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 (Manna 46: Spreading the Gospel)
Report On The Pioneering Work In Nord-Kivu, Republic of Congo
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REPORT ON THE PIONEERING WORK IN NORD-KIVU, REPUBLIC OF CONGO

(August 4-15, 2004)

YM Yang — Paris, France

I.       GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION

Goma is the provincial capital of Nord-Kivu which is in the eastern region of Congo. Close to a lake, Goma is situated at the border between Congo and Rwanda.

In January 2004, the eruption of a neighboring volcano destroyed parts of the city.

According to reports by the French Press Agency, the Region of Great Lakes is one of the areas in the world with the most upheaval. Goma is situated in this region, with neighboring Rwanda in the east, Uganda less than one hundred kilometers to the northeast, and Burundi about one hundred kilometers to the southeast.

Between 1998 and 2003, three million people died in the civil war in Congo. Another civil strife since 1993 in Burundi claimed more than 300,000 casualties. In 1994, the genocide in Rwanda also claimed 800,000 lives. Since 1986, the civil war in the northern region of Uganda claimed more than 100,000 lives and forced 1.6 million people to migrate.

Currently, the rebel forces are active in the mountainous regions between Goma and Bukavu, which is the provincial capital of Sud-Kivu about one hundred kilometers off Goma. Bukavu was occupied by the rebel forces for about a week between the end of June and beginning of July.

In this region, the Church of Jesus Christ, whose French equivalent is entitled Église de Jésus-Christ (EJC), has been active in spreading the gospel.

II.    AN INTRODUCTION OF EJC

In 1992, Banyanga, an EJC minister, and another coworker received revelations regarding the Sabbath, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, footwashing, and the observance of the Ten Commandments. Since the ministry began in 1995, the EJC has 11 churches with resident ministers and 8 places of worship without resident ministers and few sacred workers.

The EJC has about 1,800 members. (The EJC distinguishes a church from a place of worship not by membership, but by whether it has a resident minister.) We understand that, except for 4 churches reachable by highway, the remaining 15 locations are in the deep mountains or areas rampant with guerilla warfare and robbery.

During this missionary trip, no one came from the 8 places of worship that are in the “extremely dangerous zone” (a minister was killed not long before). But holy workers from 10 of the 11 remaining churches came and accepted baptism.

Resident ministers from 8 churches also attended and received baptism. One of the ministers had to go back because of the long journey home (he had to travel 2-3 day and cover more than 180 kilometers of mountainous roads by car and foot, only to arrive for the first time at Goma!) The other 7 resident ministers stayed for the seminar on August 11-13 and the second baptism took place on the 14.

Pastor Banyanga, the Chair of EJC, and Evangelist Baraka, the National Overseer, are not considered resident ministers. On a regular basis, both of them travel to all the districts and pastor every two to five months. Not long ago, when an EJC minister was killed by robbers, Banyanga was on the scene but had a narrow escape.

A.     Faith

1.        General faith:

The Bible is the basis of all beliefs; it is the only solution to their faith. During discussions, they insisted that we show them the biblical basis for our beliefs, including the name of our church! Each worker thinks independently, which resulted in constant arguments during classes.

2.        Godhead, church:

They believe in one true God and one church (EJC originally believed that she is the only church that saves). They oppose celebrating festivals that mingle the sacred with the worldly, such as Christmas.

3.        Baptism:

They baptize in the name of Jesus Christ in living water, with full immersion and face upward. They also practice excommunication.

4.        Footwashing:

They believe that those whose feet have not been washed cannot be saved. But they practice “mutual” footwashing among the disciples, not the “one-way” footwashing Jesus performed for His disciples.

5.        Holy Communion:

They partake of one unleavened bread and one jar of pure grape juice. To minimize burning while baking, some sacred workers add a little oil.

6.        Sabbath:

They believe in observing the Sabbath by grace but in stricter guidelines than our True Jesus Church. Services begin at and end at , with no breaks or lunch.

7.        Holy Spirit:

They believe that speaking in tongues is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and one cannot begin speaking in tongues immediately in a prayer.

8.        Ordination of holy workers:

Holy workers are ordained after they demonstrate the gifts of the Holy Spirit in long periods of services; through prayers and under the observations of the congregation. Most ministers and evangelists either have personal assets or are employed. They do sacred work so that they will “not be unworthy of God-given gifts.” They do not demand to be provided for by the gospel. Regular church offerings are not enough to sustain the livelihood of the ministers.

