Thursday, August 26, 2010


This past Sunday was the official establishing of a new parish in Kananga: “Oasis Butoke.” We were able to worship with them the previous week, when it was still considered an ‘evangelistic circle’, and we were very excited by this thriving new growth in the church. On the edge of Kananga, and literally next-door to the airport, Christians are surmounting the obstacles to gather to worship.

Pastor Thierre was assigned this section of town 2 years ago to start a new church. He teaches high-school geography full time in order to support his family, then travels the 5 kilometers out to Oasis (pronounced in French like “owaazees”) in his spare time to visit members of the community and facilitate the church. Pastor Thierre has a gift for evangelism and a passion to make God’s grace known, which we could see from the fast growth of this new church! He was allowed to use an unused school building for the church to meet in, which appeared to my American eyes like a run-down stable or shed—but they make it functional!


People bring chairs from their homes, and some kids sit on mats on the floor or crowd onto school benches. They pack 100+ people in a small space! It started raining during the service (a big surprise for dry season!), and the dark clouds made it hard to see. People moved out of the way of the rain dripping through the roof, and they found a few candles and a lantern so that the pastor could read from the Bible. DSCN3992

Oasis service

I will admit that on this particular Sunday, I woke up overwhelmed by the frustrations of life in Kananga. We are in the midst of culture shock, and sometimes simple things like not having electricity in the house or having to cook with charcoal seem unbearable. In the face of my own frustrations, it was very inspiring to be worshipping with these fellow Christians whose lives are a daily struggle.

Because this is a new church, many of the people who attend have not grown up in the church. They are recent discoverers of God’s grace and forgiveness, which makes them hungry to know about God. Pastor Thierre laments that most of them do not have Bibles, and the church does not have the resources to provide the Bibles.

In the classic style we have seen throughout Kananga, they had at least 3 choirs, even if they only had a few people in the choir. Everyone enjoyed the dancing and energetic singing as we gave our offerings. Bob participated by giving a pastoral prayer and the benediction. After the service, Pastor Thierre invited Bob to join him in praying for children. We had some fun singing with the kids and asking them questions while we waited for the rain to stop. DSCN3996 We were served a nice meal of bidia and goat meat, and sent home with a gift of some pineapples from the church. We returned home with renewed hope and excitement for how God is revealing Himself to people in Kasai. We are eager to see the continued development of new church projects like Oasis!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

All-Night Prayer Meeting in Kananga

It was about 7:15pm and I heard a voice from the street calling my name (or calling one of my Tshiluba names!), “Muambi Losa.”  It was Pastor Kabaseli, who had come to take us to the monthly all-night prayer meeting of the Kananga Presbytery.  As we walked through the now-darkened streets, Pastor Kabaseli told us about the history of these prayer meetings.  “We began these meetings about ten years ago,” he said, “to revive and strengthen the faith of believers in the church…in these meetings, God often shows us things that He wants to do.” 

Both in Rwanda and in Pasadena (CA), I (Bob) have been involved in different all-night prayer meetings and prayer ministries.  In my experience, I have found that these all-night meetings require perseverance (to pray for such an extended period), but they can refresh one’s spirit in powerful and profound ways.  It is a wonderful opportunity to have extended time with the Lord, to lift up His name in extended worship, and to bring before His throne petitions and requests.  Another hallmark of these meetings is that it is usually difficult to mobilize large numbers of people to attend…mainly because it is an all-night meeting! 

Having walked forty-five minutes across town, Pastor Kabaseli pointed to a lighted building not too far in the distance.  “There is the church,” he said.  As we approached, we were amazed that there were people all the way outside the door, seated on benches and worshiping.  When we entered the church building, we were amazed to find women, children, youth, and men of all ages strewn everywhere.  All the benches had been moved out and the sanctuary looked like a refugee camp.  In a small-to-medium sized building, there must have been 4-500 people!  “Wow,” we thought to ourselves, “this is unreal.”  Pastor Kabaseli would be leading the meeting, so he took us up front as we inauspiciously sat behind the podium with some church leaders.      

