Fresno School of Mission

You are not alone. Agony out of Africa

Reflections on war and terror in the Congo by Nzash Lumeya
THE KUDILA family prayed for a taxi-mini bus.
They led a mission committee in a local Mennonite Brethren church in Kinshasa. the capital city of
seven million in Congo. They bought a VW mini-bus from Belgium and drove it to my house. They
wanted to praise the Lord for it and beg him to protect it. They had decided to give monthly support to
God’s mission out of the income generated through their endeavor. Together. we asked the Lord to be
their helper.
That was before August 1998. before the war broke out. In the early days of the war, Kudila’s children
were killed and the mini-bus was destroyed. I had the radio on that day. International radio broadcasts
invited millions of Kinshasa’s population to cross the Congo river to reach safe camps prepared by the
UN. These announcements troubled the whole city. In need of comforting news, I turned my radio to the
local station. They gave more details confirming that Kinshasa was indeed being terrorized. Foreign
sol-diers shelled the city. The invaders tried to take and control the airport by force, but they were
fought back.
During this heavy battle in and around Kinshasa, Kudila’s house was destroyed. His VW mini-bus was
con-fiscated and his children killed. While Kudila escaped death, he is traumatized and still asks many
Where was God- Why did he let that happen? Is he listening to the voices of his people in Congo who
live in the midst of war and cry out for peace?
A land of war
The Democratic Republic of Congo is the third largest African country-home to the largest Mennonite
Brethren and the second largest Mennonite population in the world. Since 1990, the Congolese MB
Conference has increased its cross-cultural evangelists from four to 20 people. Pygmy MBs are the
newcomers in this family of God. Kinshasha is home to the 8,000 Mennonite Brethren of the
Kimbanseke MB district, who worship in 20 local churches in Lingala, French and Arabic.
But Congo is unjustly crippled. We are intimate with war, contlict and exploitation. We have endured it
for over a century. Since 1885, Congolese people had no input in their economical and political destiny.
The price of our resources-rubber, diamonds, gold, tea and cot: fee-is marked by the customer rather
than the seller.
In 1885, the major European powers carved up Africa and created the Congo Free State, one of the
most brutal and exploitative of all African colonial regimes. Congo remained a Belgian colony until June
1960, when the region gained independence and was renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But the country collapsed into disorder a few months after gaining independence, and Moburu Sese
Seko seized power in a military coup, naming himself president in 1965. In 1971, MobutLI changed the
name of the region to Zaire, and for the next two decades he ruled as a dictator. During that time, Zaire
was a pawn in the Cold War. Mobutu was supported by Western powers, who saw him as a
counterbalance to the Soviet influence in the region. But under Mobutu’s rule, the economy
disintegrated as public funds were diverted into his private bank accounts.
(n 1994, 1.3 million refugees fled to camps in east· ern Zaire after war broke out in neighboring Rwanda.
In 1996, a wider anti-Mobutu opposition took over the country. A year later, Laurent-Desire Kabila the
inside out.
Imagine what would happen if we all took seri-ously God’s call to peace. Each of the six African
countries with armies in the Congo is more than 70 percent Christian. Congo is more than 95 percent
Christian. If each Christian citizen of these seven countries took the great commandment seriously-to
love the Lord with all one’s heart, soul and mind and love one’s neighbor as oneself-the Mennonite
Brethren family of Kudila could reap the result of love in Christ. Christian oneness not only could have
saved Kudila’s VW mini-bus from destruction but saved his children from unnecessary death.
• Prayer and advocacy are needed on behalf of Congo in order to further God’s Kingdom in Congo and
abroad. Inter-dependency in God’s mis-sion remains the core of our obedience as members of the global
body of Christ in this third millennium.
You are not alone
As a global family, we have the blessing of sharing our struggles with each other. Sept. 11 was felt in
Congo. African Mennonites Brethren are in sympa-thy with you. Days and nights have been offered in
prayers for guidance and discernment. Our prayer for you is that you would know “the Father of
com-passion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort
those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Cor. 1: 3b-4) .•
At the time this was written Nzash Lumeya was an associate professor in world missions at the MB
Biblical Seminary in Fresno, Calif., and a missi-ologist consultant with MBMS Interna-tional, the global
mission agency of North American MB churches.
A letter from the Congo by Mesach Krisetya and Larry Miller
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We greet each of you in the name of Jesus Christ and on behalf of the worldwide family of faith. Before
leaving the Democratic RepUblic of the Congo, where we are now on a pastoral visit to Mennonite
World Conference member churches, we received messages of condo-lence and concern for your
welfare from various parts of the world. In every place we visit, the first questions asked are about you
and your faithfulness to Jesus Christ.
The letter to the Hebrew~_ speaks of “a great cloud of witnesses.” As we write this letter, we are
surrounded by members and leaders of the Mennonite churches of the Congo. Together with ‘,hem, we
bear witness to you that you, too, are surrounded by a great cloud of brothers and sisters.
From the moment of the first news of the tragic events of Sept. 11 and during the dif-ficult weeks since
then, the worldwide family of faith has been holding you up in heart-felt prayer. We traveled through
restricted areas in the Congo, where Mennonites and their compatriots have been suffering under the
love and fervent prayers.
More than 84,000 MBs and their families, including these children, live in the Congo. In Angola, there
are 4,600 more.
These same sisters and brothers also ask If you are keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ. From their
own life situation, they know you effects of war, economic collapse, political crisis and more than two
million deaths. Expressions of grief and soli-darity with Americans and with you In particular are
prominent In nearly every meeting and worship service. Those we meet ask us to assure you of their
fraternal now face heavy pressure and high obstacles as you seek to follow and bear witness to the
Savior, who loves ene-mies. They believe a warlike response to the Sept. II vio-lence will harm many
people and Impede Christian wit-ness around the world, directly or Indirectly, Including here in Africa.
They encourage you to seek a message from God amidst the present events and to seize this
opportunity to reinforce your proclama-tion of the gospel of peace, as they have tried to do dur-ing the
war years in the Congo. We have reported that you are focusing on the Prince of Peace and that you are
searching for ways to pro-mote his ways. They will con-tinue to follow your decisions and actions,
surrounding you continually with prayer.
May God give you the strength to run with perse­verance the race marked out for you. Keep the faith! •
Mesach Krisetya, presi-dent of Mennonite World Con-ference, Iives in Indonesia. Larry Miller, executive
secre-tary of Mennonite World Con-ference, lives in France. Adapted from a letter to members and
heads of U.S. Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches written from the Congo, Oct. 7, 2001.