9.        Liturgy:

Hymns and praise music play a large role during services. Baraka composed every hymn, drum music, or dance we heard during our stay there. Through interpretation, I found that the lyrics consist mostly of stories told in words and phrases that retell events from Genesis to Revelation and describe the standards of spiritual living. The reason for this is because education is not prevalent in the country and not everyone can read or afford a Bible. So he turned Bible stories and spiritual teachings into hymns for the congregation to recite and remember. “Hymns” become “sermons that can be sung.” We have instructed Baraka to familiarize himself thoroughly with our doctrines and turn them into hymns that can be taught to the congregation.

10.     Marriage and dress code:

They practice monogamy of one husband and one wife. Any member who has extramarital affair is excommunicated. (So far, the only excommunication performed in the EJC was due to sexual immorality.) They believe contraception is not biblical. Consequently, families with more than five children are prevalent. Women are discouraged from wearing pants, but scarves are allowed (not for the purpose of “covering their heads,” but because they have short hair.)

B.     Organization

The EJC is a religious organization officially registered with the government. There is no concept of a “founder.” Holy workers are differentiated by their gifts: pastors, evangelists, deacons or deaconesses, apostles, prophets, and elders. Currently, we are aware that Banyanga, Baraka, and Zaire (the resident minister of Goma) are full-time workers whose living expenses come from meager tithes. “Special funds” are initiated to pay for special projects in church. Most holy workers are volunteers and are equals as members of the body before God:

·         Pastor and evangelist: responsible for preaching the gospel and church administration

·         Deacon: handle general administrative tasks

·         Elder: likened to an “advisor”

·         Prophet: a member who has the gift of prophecy

·         Apostle: To the EJC, an apostle refers exclusively to “one who i sent.” Based on the fact that the two brothers who were with Titus were called “apostles” (2 Cor ).

·         Nine holy workers form the Executive Committee, with Banyanga as Chairman.

The general feeling is that the EJC conforms to the teachings of the Bible and operates harmoniously. They are worthy of our consideration and emulation.

To discuss the truth with us, the EJC made full preparation despite shortage and cost (the US dollar is their common currency). They printed service and visitation schedules, evangelical invitations, and other publications. Other holy workers wore name tags.

They also registered this event with the provincial government and local agencies and applied for service permission. In addition, during the week of August 4-10, they had to arrange lodging for 200 people from 10 churches. (Separated by gender, the members slept in two tents that were put up in a chapel built on hard volcanic rocks that came from volcanic eruptions).

Meal preparation and lodging were no easy tasks. According to the coworkers who were in charge of food, they spent about 25 USD per day, which provided them with mostly rice, red bean and corn flour.

1.       A newly established literary ministry team

To maintain the purity of the gospel and to avoid discrepancies in oral interpretation and the resulting misconceptions, we coordinated with local workers to form a “Translation Team” before we left Goma on August 15. On the last day of our trip, the team had translated the French version of Our Basic Beliefs, published by the International Assembly of the True Jesus Church, into Swahili—one of the official languages of Congo.

Along with the French version of the By-laws needed for church registration, the team sent these translations for us to review! The next day, I made slight changes in the layout and returned the documents to them. I requested that they proof-read the translation before publication and registration with the government.

I had the chance to coordinate and share reflections with coworkers responsible for the English-speaking African areas. Everyone was surprised by how quickly the Goma team completed the translation. Thanks to the Lord’s grace. In the beginning of September, these coworkers will bring a copy of the translation to Kenya.

The French version of Fundamentals of Salvation, which is a compilation of Elder John Yang’s Essential Biblical Doctrines and Elder SY Kuo’s Questions and Answers about the Truth, have detailed introductions to, and clear explanations about, our church beliefs.

We initially hoped that the Goma team would translate the five basic doctrines and the topic on church, for a total of six chapters that span more than one hundred pages. On August 25, the team wrote and told us that the publication is substantive, and they proactively decided to start translating all twelve chapters of the book (about 250 pages) into Swahili. On September 8th, they wrote again and said they were about to complete the translation and hoped we could decide on its publication!

