Church History Writing Workshop for Congolese Mennonites March 20-24, 2023 - Centre Universitaire de Missiologie, Kinshasa, DR Congo
A personal report by Charly Ntumba Malembe
Initiated by Anicka Fast, Doctor of Theology, the Workshop on Writing Church History for Congolese Mennonites, held from March 20 to 24, 2023 at the Centre Universitaire Missiologique in Kinshasa, is the very first initiative of its kind in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The selection of the sixteen participants (including two assistants) was based on a points system whereby the best candidates—from a total of 40 applications—were chosen. For my part, when I received the registration forms, I hesitated to apply. But an inner voice kept reminding me every day: “Go ahead, Charly, who knows? Maybe you will be selected. I was among the last, maybe even the very last one, to apply. The day Dr. Anicka contacted me to tell me the good news, I cried tears of joy.
The purpose of this workshop was to develop the talents of Congolese writers and historians by equipping them with the necessary tools to write the biographies of the Mennonites (men and women) who contributed to the emergence of the Mennonite Church in the DR Congo. Produced by two eminent teachers, Dr. Anicka Fast (worker with Mennonite Mission Network) and Dr. Michèle Sigg (executive director of the Dictionary of African Christian Biography or DACB, www.DACB.org), in collaboration with Maurice Matsitsa of the Lay Protestant Ministry (MILAPRO) of the CEFMC, the workshop received financial and logistical support from several organizations including the Schowalter Foundation, the CUM, Mama Makeka House of Hope (MMHH), the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission (AIMM). The result was a collaboration between Congolese Mennonite churches (CMCo, CEFMC, and CEM).
The workshop began with an opening worship service led by Reverend Matwala. The speaker, the Rev. Mupepe, provincial representative of the 4th CEFMC, city of Kinshasa, delivered the opening remarks and praised the initiative. He was preceded by the Rev. Vunda Michel, provincial representative of the CMCO. Mr. Maurice Matsitsa, coordinator and one of the participants, introduced the church officials.
To begin the program, Dr. Michèle told us the story of Lydie Mengwelune (1886-1966, Cameroon)—a powerful testimony in the DACB that inspired us to pay attention to the other pioneers in our manual. Her presentation on the ancient and medieval church in Africa shed light on a little-known chapter in our history. It was the very first time that we learned that there were also black pioneers, both men and women, in the establishment of Christianity in Africa.
As for Dr. Anicka Fast, the story of the Mennonite Church attracted a lot of attention from the participants, the majority of whom still knew that the first mission began in Djoko-Punda. Through her teaching, we learned the smallest details of the Mennonite mission. We are now able to even give lectures in our communities on the history of the church. The workshop presented several highlights. First, the fact of bringing together members of the three Mennonite communities among which there was a diversity of languages (ethnic groups), ages, and provinces of origin (Kasai, Kasai Oriental, Sud-Kivu, Kwilu, Kinshasa) really proved to us that we are one body in Christ Jesus. The love and unity of the group was tremendous. Comedian Papa Mihala made us burst out laughing at all times, especially during our practical work.
Secondly, the candidacy of women was very much encouraged by the organizers. We saw how much this project showed consideration towards women: there were two women professors, a female village chief , five women out of sixteen participants, and the cooking was coordinated by women. This is the very first time that a woman was a village chief in a workshop with men and women where there were church leaders in the group. It was a very good memory for me, as village chief, to be the leader of our authorities! The women felt very valued in this workshop and cast off the inferiority complex that gnaws at us daily. Inspired by this first experience, women feel capable of assuming any responsibility in our Mennonite communities in particular and society in general.
The morning worship was another fantastic moment. The spirit of the Lord was present during our workshop and in the wonderful songs of each day. Sometimes I interrupted my teachers to wake up tired participants. God was present during our training.
In conclusion, the different lessons taught by our two teachers encouraged us to always remain Mennonite Christians in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our church leaders greatly appreciated the initiative and would like to see this workshop project on the writing of the history of the church continue. We, students, have mastered the scientific standards of this training and we are already at work in the field. We look forward to seeing our work published by the DACB.
May God bless the work of our hands.
The DACB publishes an occasional electronic newsletter, the DACB News Link. Subscribers who sign up to receive the free quarterly Journal of African Christian Biography will also receive the DACB News Link. Visit our sign up page.
For those who prefer the DACB newsletter in PDF form, it will be available for download from this page. Each electronic newsletter will contain a link to the PDF version of the current newsletter.
Download the latest newsletter here: November 2016 DACB News Link
To view previous issues of the DACB News Link click the links below: (PDF file - Adobe Acrobat Reader needed)
Received May 4, 2021
The Lord shall continually strengthen you and make His word have free course with you by giving us great access to our Christian Heritage.
Much More Grace.
Keep Growing in His Grace.
from Blessing A.
