Promoting peace is critical in the Eastern Congo Episcopal Area, a region still plagued by armed conflict, and Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda believes clergywomen play a key role in coaching the faithful in communities recovering from war.
“Pastors must be well-equipped to assist members who have trauma to bring them to Jesus Christ,” Unda said.
Recently, clergywomen from the East Congo, Oriental and Equator, and Kivu annual conferences gathered for training with emphasis on evangelism and leadership strategies.
“The training you just finished today is a working tool for you,” the bishop said. “You are the pastor of a local church. You are facing this challenge on the trauma of war and conflict in your faithful.”
Unda expressed hope that the training would “strengthen the pastor woman based on evangelistic strategies in conflict settings, local church development and leadership.”
The training was done with support from the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
“The conference training center throughout our episcopal region has received more than 62 students and 24 women pastors during this ecclesiastical year,” noted the Rev. Elunga Utuka, pastoral training center director. “This year, we had special follow-up trainings,” he added.
The training center, noted the Rev. Mulamba Floribert, routinely receives pastors who, although they have never attended theological school, are serving local churches.
The Rev. Ezekiel Mate, Beni District superintendent, said he was happy to share his experience and knowledge with the clergywomen.
During the June session of the Kivu Conference, he said, “I developed the module that talks about the pastor woman in a conflict setting and their involvement in the development of the local church. I talked to women about the origins of conflict, how to deal with conflict trauma and practical advice for women's participation in church development.”
The Rev. Godelive Wakubenga, who serves a Kivu Conference congregation, expressed gratitude for the training. “As a woman, I was traumatized by my culture. I exercised my ministry with too many reservations because of my culture.”
Now, she said, “I have another vision and way of working (with) and assisting the people of God traumatized by the horrors of war.”
The Rev. Augustine Ongemba, pastor of Mwinda United Methodist Church in the Oriental and Equator Conference, said, “This training leads us to reflect together on the strategies of work as a woman.”
“The notions learned during this session,” remarked the Rev. Hélène Kombe, “will allow me to reframe my way of providing advice to the traumatized faithful.” She serves Bethlehem Francophone United Methodist Church in the East Congo Conference.
Osongo Yanga is the director of communications for the Eastern Congo Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church.