May the Lord show His grace and bless this literary ministry that can benefit many African countries. With these translated works, the truth will penetrate more deeply in these regions, and we will not have to worry about ambiguities resulting from inaccurate translation of sermons.

2.       Finance

According to EJC’s report on government regulations, tithes and general offerings should be used to pay for the ministers’ living allowance. We observed that their offering is insufficient to pay for the ministers’ living expenses. We figured there must be some members who help them out in secret.

Other than Banyanga, Baraka, and Zaire, other ministers have their own properties or occupation. A special offering would be established for any special church task. For instance, each church brought their special offering and food to attend this service.

During this trip, the only time we were asked for money was when we first arrived on August 5th. They asked if we could voluntarily help with some food expenses. (In retrospect, they probably wanted to buy meat for us but it was too expensive and unaffordable.) Whether in their letters in the past year or during our stay, the EJC never made any financial demands.

Before we went to Congo, we wrote and asked them, “Are you contacting us with financial expectations or purely for the truth?” They replied, “Purely for the truth!” After we met them for the first time, the first thing I asked them was, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I will give you!” (cf. Acts 3:6) On the first day, Banyanga told the congregation of 200 with a loud voice, “We do not want silver or gold. We only hope that our guests bring us the truth!” The congregation shouted, “Amen!”

At first, I doubted their motives for contacting us. I thought they do not sincerely pursue the truth, do not fear God, and only wish for financial assistance! I was really disappointed at and ashamed of myself for mistrusting them!

After staying with them for more than 10 days, we witnessed that they are better than us in their simplicity and unswerving determination. I could almost feel what Abraham felt; I thought the people here do not fear God (cf. Gen ).

3.       Service

After nearly two weeks of being together, I discovered that EJC workers possess the qualities of our early TJC workers: their great faith in God, their longing for the gospel, their ready acceptance of the truth, their ability to ask relevant questions and explain the truth more clearly, their demand on themselves, their frequent fasting prayer, their endurance of hardships, their initiative to offer first during the two services we had with them, and so much more.

III. SUMMARY OF MAJOR EVENTS BEFORE AND AFTER THE PIONEERING TRIP

A.     Before the Trip

·         Around 2002, the IA IMP forwarded emails from the EJC and we began communication with them.

·         After more than a year of communicating through email, we decided in May, 2004 to visit the EJC in Goma, Congo. With the help of the EJC, we planned our work and itineraries. We repeatedly declared, “I have neither silver nor gold, but only the truth.”

·         At the end of June, while working in Benin, Africa, we learned that Bukavu, which is over 100 kilometers from Goma, had been occupied by rebel forces. The border between Rwanda and Goma was closed for a week.

·         On July 16, volcano Nyamulagira, which is 40 kilometers from Goma, erupted, causing panic among residents.

·         On July 20, residents in Goma heard rumors of war and began to evacuate from the city.

·         On July 21, the EJC wrote about the turmoil in the city of Goma, but hoped that the meeting plan would not change. We responded that if we could not enter Goma, the EJC could send representatives to meet us at Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, to discuss the truth.

·         On July 29 (Thursday), Bro. Gin-Jia Zhang and I

·         departed from Paris, France to transit at Johannesburg,

·         South Africa. We had services and visited members until August 3.

·         Bro. Gin-Jia had been seriously ill for several days and I myself was burdened with ailments as well. Miraculously, both of us were healed that night!

B.     The Beginning of the Journey

·         On August 4 (Wednesday), 2004, at , we arrived at Kigali. Banyanga, the Chair of the EJC, Baraka, the National Overseer, and Elder Blaise came to receive us. Since they were late to arrive at the border between the two countries by , they stayed overnight at Kigali. With the movement of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Lord Jesus Christ, we had a crucial discussion over dinner with these three ministers regarding baptism.

·         On August 5 (Thursday), we rode on a 15-passenger vehicle and began our slow journey along well-known mountainous roads of Rwanda. After four hours and over 100 kilometers, we arrived at Goma, Congo. There were about 200 members from 9 churches who gathered in one place to welcome us and listen to the truth. The EJC has great warmth and love.

·         On August 6 (Friday) morning, 18 EJC holy workers came to our hotel to discuss the truth. The EJC coworkers had long thoughts about the issue of “bowing one’s head” during baptism. When we explained to the congregation that “infants must be baptized too,” the EJC workers were shocked.

