Tshikapa…the third largest city-center in the two Kasai Provinces. A bustling city full of life, energy, and diamonds, the city of Tshikapa actually has electricity at all hours for those who can pay. We arrived at 12:30am after a grueling 13 hour drive which included one mud-bog-from-hell which threatened to swamp our vehicle for the entire night – only providence saved us, coming in the form of two PNMLS (governmental AIDS organization) vehicles which pulled us out deep into the night. Of course, once you arrive 265 kilometers from home and are greeted by eager church leadership, you can’t just go to bed. There is fellowship, food, and drinks (beer or soda).
I have been told that the church in Tshikapa sometimes feels overlooked because they are so far from Kananga (the center of the Congolese Presbyterian Church). Thus, when folks in the Synod of Tshikapa learned we were coming to conduct a seminar, they showed up in big numbers. Each of the 10 presbyteries was asked to send 5 delegates (3 elders, the presbytery exec., the presbytery moderator). Each presbytery was well represented. One pastor, Simon Kuete, from the “frontier,” or the border with Angola, had walked 200 kilometers (120 miles) to be with us. It took him 3 full days. I thought 13 hours of mudslinging in our LandCruiser was rough!
Pastor Mboyamba (Director of the Evangelism) has been facilitating this particular seminar in various synods for the last 4 years. The emphasis of the seminar is to help the laity, or members of the church, better understand their role as stewards of the resources God has given them and their responsibility to help the church move forward. Topics covered in our Tshikapa seminar included: the work of the laity in the church, the responsibility of church leadership, information on HIV/AIDS, reasons why we give to God, and information on how to start local development projects. The delegates paid close attention to the teachings, eagerly took notes, had lots of great questions, and were alive with energy and enthusiasm. One oft-uttered refrain from the lips of Pastor Mboyamba was, “bukebikebi udi nsapi wa tshidimukilu,” meaning, “evangelism is the key to development.” Changed lives and changed hearts lead to changed communities.
One elder, Mukulu Maou Muanza, the stated clerk of one of the presbyteries in Tshikapa, seems to exemplify much of the teachings that were given. By Congolese standards, he is quite affluent. He owns a parcel of land on the outskirts of town where diamonds are mined. With this business, he and his wife live fairly comfortably and each of their children lives in the United States. We stayed in their home where he and his wife gave up their bed for me to sleep on; they slept upright on the couches in the living room. Mukulu Maou loves to welcome guests, and the hospitality shown by he and his wife, Mamu Rose Kapinga, was exceptional. During our visit, he took time away from work to be with us. On our last day in Tshikapa he bought a goat for us to feast on. I learned that when the Congolese Presbyterian Church (CPC) has their bi-annual General Assembly, he helps the delegates with travel, allowing them use of his vehicle and paying for gas. We learned from a pastor friend in Kananga (who happened to do his internship in Tshikapa) that Mukulu Maou has given sacrificially to help many seminary students complete their studies. Mukulu Maou stands out as a good example of someone in Congo who is helping the work of the church move forward, with his own personal funds. Of course, countless other less-visible examples could be given of Congolese giving sacrificially to help God’s work. On this recent trip, I was particularly struck by Mukulu Maou, who has decided to use his riches to invest in things that will last beyond this life. May God bless he and countless others in Congo who give of themselves for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
The church in Tshikapa appears to be alive and thriving. In the midst of so much exploitation by other countries in Congo, it is refreshing to see resources from the mineral-rich soil of Congo being used by God’s stewards to help the local people and the CPC church at large. I am thankful for the people I met: Pastor Kuete, Mukulu Maou, Mamu Kapinga, and many others. May God continue to bless the work of their hands and honor them for their sacrificial giving.