Reflections on the CEUM Anniversary

“Wow,” I thought as the pastors kept on marching on and on in front of us, “How long is this going to last? How many of 1,150 pastors came and are in the parade?” The parade was the big event on Monday afternoon of the 75th Anniversary of the partnership between the CEUM (the Congo Covenant Church) and the Covenant.

Sometimes it seems like everything in the CEUM is super-sized and many aspects of the anniversary celebration were super-sized indeed. We had long services (6 hours 20 min for the opening service and 8 hours 3 min for the closing service), lots of people (8,754 attended the opening), dining areas that served several thousand people every meal and a long parade with people representing every aspect of the CEUM’s ministries marching past the reviewing stand.

And what were we there to celebrate? That our God is super-sized; in fact He is more than that. And, that God has done a super-sized work in Congo. The CEUM knows how to celebrate and how to give credit where credit is due: to God for His faithfulness and for His work in their midst. Repeatedly throughout the anniversary the CEUM was saying this is what God has done. “Look over here; look over there. See what God has done and celebrate.” They were giving voice to what God has done, repeatedly acknowledging that He is the source, He is their provider in all areas of life. I am only slowly learning how to celebrate and how to acknowledge what God has done in every area of life. The CEUM does this well all the time.

Here are more details. August 12-15 was the 75th anniversary celebration of the arrival of the first Covenant missionaries in the Ubangi-Mongala, the area in the far NW part of DR Congo. 24 foreign guests and many government and national Protestant church guests from Kinshasa and Mbandaka arrived on Saturday, August 11. Monday and Tuesday were devoted to preaching and seminars around the anniversary theme: “Bring the sheep into the Lord’s sheepfold.” The Ngbaka, Mongbandi and Pygmy ethnic groups each gave a cultural presentation of what they were like before the arrival of the missionaries and how their lives were transformed by the Gospel. Monday afternoon was the parade with people representing every department marching and dancing. Some carried tools of their ministry:
a Bible, computer, fish, hoe and machette, blood pressure cuff, stethoscope or other medical items, carpentry tools, a dentist with a set of teeth and butchers with the cows head!
Tuesday afternoon the international guests visited the cemetery where Paul Carlson and other missionaries are buried. During the Wednesday closing service the CEUM gave certificates of recognition for years of service to CEUM ministries to 135 people. It was moving to see these many devoted servants of the Gospel standing before the assembly.

So how do I feel observing the anniversary after over 30 years in Congo? Grateful and at times overwhelmed. Grateful for what God has done, for the Church He has built. Grateful to have been blessed to be a part of what God is doing in this part of Congo. Grateful that God may have used our small contributions. Grateful for God’s grace granted to us by the Congolese who have accepted us with open arms. Grateful for what I am learning from the Congolese about celebrating and seeing God’s hand in all of life. At times I am also overwhelmed as I think of the future and the huge challenges facing the CEUM. Yes, the church has grown large and is strong in many areas, but the gradual degradation of the regions’ physical and economic infrastructure creates difficult challenges that can be overwhelming. Here again though I am grateful, for the CEUM and its leaders who are not deterred, who are not discouraged. They deeply grasp that their God is more than super-sized and thus will enable them with all that they need for the work ahead of them. Lord, help me keep learning from my Congolese brothers and sisters.

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