the church went down into the warm water of the Ubangi to baptize by immersion. It was an experience which will mark their lives forever. Jumelage is especially unity in diversity.
The economic situation of the Congolese population has reached such a low level today that many people think there is no way to get out. Agricultural products that people produce spoil from lack of means of transport to take them to market. This state of things has made it so that the farmer has lost his power to buy even a machete, file, Hoe or axe. The fisherman can no longer buy the net which is so important to him to catch fish. He is reduced to getting just the fish that he can eat with his close family. This picture is the same from east to west, from north to south in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Many overseas organizations, and even the Congolese government, try to help the Congolese get out of this misery, but often these programs and projects don’t reach the Congolese at the base. That’s why it isn’t surprising to see people, especially the personnel of these international organizations of aid and development, driving around in luxurious cars in the big cities while the people for whom they work continue to stagnate in misery.
The German district of South Dortmund did not follow this way. They understood that the true development must start from the base, that is, from the individuals and nuclear families. That’s why they decided to intervene with micro-credits. This initiative started with the Post which wanted to fight against the poverty of its members and give them encouragement. First they sent Mrs. Pauline Bofii Ngoy, President of the jumelage committee of Bolenge for training in the management of micro-credit at Kinshasa before making available to her a sum of money that she manages in this framework today .
We hope this project will do well, and that soon it will bear fruit for the wellbeing of the parishioners of Bolenge. It is only in that way that local effort will make sense.
They also call her “the lady of steel.” She is Justine Ndjoku Basele, daughter of Mr. Ndjoku, former teacher of the CDCC, now deceased, and of his wife, Angelique Nyoy, also deceased.
Justine Ndjoku saw the light of day at Longa August 6, 1957, and began her primary school at Monieka where she received her certificate in 1968. She began secondary school when all girls were directed toward the Mbandaka Girls’ School, a secondary school for girls that the Disciples had just opened to encourage them to advance in their studies. Justine enrolled in the Congo Christian Institute of Bolenge. There she rubbed elbows with boys and adapted to their teasing in class and in school. She became a boy in her thinking and in her opinions. She was different from the timid girls that were known at that time.
It was surely this character developed at Congo Christian Institute that encouraged her to continue higher studies at a time when women at the Higher Institute of Pedagogy in Mbandaka could be counted on the fingers of one hand. She finished her studies in French African Linguistics, which opened to her the doors of the teaching profession for which she prepared. Immediately the CDCC, already promoting gender, sent her to work in the Provincial Coordination of Protestant Subsidized Schools. She evolved from the grade of first class office Attaché to that of Head of Pedagogic Services, then to Provincial Coordinator. From 1978 when she picked up her superior diploma to this day Justine Ndjoku has done nothing but serve her church through the schools.
The woman of steel not only evolved in education, for the church is not alone to notice her, but other movements, women’s organizations, and civil society have realized that she is worth her weight in gold and merits leadership. Thus from 1992 to 1998 she worked as Administrative Secretary of the NGO “Forum of Support for Women for Education and Development.” Then her fellow sisters conferred on her the responsibility of President of the Network of Women and Development for Equator Province, a post she occupies still this day. In 2002, she was elected President of the National Committee for Women and Development and now directs this national forum.
A mother of four children, Justine is not only involved in the cause of women. She also plays an important role in the process of democratization in the Democratic Republic of Congo, notably at the time of the presidential and legislative elections at the national and provincial level. In fact, she traveled over much of the country as National Trainer, supervisor of elections, etc.
Such responsibilities, such courage and involvement, are not given to everyone, and even though a person may have innate abilities, it is important to add a good education. Justine has had a little training, both on a national and international level, and has participated in several seminars and workshops which have sharpened her understanding, removed her hang-ups and made her a fighter for the cause of women.
She affirms that from her childhood she has not stopped dreaming of being a Lihau Kanza, the first woman to become a minister in the ’60’s, at the time of Mobutu. A man or a woman, people wonder. No, simply a leader.
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