New church blazes trail to boost attendance

United Methodists built the denomination’s first church in the Kalima District, but many still couldn’t attend worship during the rainy season because the downpours would flood two fishponds and block access.

So the congregation contributed money to build a new road to the church.

Kalima United Methodist Church, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the city of Kindu, is the denomination’s first congregation in the area since Methodism arrived in East Congo in 1922.

The church, built with contributions from the Rev. Randy Cooper and others in the Memphis Conference, hosted Bishop Gabriel Unda last year. Unda said the partnership between the Memphis Conference and the East Congo Episcopal Area builds one church a year.

Bishop Gabriel Unda (right) greets Chief Kalema, the chief of Kalima village, as Chief Tunda, a member of the bishop's office, watches. The church, built with contributions from the Rev. Randy Cooper and others in the Memphis Conference, hosted the bishop last year. Photo by Judith Yanga, UMNS

Bishop Gabriel Unda (right) greets Chief Kalema, the chief of Kalima village, as Chief Tunda, a member of the bishop's office, watches. The church, built with contributions from the Rev. Randy Cooper and others in the Memphis Conference, hosted the bishop last year. Photo by Judith Yanga, UMNS.

Unda brought gifts from Cooper for construction of churches across eastern Congo, money for scholarships for poor students and a contribution by the episcopal office to purchase a piece of land for the new church.

Over the years, Cooper and others in the Memphis Conference have supported construction of a number of local United Methodist churches, including the Samba United Methodist Church, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Kindu, and the Fizi United Methodist Church in Baraka, to name a few.

The chief of the village of Kalima promised to assist United Methodists, saying he was honored by the bishop’s visit and the construction of the United Methodist church. “I am truly honored by the gesture of Mr. Randy at my house and I promise to assist the United Methodist Church in my chiefdom,” Chief Kalema said.

The Rev. Ngumbi Kansilembo, a United Methodist pastor in Kalima, will be the pastor of the new church.

“I have been a pastor of The United Methodist Church in the Kalima District for more than 15 years,” Kansilembo said. “I have moved from local church to local church, but the generosity of the Rev. Randy Cooper gives me a renewed courage in my ministry as pastor of United Methodist Church. I am very happy, and I say once again ‘Thank you so much.’”

Ilunga Lokombe said that he was blind from birth and doesn’t know the appearance of a house or church.

“Here today, a youth from my choir makes me touch two walls here in Kalima — the wall of a building built with ordinary mud and the wall of a church, a house of durable materials, to explain this difference,” Lokombe said. “I glorify the Lord because I will be among people who will come to embellish the dedication ceremony of our local church after construction, with songs of glory and praise to our God.”

Chantal Mumbeku, president of the Kalima United Methodist Women, said she had lived in Kalima since she was born and was “happy that God spared my life to witness this breathtaking event.”

Mumbeku, local president of the church and a member of the Protestant Women’s Federation, said she was often ashamed when women from churches in other communities chose her church for the Protestant Women's monthly assembly.

She said those meetings often had to be postponed because of the state of the church and the road during rains.

“Today, with the support of Rev. Randy, we will not only have a church building but also a road that would make our church accessible to many,” she said.

Yanga is the director of communication for the East Congo Episcopal Area.

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

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