Friday, December 9, 2022

From Tanzania to Zambia to Congo...NOV/DEC. 2022

 It's been a few weeks since my last post. That's due to a very busy schedule of travel, teaching, lesson prep, and meetings. My last blog post was just before I departed from Tanzania on November 24th. Since then, I have traveled from Arusha, Tanzania to Lusaka, Zambia (via Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, and Harare) and then to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

When I arrived in Lusaka, I was met at the airport by Pastor Ibrahim in the late afternoon. After we discussed our schedule for the next few days, I made my way to one of my favorite hostels and slept. Having missed a night of sleep while flying from Tanzania to Zambia, I slept hard until rising early the next morning for our seven-hour bus ride to Kitwe. We arrived mid-afternoon and were met at the bus stand by Pastor Yumba (who leads the CCLC in the DRC but also works with a few pastors over the border in Zambia). We had some lunch and discussed the schedule for the next few days of teaching and meetings. We would be working with pastors and leaders of the Zambia-CLC congregations and preaching stations in this northern part of Zambia called the Copper Belt

Pastors and Leaders and Sunday School Teachers of the ZCLC Copper Belt Distric
The next three days would be spent teaching an impromptu seminar on what Lutherans and the Bible Teach. I had thought that I would be teaching a pastoral training seminar, but somewhere between the planning emails that had been exchanged a couple of months earlier and my arrival, the Lord opened a new opportunity in the Kitwe area. This opportunity to teach the truth of God's saving word came in the form of seven congregations that are led by one man and several evangelists. The pastor in charge of this effort recently became acquainted with Pastor Manza, one of the ZCLC pastors in the area. The two of them began discussing the ministry and the work of the ZCLC to train more pastors. This led the leader of the seven congregations and preaching station to ask about the possibility of training for him and the men who were assisting him in the ministry. The pastor in charge of this effort told me that he received a certificate that he paid for from an online theology school in the U.S. but he said he didn't really receive any training. When Pastor Yumba showed up a few days before my arrival to meet with the ZCLC pastors to organize our schedule, they asked if a special seminar could be conducted to explain the teachings of the Lutheran church to this group. Of course, Pastor Yumba agreed. When I arrived, the plans were all set, and I had one evening to begin preparations for the seminar. The Lord blessed the two-day seminar with these seven men, along with several members of the congregations. Plans are underway to begin a regular schedule of training classes for these congregations conducted by the three ZCLC pastors in the area. Pastor Ibrahim is also making plans to schedule a one-week training seminar to be held in Lusaka in March for all the pastors of the ZCLC along with several of the new contacts from the Kitwe area. Praise the Lord for unexpected opportunities to preach and teach the truth of His Saving Word!

Pastors, Evangelists, and Members at the "What the Bible and Lutherans Teach" Seminar in Kitwe

On Monday, November 28th, we headed to the Zambia/D.R. Congo (DRC) border town of Kasumbalesa to make our way to Lubumbashi, DRC. Crossing land borders in Africa is never a fun experience, but this border in particular is something else. I have crossed this border before, but it's been about nine years ago, and I had forgotten just how crazy it is. 

From the time we got out of the mini-bus that we had taken from Kitwe to the border, to the time we actually crossed into the DRC was over three hours. That's three hours of, what seems to be, total and complete chaos and frustration. I must have had my passport checked and scrutinized no less than twelve times. My luggage and backpack and all my pockets were looked through at least six times. They even opened my medicine bottles at one checkpoint and spilled half of them on the ground. And then there were more hands than I can count, being held out expecting "a little something" for their efforts. 

I struggle to find the words to even begin to describe the chaos of this place. Semi-trucks were backed up for miles, literally miles, waiting to be inspected on both sides of the border. The closer you get to the border crossing point, the more chaotic it gets. There are small cars and vans loaded to the sky with all kinds of products that are all trying to maneuver their way to the front of the line. And little shops and people are trying to sell just about anything you can imagine to everyone in the vehicles that are at a standstill in the traffic. And young boys running alongside the vehicle asking if they can carry our bags.  On top of all of that, it had rained heavily that day and everything was covered in mud. Our mini-bus driver tried to drop us off about a kilometer before the drop-off point by the border because he didn't want to sit in traffic. But Pastor Yumba convinced him that we had paid to get to the border, and we were not going to walk through all the puddles and mud with our luggage. It took some rather firm words and raised voices to get it resolved, but the driver took us all the way. Once we were stopped and began to get out, the real chaos began as probably ten to fifteen young men and boys began jostling themselves to get close to us to try to "help" us with our luggage. There was no other option than to physically push them away and I even slapped the hand of one guy who was trying to take my backpack away from me as I was putting it on my back. It was chaos, but we made it and it didn't require one "special gift" for any of the border police on either side of the border. The Lord is good!

Mini-Bus like the one we road from Kitwe to Kasumbalesa

My view from the Mini-Bus as we approached the border...still 5 kilometers from the border

Photo Credit: ZNBC article describing the trouble truckers face at the border.

