Fruitful Partnerships 

You are one of many partners whom God is using to make young disciples of Christ in the DR Congo

 

By Jennifer Wolf

In October of 2021, a team of four disembarked the MAF Cessna Caravan at the Mbandaka Airport, in the western Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their flight from Kinshasa had covered 362 miles and lasted two hours. But it was only the beginning of their journey. Their next stop would be the Congo River. They were on their way to hold a Kids Action Network (KAN) Sunday school teacher training in the Pygmy village of Lotumbe, deep in the Congo rain forest. 

A huge opportunity

“It is currently not possible to do this type of trip without MAF. The alternative would be to reach these areas by canoe, and possibly by road, but this would take several weeks,” said Kennedy Fumba Gagaya, KAN Coordinator/ReachGlobal. He leads these Sunday school teacher workshops in areas that are quite difficult to reach.

Kennedy Fumba Gagaya leads a Kids Action Network / ReachGlobal team doing Sunday school teacher training in Nioki, WDRC. This photo and top and bottom ones (also in Nioki) are by Emily Hochstetler.

Considering that 46 percent of the DRC’s population falls in the zero to 14 age range*, these workshops are sorely needed.

Over the years, with the departure of many western missionaries, there’s been little oversight for children’s ministries—especially in remote areas.

As a result, Kennedy says, “Many children do not come to church, and most communities no longer have a teaching program for children.”

Kennedy has always had a heart for ministering to children, and he believes the transformation of the DRC will start by reaching them. To that end, he and his small team are training and equipping children’s leaders in western DRC to make the gospel accessible to all children. Through the use of games, songs, Bible storytelling, discovery questions, and application, children are taught God’s Word in a fun and memorable way so they can live it and share it.

Stephen flies Kennedy to a KAN workshop in the DRC. Photo by Stephan Hale.

Stephen Hale, MAF West DRC’s program director, has flown Kennedy a number of times for these workshops. A few years ago, Stephen flew him to Inonga and stayed there through the weekend, so he was able to observe the process.

It started on a Friday afternoon, with 20 kids showing up. “So you’re going to spend the weekend with these kids?” Stephen had asked Kennedy.

“Oh, no. Not just these kids,” Kennedy had responded, his smile beaming. “You’ll see.”

As the children’s leaders were practicing the KAN methods with the local kids, word spread through the village. “By Sunday morning, there were maybe a 100 to 150 kids there,” Stephen said. “The church went from being a few pews full of kids to every pew being full of kids by the end of the weekend.”

The rest of the way

At the banks of the Congo River in Mbandaka, Kennedy and his KAN teammate, Raymond, stepped into a long dug-out canoe. They were joined by Jay and Kathy Shafto, who serve with the International Mission Board (IMB) in the DRC. Each passenger took a seat on a plastic chair, and the driver of the motorized canoe pulled onto the river highway.

Front to back: Raymond, Kathy, Jay, and Kennedy on the Congo River. Photo by Raymond Kemburiya Oveneke.

During their nearly 12-hour boat ride, they passed people of all ages. Young boys navigated their small canoes to meet the wake of the team’s motorized one. Old women rowed out to check their fish traps. Nine boys in white shirts and blue shorts traveled up river in a “school canoe” to get to school.

Jay and Kathy had been to Lotumbe multiple times, and they’d discovered that none of the Pygmy churches had any kind of children’s discipleship. So they asked Kennedy if he and Raymond would accompany them to Lotumbe to do a KAN workshop there.

Kennedy had not been familiar with the place or known of the great need until the IMB partners told him about it. “It was God’s love that guided us there.”

God allowed MAF to play a role as well, by providing the air portion of the transportation.

It was to be the first-ever child-focused training in Lotumbe. The KAN workshop lasted three days, then the participants helped run a two-day VBS for the kids. In the end, 13 churches and 37 leaders were chosen to begin Sunday school. And today 1029 Pygmy children are learning God’s Word.

 “I love the partnership that we share between KAN, the IMB, and MAF,” said Kathy. “It’s a wonderful reminder of how we can see the gospel spread farther faster, if we work together as the body of Christ.”

Far-reaching change

At 5:30 in the morning, in the remote village of Nioki—where KAN workshops have been held—a young boy roused his family for morning prayer time. Since Sunday school had started in his village, he’d taken the initiative to lead his family and shares God’s Word by reciting the Bible stories he’s learned.

This is just one example of the impact KAN trainings are having. “Parents are following their children to church,” said Kennedy. “Children themselves take the initiative to evangelize and invite their friends to Sunday school and to club. Bible stories have even reached the Muslim children through their friends that we’ve taught.”

A young boy recites a Bible story in Nioki, DRC. Photo by Emily Hochstetler.

The hearts of children’s leaders have been changed, too. Kennedy explained: “In every place we went, after the training, they would often say, ‘We ask for forgiveness from God for not properly caring for the children by showing them love and care the same way our Lord Jesus did.’”

Sunday school leaders work on preparing a lesson for a KAN workshop in Nioki. Photo by Emily Hochstetler.

A recent MAF flight allowed KAN and IMB members to partner together again. They traveled to Djolu, one of MAF’s most remote airstrips. This time, 96 children’s leaders from 28 churches, along with students from a Bible institution, were trained.

In a report to MAF, IMB, the local church, and other partners, Kennedy stated that most churches in this area had not had a Sunday school since 1995. But in February, directly after the training, the pastors decided to restart the Sunday school.

“Soon 9,214 children will be reached by the Word of our Lord!” said Kennedy.

Sunday school leaders in Djolu with certificates of completion for a KAN/Reach Global workshop. Photo by Kennedy Fumba Gagaya.

Bearing fruit

On that last evening in Lotumbe, Kennedy witnessed the children joyfully sharing the Bible stories they’d learned. “These Pygmy children were the first in history to be able to recite and read the Word of God,” he said.

Kennedy’s hope is for this next generation of children in the DRC to become good servants of the Lord who can change many things in the country, and become missionaries all over the world.

Because of your generous support for MAF, you are one of the partners enabling the gospel to reach the most remote areas of the DRC. Please pray that children here will have the opportunity to hear God’s Word and be changed by the love of Christ.

Church leaders and children in Nioki met the KAN team upon their arrival at the airstrip. “The children were singing a song along the lines of “there’s a melody in my heart … sing to the King of Kings. They continued to sing it as they escorted us to our first stop,” said Emily Hochstetler with Reach Global.

 

 

*The World Factbook (CIA.gov)

 

Story ran in the (November) Vol. 4 2022 edition of FlightWatch. Read the entire issue here:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.