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DRC

In The News: Democratic Republic of Congo

What does "community" mean when "home" is ever-changing? In the Democratic Republic of Congo, almost three million people are refugees, internally or externally displaced due to war. One of them is Denis, our Country Director, who was forced to flee to Goma in 1994. Twenty years later, people are still fleeing violence. Just this month, 10,000 people led to the opening of a new camp for DRC refugees in Rwanda. And some 60,000 residents of a country most of us have never heard of until recently - the Central African Republic - have fled to places in the Congo that were themselves overrun by violence just a few short years ago.

Displacement brings challenges. It is always abrupt and involuntary. "Home" becomes a memory. "Community" becomes uncontrollable and uncomfortable - even life-shattering. Parents worry about their child's education. Pastors work to foster order and peace. Families try to create an environment that will do as a home for now while dreaming of a home for the future.

Here is where community matters most.

Early in his career, Country Director Denis Hangi was sent to a village and a church that were "falling apart." From this "failing" core grew 15 churches, a farm that funded housing for each family, a coffee company to support the church, and cows, goats, and sheep to provide pay for the pastors. 

In this village that was "falling apart," "community" was found in a life-giving, vision-sharing, Gospel-centered local church. The church was at the center; it was the common ground that gave life to the community.

As we work with Denis, his pastors, students, and communities to build Common Grounds with Congo, we invite you to help create community for a country of people robbed of home - the 10,000 people moving into the new refugee camp, the 60,000+ pouring into DRC from CAR, and thousands more.

So, what does "community" mean when "home" seems lost? It means everything.

Find your Common Ground: You can read more about the new refugee camp here; about life as a refugee in DRC here; and about Common Grounds with Congo here. To be a part of Common Grounds with Congo, please email johnw@africanleadershipinc.org.

Common Focus: Democratic Republic of Congo

Get to Know: Denis Hangi, Country Director

Denis began pastoring in the village of Bambo in 1977 before attending Bible college in Kenya. While in school, he mentored an underclassman named Mezack Nkundabantu, who would later become African Leadership’s Rwanda & Burundi Country Director. After graduating in 1985, Denis was sent to rebuild a church in a local village that was falling apart. The church grew and became a mission church, creating 15 new churches under Denis’ leadership.

The war forced Denis and his family to flee to Goma in 1994. Here, seeing fellow refugees having to live in a school building, Denis was overcome with compassion and began a church in Goma. In 2002, Mezack recruited Denis to African Leadership, and three years later Denis was confirmed as the DRC’s Country Director.

In his time with African Leadership, Denis has graduated 1,214 pastors and currently oversees 20 classes with a total of 487 students. He is known for his dedication to reconciliation and trauma-healing outreach. He has helped rebuild homes of his pastors in war-torn areas and has had graduates go on to minister to other countries or start churches of their own in struggling villages. “The war has provoked tribalism hatred, but only God’s Word can heal,” he says.

Today, Denis lives in Goma with his wife and ten children. He is both African Leadership’s Country Director and a senior pastor at his church as he lives out “his work to build the capacity of God’s people."

To follow stories of Denis' ministry in the DRC, read more here.

Common Ground: Democratic Republic of Congo

A Note from the President

Four years ago, on my first trip to DRCongo, we traveled to a remote town in the far northeast, close to the border with Central African Republic (CAR) and what was then Sudan. At that time, the town of Dungu's population had swelled with people escaping the murder and mayhem caused by Joseph Kony's LRA militia. Staying overnight wasn't possible. Though the church leaders we met and ate and prayed with were overjoyed to know someone from outside cared, they insisted we leave before nightfall.

Earlier this month, I returned to the same place. Four years later, peace seems possible. The widows and orphans and church members who didn't have enough to eat made sure that they planted some of what we sent to eat. Today, they have three 20 acre farm plots. They are feeding themselves and their neighbors too. Did I mention they also started several churches? Once displaced, this group of women who had nothing are now the core of a new community.

The eastern part of Congo still smolders in a 20-year old war. And through much of this troubled region, Denis Hangi nurtures his teachers and students, leaving behind men and women of the Bible who speak truth and love into towns and villages. Truth and love are needed here - many homes in the town of Kitchanga were burned in a firefight. Some of our teachers lost their homes and lives of church members. These words from the Psalms mean more to me after each visit to Congo: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1 NIV)

Common Grounds with Congo will begin in 2014. Let me know if you'd like to be part of helping us teach truth so love spills out into the streets and towns of the region.

Home Sweet Home!

