First, I give thanks to God for His amazing work. He is really great. He can do more than we can ask or imagine, and my time in Africa is a fulfillment of that truth. The Lord promises abundant life to His followers, and He has given me a very full and meaningful life. All the credit goes to Him. He’s a good Dad.
Bible School Graduates, in Butembo, Democratic Republic of Congo (I’m in there somewhere)
Two years ago, I posted on Facebook, “I really want to go to Africa.” At the time, I had no idea how or if I would go to Africa. A year later, I was invited to speak at a September seminar in the Democratic Republic of Congo (which I’ll Congo from here on). While in Africa, I also met with Sam Bahiirwa, a Ugandan pastor with whom I had been corresponding. Last week I returned from my second trip, this time visiting Congo, Uganda and Tanzania.
In Congo and Uganda, I was part of a team with Mike Anticoli and Vin Lucien. Mike lived in Congo for several years and planted The Church on the Rock in Butembo. Vin was Mike’s pastor and primary support in the work. The church now has 14 daughter churches in Congo and Uganda.
I met Mike in Russia in 2000; he was a great help to me early on in my time here, and he performed our wedding. Mike’s ministry focuses on three things: Unity among believers, cross-denominationalism, and leading people to a living faith (as opposed to dry religious duty). Mike is a church planter.
Damiri Paluku, bishop of the churches and a church planter himself, was our guide and translator. He has become a good friend.
We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda and spent a night there before heading to Kasese, where we went on Safari and rested from our travels. The next day we drove into Congo. The road is one of the roughest I’ve experienced. There are practically no paved roads in that part of Congo. The road is also known to be dangerous, with one section going through the bush where militants and bandits attack travelers.
In Butembo, I taught at a leadership conference, helped in an ordination ceremony, and participated in their Bible School graduation ceremonies. The church had asked me to teach on a Biblical Perspective on Money, and my teaching was both well-received and challenging to the culture. The conference was live on the radio and hundreds of thousands of people heard our sessions. I also spoke on how the Kingdom of God is completely different from the kingdom of this world. I’ve been asked to continue teaching on money when I return.
The church in Butembo is in a difficult time. Mike Anticoli asked the conferees to list their top three daily anxieties, and the answer was Murder, Rape and Kidnapping. Those are the main daily anxieties.
The pastor of the church, Jeremie, was attacked just a couple of weeks before the conference. Gunmen broke into his house after midnight, demanding money. They knew he is a pastor and assumed he had money. They said they would kill him (“this machete has cut off many heads”). They woke up his children and brought them into the living room. Jeremie was force to lie down with a rifle pointed at his head. His wife begged them not to kill him, and they said, “God will give you another husband”. This with the children watching. This kind of experience is not uncommon. Congo is a hard place.