Months of planning and preparation were involved. It was a big initiative. Our department was asked to help “make it happen.” It promised to be a big day. It was announced on the radio. Announcements went out to most of the congregations in four presbyteries. Invitations were sent to special guests. The twenty eight person choir practiced for two months beforehand. Robes were pressed and prepared. Plastic chairs were borrowed from nearby congregations. Three hundred and seventy five new songbooks were produced. Visitors from the US and Kinshasa were en-route. It was going to be a “tshibilu tshinene!”
Last Saturday our Department of Evangelism hosted a ‘tshibilu” (worship celebration) to launch a new songbook and to commemorate fifty years of STUDIPROKA, the radio ministry of the Congolese Presbyterian Community (CPC). It was a long day for Kristi and I as we served alongside our Congolese colleagues. At the end of it all, we slunk into our couch with a tired smile of satisfaction on our faces.
This story begins with Elsbeth Shannon. She and her husband, Dr. Ralph Shannon, served in Congo for more than thirty years and raised their four children here. Elsbeth had a passion for music and for helping the Congolese to develop worship songs that reflect their traditional beats and rhythms. Her work has been greatly appreciated here. In 1991 the CPC celebrated 100 years in Congo. Elsbeth and a colleague were instrumental in working with Congolese pastors and lay leaders to compose songs to commemorate. Today we have friends who were part of a large choir which she led during that special time. Elsbeth Shannon died in 2010. Before she died, she shared with her family her desire that these songs be collected and made into a new worship songbook for the CPC. Corinne, her daughter, took her mother’s request to heart. Earlier this year Corinne emailed Pastor Mboyamba, the Director of our department, and shared the vision of producing this songbook and unveiling it to the church. He readily agreed and our journey together began.
Elder Muamba Mukengeshayi has been the Director of STUDIPROKA or “Tshiondo Tshia Muoyo” (The Drumbeat of Life) for forty five years. Without his steadfast commitment to this ministry, it would have died several years ago. At the Board Meeting earlier this year, he asked our department to help host a celebration of fifty years of this ministry in the Kasai of Congo.Thus, two important initiatives collided and were celerated on Saturday, November 8th. The Shannon family came: daughter Corinne, Dr. Shannon and wife Rebecca, son Scott and his wife Sharmeen and their three children. About sixty special guests came and about two hundred others as well. It was a joyous celebration. The choir sang several of the popular songs from the new worship book and taught us all a couple of them as well. A traditional madimba* player accompanied their lively singing. People were standing and dancing and clapping over the duration of the three hour service. Corinne gave a fitting tribute to her mother. Elder Muamba shared the history of ‘Tshiondo Tshia Muoyo’ and Pastor Kayimbi shared the hopes for the future of this ministry – namely to buy a radio transmitter and have a full-fledged radio station. Many folks gave generously and offered pledges to see this happen; the total collection with pledges was roughly $1,900. Corinne, representing the Shannon family, and Elder Muamba were honored publicly and given gifts for the efforts and service of them and their families It was a fitting tribute to those who have labored with love for the sake of the Lord and others in central Congo.
May God bless the Shannon family for their years of service to the Congolese people. May God also bless Elder Muamba Mukengeshayi and his family for years of faithful service and perseverance in the midst of many obstacles. It is good to celebrate. It is right to honor those who have gone before us. May God receive all the glory!
*a madimba is a traditional instrument resembling a xylophone.