The Kisangani district has 100 local churches. Four churches are “durable” with roofs, walls and floors; three churches are semi-durable with roofs; and the rest are made from leaves and sticks woven together using the trees and foliage surrounding them.
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Hosanna United Methodist Church has a passionate pastor, enthusiastic members and big plans for the future — even though the church has no walls, floors or roof.
Set in a grassy field in the village of Matete, Hosanna is one of 93 “leaves and sticks” churches in the Kisangani district.
The large district is divided into two areas. The Rev. Litalema Bogega is superintendent of Kisangani 1 and the Rev. Omole Owandjakoy is superintendent of Kisangani 2.
Sitting outside in plastic chairs one evening at Nyota-Makiso United Methodist Church, most of the pastors from both districts gathered to share their stories with visitors from United Methodist Communications.
Buildings are always an issue.
The Rev. Paul Lokolonga, pastor of the church named after him, is paying for the 1,500 bricks needed to repair the mud and thatch school behind the church. The bricks are being made from the mud onsite.
The district has 100 local churches. Four churches are “durable” with roofs, walls and floors; three churches are semi-durable with roofs; and the rest are made from leaves and sticks woven together using the trees and foliage surrounding them.
Transportation is always an obstacle, and the Kisangani districts have only one working motorcycle to share among the district superintendents. A dusty motorcycle that sits in a corner of the office the superintendents share hasn’t worked for 20 years.
The roads are bad and it is difficult to communicate with all the churches.
“The district has many challenges,” Bogega said.
Evangelism is not one.
The Rev. Ndjovu Shakro, pastor of Hosanna United Methodist Church, has 40 members in his church, which was started two years ago. Every week the pastor and members of the church go out into the community to invite people to their church and tell them about Jesus Christ.
“We have many projects, we want to build a durable church, a school, a hospital and a pastor’s home,” he said, adding: “We have no money.”
“There was no United Methodist church in this quarter before we came. Many people come here to pray, not just United Methodists,” he said. He also pointed out there are more children than adults that attend the church.
The president of the youth, Luka Pata Esaie, 14, said he loves to hear the preaching. He has started a soccer team to bring other young people into the church.
Voices of the youth
Everywhere you travel, there are seas of young people and children. Running, laughing, singing — full of life and joy.
Many of the choirs in the local churches feature the voices of their young people. Distinct matching choir robes set the groups apart — pale pink, bright blue, vivid green. Some dress in white shirts and black pants and shirts. They are all exceptional and they all respect and support each other.
Judith Osongo, Emile Okudi and Jean Alimasi arranged a musical soiree one evening at Mangobo United Methodist Church featuring several choirs.
The lack of musical instruments just makes them creative. Instruments can be plastic bottles or tin cans filled with stones or other ingenious creations. In the hot, open-air Mangobo church, the well-used soundboard is a jungle of cords with a small fan upside down whirling on top to keep it from overheating.
Pascal Mombi Opana, vice governor of Orientale Province, said The United Methodist Church is well represented in government.
“Kisangani has seen many wars, we were known as murder town,” he said. But the church and state are partners and now Kisangani is secure.
“I am very happy with the church, the church helps us,” Opana said. The church has schools and hospitals.
“The government cannot do without the church.”
Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]umcom.org .