Once we actually arrived in the DRC (after all the immigration checkpoints) it was smooth sailing. Pastor Yumba's brother is a DRC Army Major. He came to meet us at the border, in uniform, and there were no questions asked, just salutes, as we drove through all the customs and immigration checkpoints to get onto the highway. 

We made it to Lubumbashi late that night only to find out that the hotel room they had booked for me had been given to someone else because of our late arrival. So, the hotel arranged for a room at a much nicer hotel at the same price. It was a very nice hotel. I was really wishing I could have stayed there for a couple of days just to rest. But that wasn't on the schedule. We were up early the next day to catch a bus to Kolwezi where the CCLC of the DRC has a preaching station. 

Kolwezi is a fairly large and well-developed city that is about an eight-hour bus ride from Lubumbashi. It seems to be rather prosperous, which is because it sits in the middle of several copper and cobalt mines, most owned or at least controlled by the Chinese. When you drive through the town you see almost as many businesses labeled with Chinese characters and names as you do in French.

The work in Kolwezi involved a two-day seminar with the lay leader and members of the CCLC preaching station and a worship service on Sunday. The seminar went from 9:00 am until 4:30 pm each day. It was a wonderful two days spent in God's word as we worked our way through a study titled Twelve Priorities for Every Christian Congregation that focuses on making faithful use of God's word in every aspect of the ministry we are privileged to conduct in the name of Jesus. We studied God's word as we considered the privilege of preaching and hearing God's word, administering and receiving the sacraments of the Lord's Supper and Baptism, visiting the sick, praying for one another, applying God's Law and Gospel in the many and varied situations and circumstances that both those who are strong and those who may be weak in the faith struggle with, and working together to spread the Good News of Jesus. This preaching station was started a few years ago when Pastor Yumba's sister (who lives in Kolwezi and is married to a schoolteacher) asked him to come start a congregation there where they could worship and hear the truth of God's word. The Covid pandemic kept them from getting much of a start, but it didn't lessen their desire. So, Yumba and the CCLC pastor from Likasi (about two hours away) have been making periodic visits. When plans were taking shape for my visit to the DRC, Pastor Yumba sent word to plan some outreach while I was there. They invited friends and family to attend the two-day seminar. We met in the home of Yumba's sister. It was packed. I counted forty in attendance on both days! There were almost that many there for the worship service on Sunday. It was a wonderful group that demonstrated a sincere desire to hear and learn the truth of God's word. They are looking for a place to rent for worship in the not-to-distant future. And they hope to send a student to the CCLC seminary in Ntondo next year to train to be their pastor. In the meantime, Yumba's brother-in-law serves as the lay leader of the preaching station and receives materials from Yumba and the pastor in Likasi for worship services and Bible study. 

Praise the Lord for this opportunity and for the zeal He has worked in the hearts of this fledgling flock in Kolwezi, DRC.

Kolwezi town center round-about with a monument to their mining heritage

Members of the CCLC Kolwezi Preaching Station

Kolwezi monument to honor the mining heritage and the miners
After a long day on Sunday of worship and Bible study, we had a good night of sleep and headed to the bus stand to catch a bus back to Lubumbashi early the next morning. We needed an early bus because a four-day training seminar was scheduled to begin at 9:00 am the next day on Tuesday morning. 

After a few hours of sleep, we headed out to the CCLC Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute for the first of four days of classes. The Bible institute is located in Ntondo which is about a 2-hour drive from Lubumbashi. There is nowhere to stay in the little town of Ntondo, so I stayed in Lubumbashi and drove out every day. Which means about four hours in the car every day on roads that are mostly rough dirt roads that are pretty slow going. Google maps tells me that it's only 33 kilometers but because of the traffic getting out of Lubumbashi and the rough roads to the property, it took us almost 2 hours each day. Yumba likes this location because it is quiet and there are no distractions for the students. 
Approximate location of the CCLC Holy Trinity Bible Institute...from Google Earth Screenshot.
The land donated to the CCLC is approx. 9 acres within the yellow square.

The Bible Institute sits on a piece of land that Pastor Yumba is working with the government to develop. About nine acres of the land have been donated and legally titled in the name of the CCLC as part of the development plan for this property. 

Pastor Yumba owns the remaining acreage and plans to develop it into a farm for the community. Pastor Yumba has been involved with several government-sponsored community development projects. He and the non-profit organization that he runs has a good reputation and respect of the government. The Lord has blessed him with many gifts that he is using in a variety of ways to serve the Lord. The nine acres that the Bible Institute sits on are already being used and developed as farmland. The students are required to spend time working in fields to raise food for the seminary and also to sell to provide financial support for their studies. Yumba is also training them in other secular occupations so that they can support themselves in the ministry when they graduate and are ordained. 
Holy Trinity Bible Institute...under construction

It's getting late and we leave early tomorrow morning for Kasumbalesa so we can get there early enough to get the Bible seminary started by 9:30 am. It's about a two-hour drive, so that means an early departure. 
Holy Trinity Bible Institute Building...under construction

Students in class at the Holy Trinity Bible Institute

As the Lord wills, I should be home in a little over a week, with a few days to spare before Christmas. Thanks for reading and for your prayers and support!