Received January 10, 2021 from Mr. Martin Malacela
I have read several time of my grand father Missionary Yohana maula Malecela. My name is Martin stephano Malecela, am fourth generation from Yohana Malecela and I am looking forward to start Church here at Dar Es salaam Tanzania. Am happy because the seeds of gospel is moving in our family we are serving God and his biography it is strengthen me to go ahead to speedy the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Email [email protected]
Received August 14, 2018 from Mr. Vernon Taylor
I found your publication after searching for a name almost on a whim; it is odd how random things pop into the head of a person. I attended a village school near Newark in the English county of Nottinghamshire until I was ten years old. In 1960, or thereabouts, when I was seven our school was visited by a trainee missionary from the nearby Kelham Monastery. I was home sick in bed on the day of the visit but later I heard how a very tall and very black Zulu had visited the school and talked to the class.The following week the school made a return visit to the monastery and enjoyed a guided tour, unfortunately the tall Zulu had left for his "posting" a few days before and I never had the chance to meet him. The entire class was instructed to write a letter of thanks to our missionary friend and he did reply to every letter.
I still have his reply to me somewhere. The last time I saw it the paper was delicate and worn but still quite legible.I still sometimes wonder about him and how he has fared in the almost sixty years since I was a small boy. The man's name was Isaac Dlamini. His address was simply: Dam Site, Pongola Port, Zululand.If he is still alive I am sure he would be at least 80 years old.I include the following link in case you are interested in learning a little about the Kelham Hall Monastery
Received February 12, 2018, from T. P. Masimba
I'm a young man aged 25. I'm a Minister of the Gospel. I work as a local Missionary in Zimbabwe under a Christian Organisation called African Enterprise founded by Dr Michael Cassidy in 1962. I come from Chivhu in Zimbabwe which was formerly called Charter District during the Rhodesian era. I graduated in Church Foundational Theology (a course which includes some basics in Meaningful Church Services, Building Young Disciples, Homiletics & Building A Growing Church). However, I was interested in an article written about the Johane Masowe Movement by Robert Reese a former Missionary to Zimbabwe & a consultant with World Missions Associates in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.Firstly it's really interesting & inspiring. Also I request to know if there are any articles related to the Masowe Theology, the Meaning of their so-called "Momnage Language", the meaning of their esoteric language & Prophecy. If Dr R. Reese had supplied these in his article, he would have made a best-written record about this Johane Masowe Christian Faith.
If your organisation was to rewrite history & make a story of a lifetime, perhaps a million dollar story, then I implore you to visit this man for recording, documentation & insight. His Ministry confirms many features of our Bible Theologies of which I find it very stunning as a young Bible Scholar. By visiting him, you'll relive the Days when our Lord Jesus Christ walked this earth during His earthly Ministry Days.This young Prophet with an esoteric name pronounced as "Edbone" has been used by God to do remarkable Supernatural Things by God's Power. Three visits to his Holy Ground will enrich your Theology in so many ways. This man is ushering in a New Dispensation in the Johane Masowe Christian Faith.
Thank you for your articles & Gospel Missions around the world. God Richly Bless you.
Yours in the same Gospel Vineyard,
T. P. Masimba<
Received February 20, 2014, from Sophie Imasiku (Zambia):
I was born and grew up here in Zambia at a place called Mambilima in the Luapula province of Zambia. This morning, I took an internet search for our former missionaries who opened up our area for Christianity known as the Open Brethren (Christian Missions in Many Lands). I came across our well-known missionary there by the name of William Lammond (1876 to 1968). The entire fraternity there knew him by the name of "Bwana Lamya" because he brought "electricity" to the area which is still there until this day. We are lucky that our place is on the banks of the Luapula river and particularly that the "Mambilima" is the local name for the rapids, meaning " the jumping of the waters. It was formerly called, as you may be aware, "Johnstone Falls" for a number of years from about the early 1920s until my country Zambia attained independence on 24th October 1964. We are actually celebrating 50 years of our independence this year.
My late father--May his Soul rest in peace--was a teacher at the same place and we all grew up and got educated in the same CMML faith.
As a young girl, I knew a lot about Bwana Lammond,especially his 3rd wife Betty Shepherd and her sister who worked as teachers there at Johnston Falls primary School. Most of the people who were and some who are still in the present government here were educated there at the famous Johnstone Falls primary School run by the CMML brethren. they did a lot to develop the area and they built a big hospital which has now modern facilities like a theatre and mortunary, a school for the blind, the area is known for blind children and also a school for the handicapped children. I give great credit to these pioneers for bringing not only Christianity but enormous literacy to that impoverished area.
I am now a grown up woman with three grown up children. I work here at the Zambian Open University as Administrative Assistant to the Bursar, here in the capital city of Lusaka.
My sincere thanks to D.A.C.B for their remarkable input,
SOPHIE CHIBALE IMASIKU (MS)
Read the story of William Lammond HERE.
Received January 27, 2011, from Uwagbaokwu Chukwudi O Joachim (Nigeria):
DEAR AFRICAN BIOGRAPHER,
May the Peace and Love of Christ be with you today and for all Eternity! Amen. I browsed your website searching for some Uganda Martyrs by Name MUGAGGA LUBOWA. I love your work and wish to write for me to be receiving some of your newletters through my address used above. thanks for your kind co-operation.Remain Blessed!
UWAGBAOKWU CHUKWUDI O JOACHIM
Received January 24, 2011 from Saba Tesfay (Ethiopia):
May the Lord bless u.
It's so amazing story about Apostle Daka I read, I don know him personally but I know his son yohanes and Bely and am so happy when I found the article about him ya he was the man of God.
You can read the story of Seri Daka HERE.