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Jay | Susan | Alex | Beth | Samantha
March 4, 2011 9:18 am
Published in: Uncategorized

There is a relation between the items in the title of this blog post.  I will grant that it’s not an obvious one.

From 3 – 11 February Ron Pontier and I flew around Congo and CAR taking a group of four Congolese pastors and four missionaries to visit the churches among the Zande tribe.  The idea of the trip was two-fold. One was to encourage the church among the Zande.  Two of the pastors were Kokole and Lalima, the president and vice-president respectively of the Africa Inland Church in Congo.  Both are very godly men who well deserve the respect they are held in.  The greetings they received!  Wow!  We had parades and church services and food and ….

I began to get an inkling on this trip what hospitality really is.  When we arrived in Banda, our first stop, we’d been told to expect the accommodations to be rough.  Not so.  Primitive, yes. I was in a mud hut, but they gave us their very best.  Ron and I stayed with one of the district pastors (an administrative post) in Banda.  We had the best beds and hut that they had. It even had an electric light!  And the food…wow.  Alot of African families can’t afford to have more than one meal a day.  We were fed three good meals every day.  With meat even at lunch and dinner.

The church services to welcome the guests often ran two hours.  And everyone got up to sing.  The women’s choir, the men’s choir, the secondary school, the primary school, the Bible school….the songs were hymns or traditional welcome songs, or a mix of both.  We all had the Zande greetings down by the end of the trip, since we had to get up and introduce ourselves and greet the church at every stop.

The Bible tells us “be hospitable.”  The Zande go all out.

That first reason for the trip was an unqualified success.  Pastors Kokole and Lalima greatly encouraged the churches we visited.  We heard at every stop, too, how grateful the church people were to see missionaries, how glad they were we had come to see them and how it encouraged them to know that we have seen their situation and are praying for them.

Despite the hospitality, things are difficult for the church there.  Syncretism is a huge problem. There is a lot of hold-over of traditional animistic beliefs among the church there.  Their lives are difficult. Jobs are almost no-existent.  They can no longer work their gardens for the most part, as they are forced to stay close to town because of the LRA (Lords Resistance Army), and so food is hard to get, and they no longer have cash crops to sell at market.  The pastor we stayed with told how when the LRA raided Banda about 18 months ago he fled into the bush and hid for three days with his family.  Others told us how they are afraid to travel because of the LRA.  In Dungu we were told how the LRA raided the edge of the old mission station (now the church’s station) and took several captives and made them work as slaves for several days before releasing them.  And how the UN, even though the LRA marched right past their base, did nothing.

Please pray for the Zande church!  Pray for them to get good training in the Bible and theology to combat the syncretism that is so prevelant, pray that the LRA will be stopped, and that the Zande will be able to live without fearing their raids.

The other purpose of the trip was for the missionaries with us to look at the Zande church and the Mbororo. The Mbororo are the largest group of semi-nomadic herdsman that make up the Fulani people.  The Fulani spread from Niger to Ethiopia and number some 6 million people.  Their belief system is folk-islam, a mix of animism and islam.  For the past thirty years or so the Mbororo have been slowly moving into Zande lands.  The missionaries have the idea of working with the Zande church to reach the Mbororo.

So…we went to meet with the Mbororo.  In Banda it was a bit tense, and the Mbororo did not receive us well, and the Zande were reluctant to take us. The Mbororo are not well liked by the Zande whose gardens the Mbororo cattle often get in and spoil.  The Zande also fear the Mbororo will take their lands and drive them out.  In Zemio and in Mboki, our two stops in CAR, the Mbororo were much more approachable, and welcomed us into their camps.  We had a long talk with the chief in Zemio, and he told us not only did he want to stop moving, but that his people need God’s word! Talk about an open door for the gospel!

This open door did not happen overnight.  Jean-Baptiste, a Zande pastor, has been working with the Mbororo for the last several years around Zemio, and is well known to them there.   Please pray for Jean-Baptiste.  He has had a very hard life.  His daughter is in need of long-term medical care, and he often feels very discouraged because he sees so little progress in his work.  We prayed with him our last night in Zemio, on the way out, and he was in tears as the missionaries and Kokole and Lalima prayed for him.  Pray for encouragement and support for Jean-Baptiste.  The work he is called to is huge…bigger than a man, or a mission.  Only God is enough to accomplish this work.  He chooses to use us as His instruments in the work, but sometimes we are used up in the work.  Pray for Jean-Baptiste.

It was a humbling trip, seeing the faith of men like Jean-Baptiste, Kokole, and Lalima.  It was humbling to see the scope of the task these other missionaries are contemplating, listening really to see if God is calling them to it.  It was humbling to hear the Mbororo chief tell us that his people need the word of God.

It was also very exciting. In years to come, God willing, we might be able to point to this trip and say we got to see the start of God’s church among the Mbororo.