Have you ever felt overwhelmed by life? My trips over this past month have done that to me: spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I’ve just gotten back from a preaching mission in the North Katanga Annual Conference of the UMC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the largest conference in United Methodism. South Carolina gets 16 delegates at General Conference. North Katanga gets 56! Bishop Mande Muyombo asked if I would preach at his first Annual Conference, and I was honored to say “Yes!”
My first mistake was to go entirely by myself. There was a reason Jesus sent out the disciples 2 by 2! My high school French and my minor in it at USC came in handy, but near enough! Dikonzo, my translator, was spectacular. When we landed on the dirt strip in Kamina after buzzing the goats off, I was greeted by the choir. Bishop Mande asked if I was ready to preach. I said, “Sure!” I didn’t think he meant right away. I had been flying for over 20 hours and was beat. But we immediately marched to the tabernacle where I “held forth,” as people used to call preaching. I preached and preached and preached the whole time I was there. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful no matter where you go!
I was overcome by the depth of spiritual dedication that I witnessed. These are people so poor in comparison to the U.S., but so rich in the things of God. They had walked miles and miles to come. They spoke French as their national language inherited by their Belgian colonial oppressors, but there were many tribal languages present. It was as if John’s vision of the church in Revelation 7:9-10 was a present reality: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.’”
As I participated in the ordination of these dedicated preachers who live off $30 a month US, I was awe-struck by their depth of commitment. The life span in the DRC isn’t great anyway, but for preachers it is years lower. They literally give themselves to the work of ministry. When these laborers in God’s vineyard answered the call, they meant it. You could literally feel the weight of their call. When they answered Wesley’s historic questions like everyone else in every other Annual Conference as one goes into ministry, I couldn’t help but think about early pioneer preachers who died young and penniless. I know there are clergy from other parts of the world who carry a load of student debt, but this was different.
They wore their worn clergy shirts with missing plastic tabs replaced by pieces of cardboard or just soiled tissue. It is the dry season so everything was dirty. It rains from September to May, but right now it is hot and dry. Nothing is growing. These poor preachers could teach every U.S. ordinand a thing or two about taking your vows seriously. There is no mocking of our Connectional Covenant, and the church in North Katanga is booming. Bishop Mande and his dedicated clergy and laity trust Jesus in the harshest environment.
Electricity only came on for a short period of time in the mornings and evenings. Mosquito nets were a welcome necessity to avoid malaria. Thank God for the UMC “Imagine No Malaria” project. Bishop Mande and his dear wife, Blandine, lost their oldest child to malaria. North Katanga’s conference headquarters is 16 hours from the nearest hospital. U.M.C.O.R. (United Methodist Committee on Relief) has a tiny clinic in Kamina with a 1950’s X-ray machine, but they need so much more. About $500,000 US will build a hospital, and donated used equipment is desperately need. I passed open sewers that flowed into creeks where women and children were washing clothes.
I saw churches crumbling on the outside, but alive on the inside. They were literally crumbling because the rainy season had wreaked havoc on the sun-baked clay exteriors. Most everyone has a pit near their thatched-roof shack. This dry time of the year is when everyone uses a broad hoe to pick out a 10 inch square chunk of clay to replace the deteriorating walls. It’s an endless cycle, but the Lord sustains the people. I went to one UMC and heard intercessors praying in every corner of the sanctuary which was bare bones, no chairs, and a makeshift altar. Their prayers filled the air with power that was greater than their circumstances, but this doesn’t mean that I don’t feel a special burden to do everything that I can to change their circumstances. I am convicted!
Pastors giving their lives for $30 a month is unacceptable. What if we could sponsor a pastor and make it $100 a month? We could set up a direct transfer from the US to North Katanga with complete trust that everything would be handled on the up and up. These are great people. They trust the Lord. I’m thinking that we need to be the hands and feet of Jesus and put legs to our prayers and help them. I will know more on logistics and post them as soon as I can. Meanwhile, I implore you to be in prayer for the people of the Congo. God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing. We are so blessed in the U.S. We must share in the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, and learn from their utter dependence on God. Amen.
9 thoughts on “Congo Conviction”
I would love to see us reduce UMC minister salaries in the U.S., and then we could help subsidize area like the North Katanga Conference. Something akin to double the U.S. poverty level would still be about 66 times as much as their $30 a month. We would also need to use the saved $$ to make MDiv’s free for pastors.
Thank you for that wonderful testimony. I praise God they are hearing the message of Jesus Christ, the only way to salvation.
Tim, thank you for being a wonderful blessing in my life.
Peace and Grace,
Glad that you are back home in Aiken. Reading what you have blogged (wrote) just amazes me that this poverty is still so widespread and abject in the Congo. Also amazed at the depth of trusting God and their dedication to Him despite having so little in money, clothing and medical treatment. Just the basics that we take for granted here in most of the USA. We need to talk and, not about fishing for fish…..Robert W.
Thank you for your sacrifice of time and more, to go to Congo to share God’s Good News through Jesus. Scripture tells us that trials are part of how God grows us, and it certainly shows in the lives of these Christians in Congo and other areas where great poverty exists. We are “spoiled” to a great degree here in this blessed country, USA, and often take God’s blessings for granted or as entitlements. We can learn much, as you have, from the testimonies of God’s grace and sustenance to those who trust and completely depend on Him. We are thankful for God’s protection over you. Our prayers have been answered. Now we look to how God will lead in further ministry to these dear people in Congo.
Thank you for sharing your testimony of God’s leading and goodness, with all of us here in Aiken and beyond.
Tim, sharing this experience with all that read A Potter’s view, brings us back to earth when we get uptight about waiting in a Hospital waiting room for tests for an extra hour or so. Or a Doctor’s office for a little longer than we think we should. Also, thanks for doing this and only God knows who you led to Christ through your your messages.
Curious, was there much Malaria after the big push a few years back from the United Methodist church?
Steve, Malaria has decreased thanks to Imagine No Malaria. The Lord has blessed the people so much and it’s up to us to help Him. Thanks for all that you do for the Kingdom! tim
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On Aug 1, 2017, at 8:41 AM, A Potter's View wrote:
A great reminder that when people say the church is dying, it means it’s dying in the U.S. It’s great to hear how the Kingdom is moving forward. Oh, how we need some missionaries in the U.S.!
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On Aug 1, 2017, at 8:44 AM, A Potter's View wrote:
I am so glad to read of your desire to support the salary of African pastors. As a pastor, tithing to the church I was appointed to never made much sense to me. That is sort of like moving my money from pocket to pocket, or paying my own salary.
Several years ago, after much prayer, I decided to send the tithe of my pension income to support the salary of a United Methodist pastor in Kenya. I feel that is better stewardship than supporting the clergy salaries of the megachurch I attend. The 3 appointed pastors here earn a total of more than $250k. The money I send to Kenya each month allows this UMC pastor to send his son to high school.
What would happen if YOU and other South Carolina clergy began to send your personal tithe to pastors in Africa? Could your local church get along without your tithe? Shouldn’t they be able to do so? I hope you will prayerfully consider my idea.