Rebuilding straw churches in eastern Congo

The United Methodist Church has embarked on the construction and rehabilitation of church buildings in the Eastern Congo Episcopal Region. So far, more than 12 churches that were made of straw have been renovated or rebuilt with stronger materials, allowing the faithful to worship without worrying about the weather.

For East Congo Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda, the recent construction is part of a larger program of rebuilding United Methodist churches in eastern Congo. "Building a church in East Congo means great evangelization to bring to Jesus Christ and save thousands of souls for Jesus Christ," he said.

The Kibombo territory is located 117 kilometers (about 72 miles) from the city of Kindu. Accessible by train and road, the area is home to two United Methodist ecclesiastical districts, including Tunda, where the first United Methodist missionaries from the United States settled in the eastern part of the country. The area today has a high concentration of United Methodists.
The Rev. Alembo Putchu, district superintendent of Kibombo, is happy to see churches made with more durable materials.
"In many churches, straw or thatch do not last long. Heavy rains could carry the leaves, bring in the waters of the torrential rains and disrupt the liturgical activities of the church," he said.

Eastern Congo has long been plagued by military conflict. Over years of insecurity, several United Methodist church buildings in the region have been destroyed.

When East Congo became an episcopal region in 2012, Unda saw the poor condition many of the churches were in. Under the motto "Let us rise and build with Christ" — inspired by Nehemiah 2:18 — he set a goal of rebuilding the churches.

"The churches we have just inaugurated are the churches we built ourselves from the help received from our friends in Memphis, Tennessee,” Unda said, noting the generosity of the Rev. Randy Cooper of Martin First United Methodist Church and his congregation who have helped fund the rebuilding efforts. 

Unda said he is very satisfied with the achievements so far. "We have built these churches together. There was local contribution; the faithful made bricks and we bought sheet metal, cement and nails.”

From the local Makonga church to the Likeri or Yanda village, the faithful are very satisfied with the construction work, said Jean-Paul Kasusula, lay leader of the Kibombo District. In all the localities where there are new buildings, the number of faithful continues to grow. 

"The faithful come more and more and we are very happy to have realized this for the advancement of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ," he said.

Kasusula reports that lay people from several local churches in many villages are mobilizing to renovate their local churches.
“We are talking to the laity of local churches that are still in flawed or bad condition to participate in the initiative by making bricks and (purchasing building materials) to renovate our places of worship. We are reassured that in a few years we will be able to have all our churches in good condition,” Kasusula said.

Unda added that the construction of these churches will continue “until the coming of Jesus Christ.”

Londe is a communicator for the East Congo Conference. 

News media contact: Vicki Brown at 615-742-5470 or [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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