As Country Director in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Denis Hangi is responsible for ensuring teachers are teaching effectively, students are receiving the highest quality of education, and classes are supplied with the appropriate curriculum materials and Bibles. Responsibilities he must carry out in a war-ravaged region, home to violent outbreaks and grinding poverty. After a devastating rebel attack left the city of Kitchanga in ruins, Denis quickly found his way to our local teacher, Pastor Bulenda Placide. It turns out there is no pastor-training chapter on what to do in the event of a town being caught in the crosshairs of war. There is no “how-to” on handling homes burned to the ground. There is no “how-to” on how to counsel families torn apart.

Pastor Bulenda, a graduate of our two-year program, and Denis, a leader in that program, both see through the lens of the Bible – trust in the Lord, gratitude for His gifts large and small, faithfulness amidst chaos. Leadership in this situation looked like picking up the pieces and restoring the community that is home to several of our students.

The community voted to rebuild the teacher’s home. They raised some funds locally and asked African Leadership USA to help. We agreed, and Bulenda’s house was built.

Says Pastor Bulenda, “though you are not seeing me, the tears of joy are flowing in my eyes for this miracle God has done to me. What I feel in my heart and mind is to be convicted that we can miss parents, brothers, relatives, but GOD will still be our father who takes care of us. In seven months of troubles God provided to me food, clothes, now I have my own house.”

This is what we mean when we refer to our core teaching program as “Applied Education.” This is learning that moves beyond the classroom, learning that can be applied or related to any circumstance, learning that stems from a heart not only opened by theological education, but transformed by the Holy Spirit.

The effect of such education stretches far beyond Denis and Bulenda. It is present across the continent: Mr. Chete and Mr. Chirwa serving orphans at a school in Malawi, Pastor Abebe embracing his role in the community by supporting children being raised by single mothers in Ethiopia. The transformative process is alive and at work in all of these cases and in all of these leaders – leaders who matter in the hard places. 

The Other Peace Talks

UPDATE: This round of peace talks concluded at the end of September with mixed reviews. Comments from M23 and the Ugandan mediator seemed favorable, but towards the end of the month attacks broke out and the same old blame game ensued. But we were blessed to hear from Denis, the DRC Country Director, on October 1 with much more positive news. He just held a graduation ceremony for pastors completing their training in the South Kivu province. Said one of the graduates, "We discovered many things especially our old mistakes done by ignorance and to know how to defend our doctrine as we are surrounded by many religions: Muslims, Bahai, Kibangu, Jehovah Witness and so on."

They had a guest at the celebration, too — the Archbishop Mastajabu. His words encouraged the graduates: "To train one pastor is more important than 100 believers of a church having a pastor not trained and this is the problem we are facing nowadays." He sent this picture of the ceremony.

 

Africa in the News: Democratic Republic of Congo

Just as the debate about intervention in Syria hinges on the effectiveness of agreements made in peace talks between the United States and Russia, the stability of the Democratic Republic of Congo similarly hinges on the effectiveness of a new round of peace talks between DRC government leaders and M23 rebels.

The Big Picture The DRC has been in varying stages of war since 1996 and has seen an estimated 5.4 million people killed. In April 2012, the situation was further complicated by government forces clashing with a group called M23, a reference to a March 23 agreement that rebels feel has been unfairly disregarded by the government. A mainly Tutsi group (you may recall the Tutsi are the ethnic group that was largely targeted in the Rwandan genocide of 1994), M23's uprising has left hundreds of thousands of Congolese displaced and created communities full of refugees that have witnessed unthinkable crimes.

From Our View The city of Kitchanga knows this story all too well. Fighting here left 200 dead and 570 houses destroyed earlier this year. The city is home to some of African Leadership's Applied Education students, and their teacher, Bulenda Placide, lost his home in the conflict. Country Director Denis Hangi, with the backing of African Leadership, helped Pastor Bulenda rebuild his home, but the larger picture, Denis stressed, is that tribal hatred is resurfacing as a consequence of the ongoing violence.

The outcome of this new round of talks could have a significant effect on our students and teachers across the country. Leading up to September 10, the first day of the peace talks, President Kabila threatened to continue fighting if a deal wasn't made, and rebels staged several attacks in eastern DRC. Please join us in prayer for a successful mediation, a peaceful ceasefire, and true healing for the entire country; the coming days will be very important to the future of peace for Kitchanga and the DRC as a whole.

If the Democratic Republic of Congo is a hard place in which you'd like to serve, African Leadership is currently looking to fund trauma-healing training at the request of Denis for pastors like Bulenda and others in similar situations across the DRC. You can donate to those efforts here.