The electricity was out, again, and I lay there sweating in my bed unable to sleep. The moon shone through the window and provided enough light for me to locate my phone and check the time. It was 1:00 am and I knew that in just four short hours I would be awoken by the gonging noise that my host, or perhaps one of the neighbors, makes in order to wake up their household. I was exhausted and needed to drift off to sleep, but the events of the day raced through my mind keeping it alert.
Earlier that day, I had witnessed the birth of a new district. Perhaps it is just an administrative distinction or perhaps it wouldn’t mean that much to other people, but a new district in a place where the gospel is still taking root
means a lot. A new district is a symbol of God’s faithfulness and a reminder of the sacrifice of believers. The Church of the Nazarene first came to Kisangani because of the “Great African War” (Sometimes known as the First and Second Congo Wars or the African World War) that took place in the 1990s. As violence spilled over from Rwanda into the DRC (then called Zaire) war was ignited and spread throughout the region. Goma, in the North Kivu Province, was one of the first places where the conflict came as thousands of people set out on foot towards the west in an attempt to escape the violence. Some of these people were Nazarenes, and one of those Nazarenes ended up in Kisangani.
|The Pastors of Tshopo District - Kisangani, DRC|
But the district didn’t start then. That one Nazarene soon became a pastor and was a part of discipling and raising up leaders in order to start fifteen churches and more than seventy schools. During all of this time, some of the worst fighting took place in this city over its rich diamond deposits. This intense conflict had lasting scars on the city. Besides the fact that many families had lost members due to stray bullets and mortars, there were physical scars of war on the buildings of the city for many years. On my first visit to the city five years ago, I found only a handful of cars as most people used bicycle taxis. Yes, people would sit on the back of a bicycle and pay the “driver” to take them around town. Today, many of those images have been erased and the town is recovering its place as the third-largest city in the country.
For these reasons, the work was slow compared to other parts of the country. But God has been faithful. In many surrounding areas of this city, the Nazarenes have the only school or the only church and the gospel is being preached because of these efforts. That one Nazarene pastor is a grandfather and is nearing retirement now. But there are six other ordained elders and three others who are ready and waiting for their chance to be ordained at the next available occasion. They have over 40 additional pastors being trained for ministry. That first, lonely Nazarene is no longer alone.
|A gift offered to the DS, along with chickens, bananas, and rice.|
We are delighted to see how God can redeem the tragedies of war for the spread of the Good News and to know that the Church of the Nazarene has been a part of that. We are witnesses to God’s faithful provision and transformation of lives. We are thankful for our Nazarene family in Kisangani and excited to see how the Lord will write the next chapter of this story that is to come.