City, rural churches build ‘friendship’ in Congo
For three years now, United Methodist International English Church has been lending a hand to a neighboring rural church.
Members of United Methodist International English Church, located in the city center of Kinshasa, felt called to help the struggling Mvululu United Methodist Church with the construction of its chapel and other needs. The rural church is in the West Kinshasa District of the West Congo Conference.
“The basic idea was to move out of our comfort zone and carry the good news to underprivileged people with various needs,” said the Rev. Desire Tiriwepi, pastor of United Methodist International English Church.
Mvululu is about 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, from downtown Kinshasa in the Kongo Central Province. Tiriwepi said it’s a poor community, where most people are unemployed and live on subsistence farming.
“The Mvululu villagers are not educated due to poverty and lack of access to schools. Most girls from this village are not married but they have children. At the age of 14, most girls are impregnated. The young boys and older men are into alcohol and drugs.
“As we reach out to this poor village, we are taking the good news through visible acts of love and compassion,” he said.
The 17-year-old Mvululu church has about 110 members, while United Methodist International English Church has about 130 members, including many from Zimbabwe, Liberia, Zambia and other areas. The church began in 2007 and was declared a local church in 2012.
Tiriwepi, who is from Zimbabwe, said there’s a need to bring a change in how United Methodists think about partnerships and outreach.
“We must not always wait for or seek a partnership with sister churches from the United States of America, Europe or Asia. It is time for us to create partnerships between our churches in different districts or annual conferences,” he said.
United Methodist International English Church bought stones and concrete for the foundation of Mvululu United Methodist Church’s new chapel. For several years, the members of the rural church met in a member’s house because they did not have a sanctuary. Later, the congregation was worshipping in a church made of thatch, wood and mud. “Our vision is to build a chapel, build a parsonage and maybe a small health center and a community school,” said the Rev. Desire Tiriwepi, pastor of United Methodist International English Church. Photo by Pierre T. Omadjela, UMNS.
It’s that kind of thinking that led to the collaboration between the two conference churches. Each year, United Methodist International English Church organizes a missionary trip to Mvululu in February or March. Church members bring new and used clothing, shoes, food, school supplies, uniforms, home items and other goods.
The congregation also brings money to help with the construction of the new chapel. The group brought an estimated $1,890 on its missionary visit last month.
For several years, the members of the rural church met in a member’s house because they did not have a sanctuary. Later, the congregation was worshipping in a church made of thatch, wood and mud.
In 2017, the United Methodist International English Church raised money to buy metal roof sheets, iron bars and wood to erect a shed. The city church also paid for brick molding.
This year, the group bought stones and concrete for the foundation of the new chapel.
“Our vision is to build a chapel, build a parsonage and maybe a small health center and a community school,” Tiriwepi said.
During the missionary trip, the entire United Methodist International English congregation travels to Mvululu for shared worship on Sunday. All offerings from the service remain in Mvululu. At the end of the service, a family meal is offered, not only to participants but also to the people surrounding the local church.
The Rev. Georges Okitolenga, pastor in charge of Mvululu United Methodist Church, said his church has received many new members since the Kinshasa church’s visit. Six youth and two men also are scheduled to be baptized soon, and Tiriwepi will attend.
“The construction going on thanks to the support from (United Methodist International English Church) is ranking us among the big and organized churches of the area,” he said. “This is allowing us to make a deep evangelism, doing actions with visible impact in the villages.
“Some church members are willing also to reach surrounding villages for evangelism, as a paying back of what they received from (United Methodist International English Church),” said Okitolenga, who lives in Kinshasa and travels to Mvululu each Friday through Sunday. He receives at least $100 each month to help with his transportation costs.
He said United Methodist International English Church is teaching the Mvululu congregation a valuable lesson.
“Many in this local church are foreigners and they are teaching us Congolese that we can have local partnerships and support each other,” he said. “I pray for God to bless (United Methodist International English Church) and all its members for their support to us and ask them to do also the same to other local churches.”
United Methodist International English Church already is in partnership with the “Viens et Vois” United Methodist church, located about 80 kilometers, or 50 miles, from Kinshasa. Church members visited that church with donations and money to help support work on its chapel.
Okitolenga said he is preparing his congregation to be self-sufficient so that the church may thrive in the future.
“I am teaching my church members to increase their knowledge of the word of God. Also, I am showing them that the support from United Methodist International English Church will not remain forever and that they need to count on their effort to take full charge of their local church.”
Omadjela is field project manager for United Methodist Communications serving in the Congo Central Conference.
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