Special Weekend Marks 125th Anniversary of Congo Mission

Post a Comment » Written on April 10th, 2007     
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MATADI, CONGO (April 10, 2007) – The introduction of the gospel message in 1881 and the subsequent growth of the mission outreach in the Democratic Republic of Congo was celebrated during a special 125th anniversary celebration that included a host of dignitaries representing various church and mission organizations and the Swedish ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The mission outreach began when C.J. Engvall first arrived in Congo, sent by the Svenska Missionskyrkan (SMK) – the Mission Covenant Church of Sweden (formerly known as Svenska Missionsförbundet) – notes Pete Ekstrand, Africa regional coordinator for the Department of World Mission of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Engvall’s arrival occurred just three years after the founding of the Mission Covenant Church of Sweden.

CommunionEngvall was followed by Nils Westlind and K.J. Pettersson and others who established the first Swedish mission station at Mukimbungu. That early work eventually led to the establishment of a church in Congo – the Communaute Evangelique du Congo (CEC), more commonly referred to as the Evangelical Community of Congo.

The CEC today numbers around 56,000 members with 87 parishes and sub-parishes. SMK is involved in cooperative mission efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Japan, China, India, Pakistan, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Russia, and Estonia.  The SMK also partners with churches in Middle East and Europe.

“This anniversary celebration was not the celebration of just the CEC or the SMK,” Ekstrand says. “It celebrated the beginnings of the SMK mission work that resulted in the planting of the CEC in Congo.”

The three-day celebration in mid-January began with an opening worship service on a Friday afternoon in Matadi, which is located in the lower Congo region. A second service on Saturday morning was followed by communion, and in the afternoon a delegation placed a commemorative wreath at a local cemetery where six Swedish missionaries and one infant are buried alongside the Congo River.

GravesideSaturday evening’s service featured a sharing of testimonies along with a dramatic presentation highlighting local culture and beliefs, as well as the arrival of the first missionaries in 1881 and the introduction of the gospel message.

“Sunday was the big celebration service,” Ekstrand reports. Activities included numerous choirs, preaching by SMK President Goran Zettergren, and the presentation of gifts and letters of congratulations from sister churches around the world (including one from the United States) – the letters encouraged the SMK and CEC to continue their mission initiatives. To see additional photos of the weekend event, please visit Mission Celebration.

Ministry organizations participating in the celebration and the individuals representing them included:

•    SMK: Zettergren, president; Bertil Svensson, mission director; Peter Warnelid, regional secretary for Africa; Ola Bojestig, district superintendent; and Lennart Renofelt, district superintendent.
•    A friendship congregation: Ann-Louise Gustafsson, teacher; Inga-Maj H. Gustafson, retired missionary; pastor Lars Netz; and Samuel Ohlin, youth leader.
•    Missionaries and volunteers: Asa, Kimy and Nicole Konde, Kinshasa; Maria Lorentzson, Brazzaville; and Johan Thorlow, Brazzaville.
•    Swedish Government: Swedish Ambassador Magnus Wernstedt, and his wife, Gertrud; and Swedish Embassy Development Officer Magnus Carlqvist.
•    CEC: President Fidele Muanda Mikiama; Marcel Diafwanakana, vice president; Edi Diantete; Joseph Nsumbu Mpezo Nsakala, CEC missionary to the SMK; and several local CEC pastors, superintendents, leaders and members.
•    Covenant Church of Congo (CEUM): President Mossai Sanguma.
•    Evangelical Covenant Church (U.S.): Ekstrand, regional coordinator for Africa.
•    Eglise Evangelique du Congo (EEC):  President Patrice Nsouami – the Evangelical Church of Congo Brazzaville is the church planted by the SMK in 1909.
•    Hindustani Covenant Church in India:  Moderator Steven David and Philip Nadvi.
•    Communaute Evangelique Baptiste Unie – the United Evangelical Baptist Community (CEBU): President Paul Mabuna – this church was planted by Swedish Baptist missionaries in the late part of the 19th century.

A number of individuals spoke during the three-day event. Following is a selection of comments from various dignitaries.

CEUM President Mossai Sanguma

The CEC and the CEUM have one sole missionary source – Sweden. I take this solemn occasion to issue a challenge to all of us. It is a time for the evangelical churches in Africa to form an evangelical association to solidify the common historical and ecclesiastical traits that have united us for a long time. Such an association would allow us to re-energize our relationship in all areas and bring forth a model missionary strategy for Africa.

SMK President Goran Zettergren

For the older people in our church, missions and Congo are synonymous. Congo is in our hearts. We used to have many more missionaries in Congo than we have today, and when they left Congo, they traveled to the churches in Sweden and spoke about GroupCongo. The challenge we have in our church about mission is to see that the young people get motivated for mission. We see a lot of young people that travel a lot today. They have a great interest in international questions, but how do we communicate to them the need for (involvement in) mission? How do we get them committed to mission? For me, this is very important. One of the most important issues for me is prayer, praying for one another. If you look at the church in Congo, they have learned to trust in the Lord in many ways as they do not have many material things like we have. In Sweden we have many more material things, such that the basic needs of life are cared for. And in this, we don’t have to trust the Lord for these as the Congolese do. I think that the church in Congo is focused on sharing the gospel. We need to hear this and we need to refocus on this ourselves. People coming to our churches in Sweden in more recent years have come because they want to hear about Jesus, they want the Gospel.  We need to catch the spirit and fever of the Congolese.

SMK Mission Director Bertil Svensson

It is more than a simple celebration. This celebration is also important because it is a way of expressing our common roots and our common history. And we also take advantage of the occasion to see in which way we can work better for both churches, whether here or in Sweden. We want to reinforce our interdependence and find practical ways to work together. The sad thing we have realized with Congo is that many Western churches that started work in Congo have left. I think there are many historical reasons to remain together, both for the Congolese and for Sweden. There are huge challenges in the country and therefore we should not abandon our sisters and brothers. The jubilee is a good opportunity to discuss the ways we can help for the future, both here in Congo and in Sweden. So here in Congo, we will have follow-up discussions on this to reinforce the evangelism and development work of the church. Different things will be taken up in Sweden in the months until the summer. We will hold seminars and dialogues with the Swedish churches on the situation in Sweden and in Congo and will discuss future possibilities.

ECC Regional Coordinator Pete Ekstrand

I believe the opportunity for me to attend the anniversary along with CEUM President Sanguma will be significant for the Covenant’s mission work in Congo and elsewhere in Africa. We are now connected to the leaders of our sister “Covenant” churches in central Africa. Through the future sharing of their respective churches’ ministries, they will be able to learn much from each other and so strengthen their ministries. I also anticipate involving these leaders of mature African churches in some of the issues the young Covenant churches in Kenya and Sudan are facing. Enabling experienced African church leaders to teach and help other African church leaders has great potential.

Editor’s note: The top photo, taken during Saturday morning’s communion service, shows Coordinator of Education Diangitukulu Eddie and SMK Regional Coordinator Peter Warnelid serving communion elements to Nadvi Philip from the Hindustani Covenant Church in India. The lower photo, taken during the graveside commemoration, shows Bertil Svensson with the wreath, joined by (to his left) EEC President Nsouami, CEC President Fidele Muanda Mikiama, Hindustani Moderator Steven David, CEC Vice President Diafwanakana, press representative Edi Diantete, SMK President Zettergren, and Professor Diangzungu Dia Biniakunu Jose.

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