After some delay and preparation, the meeting began about an hour later.  During this waiting time, youth led everyone in animated worship.  When the meeting formally began, we were amazed, impressed and blessed by the burst of sound as everyone prayed out-loud, without inhibition.  Some refer to it as “Korean style prayer,” but the idea is that the leader gives out direction for certain themes to pray for, and everyone prays out-loud at the same time.  Everyone prayed…I mean everyone.  We were loud!  This was a powerful meeting, and the fervency of these pray-ers lasted until 6:30 in the morning (though we did take a break for rest in the middle of the night).   At different times in the night, Pastor Thierre, a new friend, would bring people forward who were sick and we would pray for them.  Later, Pastor Thierre took me down into the crowd to pray for children (to pray for their health, etc).  I cannot even count how many children we prayed for.  It was exhausting work, but exhilarating!!!

So far here in Congo we have been exposed to the life of the Congolese Presbyterian Church (CPC).  We have been impressed with how well mobilized and organized the church is.  The CPC has an impressive history and continues to have a strong presence.  Yet, in our exposure to the life of the church, I was still looking for that place of real fervency and passion.  Where is that place where people are absolutely desperate for God’s presence and power?  Where is that place where people know they have a need for forgiveness and know the forgiveness that God alone offers?  Where is that place where people can worship their King with absolute abandon and have freedom in the Spirit?  On this night and in this church, we found ‘that place’.  People here were desperate for God, and my heart was touched…profoundly.  I felt so encouraged to be part of this meeting.  Our hearts soared during this prayer meeting and afterwards.  God ministered His peace and His presence and His love to us in remarkable ways.  We joined the others in praying and praising with abandon!  We would not soon forget this night…and, we look forward to the next all-night meeting next month.    


Prayer meeting - people

all-night prayer meeting

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What’s in a name?

Names – they are a key part of our identification. Since we arrived in Congo, often people we meet ask us what our local or Tshiluba names are. Bob and Kristi – we do not consider these to be difficult names to pronounce, but anything unfamiliar can be a challenge. Our names are not easy for tongues that are used to Tshiluba and French, so we have been eager to have local names that will help people to find it easy to say and remember our names. The church here told us that we would be given names at the General Assembly meeting in August. It has felt like a long wait, and in the last month, we discovered that people in Kananga have all kinds of local names for us. People have yelled greetings using the names Ngalula, Kabaseli, Kapinga, Mukendi, and others. So—the GA happened last week, and now we officially have names given by the church that we can tell people!

We were invited to the opening worship of the GA meeting. We headed out to Tshikaji for the meeting with 3 goats stacked on top of each other in the land cruiser—but that is a story for another day! We made it just for the tail end of the opening worship, and were introduced to all of the delegates. We were formally given our names, determined by the leadership of the church: Muambi Disanka and Mamu Luse. We were able to share for a few minutes, and we were happy that at this point we have enough Tshiluba to be able to share briefly our joy for working with the church and our hope for what God is doing here.

The names are meaningful, so let me elaborate: Bob is: Muambi (teacher, pastor) Disanka (joy, happiness). Kristi is Mamu (mother, Mrs.) Luse (compassion). We are excited about these names and pray that the names will be a true reflection of our lives. We reflected later that it seems a bit ironic—naturally, Bob has a greater propensity for compassion, and Kristi tends to have a more joyful personality than Bob. As a couple though, we are two people but at the same time one, and hopefully we can benefit from each other’s natural gifts. We also both want to be people of joy and compassion, so we have said that these names are an inspiration to each of us—they give us room to grow!

As we were preparing to move to Congo, we read the book “Bonding and the Missionary Task” by Drs. Tom and Betty Sue Brewster. “Take on an insiders name” is one of their key recommendations to help facilitate emotional ‘bonding’ with people of a local culture. We are grateful for each step in the long process of feeling at home in Kasai!

B& K at GA At the GA meetings – in our new locally – made
clothes that were a gift from some friends!