Lake Munkamba is a place of mystery and majesty. It once never was. According to popular myth, one day village boys found a spring of water. This spring grew until it swallowed an entire region including a village. Hundreds died while hundreds more fearfully fled. No one braved the water until Muambi Mutombokatshi, a missionary evangelist/pastor, “softened” the harsh waters by traversing by boat and ceremonially laying salt, food, clothing and other offerings on the water. Having invited all of the local chiefs to witness this “softening of the water,” he made the place hospitable once again. Lake Munkamba has never looked back. It has served as a refuge and retreat for missionaries for decades. It symbolizes unity and reconciliation between two major tribes of Kasai. Its pristine waters and tranquil environs lather one’s soul with peace.
Early morning dip
Kristi and I first experienced Lake Munkamba in March 2010 with fellow missionaries. We then spent a month there learning Tshiluba. Munkamba feels like our “home village” in Congo. In Munkamba our names and our habits are remembered. We feel like we belong to the Bakua Luntu tribe of that region. The trademark greeting of Munkamba, “Songayi Wabo,” brings a smile to our face. Munkamba is special. One’s burdens feel lighter and a spring returns to one’s step. The water is irresistible.
In February, 2011, Christian Education Coordinator Pastor Mbikayi and I scouted out Munkamba with the hope of hosting our Evangelism Department Board Meeting there in April. We sat with Tatu Willy, Mukulu Moises Bob and other community leaders. We listened to them describe the destruction wrought on the Presbyterian Center at Munkamba during the protracted war between ‘98 - ‘03. Zimbabwean soldiers encamped at the center, eschewed all the villagers away, and generally left havoc in their wake. Homes remain in disrepair, graffiti stains the gathering places, and the touch of a foreign army’s presence remains. Yet, these resilient villagers of Munkamba long for a better tomorrow. They believe that God can lift up the Presbyterian Center at Lake Munkamba, making it a place of refuge and retreat for God’s people once more.
Sitting with community leaders, February 2011
Unfortunately, it was decided unwise to host our Board Meeting in Munkamba in 2011. Our hopeful village friends would have to wait. Yet, their prayers and longing hearts did not go unnoticed. Just last week we were able to host a seminar in Munkamba, the first time such an event has happened in years. Moreover, we stayed after the seminar to assess the needs of the place and pray. We conducted a formal meeting to evaluate the situation and how to move forward. We painstakingly visited each structure of the Centre, taking pictures and making notes. We sat with community leaders again and listened as they shared their challenges. We encouraged them and prayed for them.
By God’s grace Lake Munkamba will be resurrected once more. It will serve as a bastion of peace and crossroads for God’s people. Meetings, seminars and conferences will be conducted. Choirs will sing through the night, keeping fishermen awake on the lake. Munkamba reflects heaven and has been singed by hell. It is a place of heart and home. It is a place to dream and dance, to pray and sing, to look back and look ahead.
CPC leaders discuss future of Munkamba Center
Munkamba…Lord hear our prayers! Lift up this place and enfold us into your embrace!