·         On August 7 (Sabbath morning), the three ministers who went to Kigali to receive us came to the hotel and expressed their determination to receive baptism again. In our first prayer together, all three received the Holy Spirit. We decided to baptize them on the 10th.

·         On August 8 (Sunday), about 20 people rode in one vehicle and visited Rubaya, which is 70 kilometers from Goma. At a grazing ground, we encouraged more than 200 members to be like David who fought against Goliath, to be out of their mind in the eyes of worldly people for the sake of Christ, and to complete the impossible mission.

·         On August 9 (Monday), we had our first prayer with the EJC workers. The Lord showed great visions and power. A great light shone and the fire of the Holy Spirit fell on each person’s head. Wearing white, the Lord stood next to the minister who was laying hands on the EJC workers to help and strengthen them. We also established a directory of members from each church who registered for baptism.

·         On August 10 (Tuesday), 154 people from 9 churches were baptized in Goma. After baptism, we sent the congregation home and had holy workers stay for a seminar the next day.

C.     Workers’ Seminar

·         On August 11 (Wednesday), the congregation went home. The first day of the Workers’ Seminar lasted from to . We discussed issues such as the qualifications of the workers of the true church, the Sabbath, the change of church name from EJC to Véritable-Jésus-Église (VJC; the French equivalent of TrueJesusChurch), church registration, and translation of publications about the basic beliefs, etc.

·         On August 12 (Thursday), which was the second day of the Workers’ Seminar, we discussed church organization, baptism, footwashing, Holy Communion, and the doctrine of one TrueChurch. We asked the participants repeatedly to practice conducting the sacraments. However, we instructed them not to perform any actual sacraments and not to lay hands on anyone.

·         We found out that many members had to walk 15-44 kilometers of mountainous roads to attend this service! After these members returned to their respective churches, they actively preached to other members. Since many members requested baptism, we decided to hold another baptism on August 14.

·         On August 13 (Friday), which was the third day of the seminar, we reviewed the basic beliefs and discussed the Holy Spirit. We declined to subsidize the 15 USD transportation fare for 30 members who would be coming for baptism the following day. We hoped that the ministry would continue to grow in our absence. I couldn’t sleep the entire night but I was comforted by the thought that the Lord was walking before me in this ministry.

D.     The Second Baptism

·         On August 14 (Sabbath), we baptized 106 believers at SakeChurch. In total we baptized a total of 260 believers in these two baptisms. Among them were 48 holy workers from 10 churches: 10 preachers, 8 evangelists, 15 deacons, 11 deaconesses, 1 elder, 1 prophet and 2 apostles. Almost all of the important workers of the EJC have converted to the truth and become a spirited army of God!

·         On August 15 (Sunday), we reminded the coworkers at Goma to take care of church registration, translation, evangelism, praying for the Holy Spirit, etc. in our absence. We arrived at Kigali in the evening and stayed there overnight.

·         Recounting God’s grace over more than ten days, we realized deeply that we were just unworthy and useless servants. May all glory be to the God in heaven, our Savior Jesus Christ! Amen!

E.     Swahili and Our English and French Ministries in Africa

·         On the morning of August 16, we departed from Kigali and spent 6 hours to transit at Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. After we went through customs, we stayed with Sis. Emma, the secretary of the KenyaEvangelicalCenter in Nairobi. We discussed the task of translating church beliefs into Swahili. According to Sis. Emma, members in Kenya attempted the translation. But there were not many members fluent in Swahili, so progress had been slow. We then arrived at the JohannesburgChurch in South Africa and had a family service.

·         On August 17, the sicknesses that Bro. Gin-Jia and I were healed of before the trip recurred! Bro. Gin-Jia was so sick that he could not eat. Thank God that during the trip, He gave us sufficient health. We left South Africa at and arrived in France on the morning of the 18. On August 22, I flew to London.

·         On August 23, there was a meeting in London about the Russian ministry.

·         On August 23-25, I attended United Kingdom General Assembly (UKGA) Ministers’ Cultivation Seminar. We shared our reflections and thoughts about the direction of the English and French ministries in Africa. We encouraged one another to pray for and help each other. We were joyful and bathed in the grace of the Lord

F.      Common Beliefs was Translated and Church By-Laws Established

·         By August 25, the workers at Goma, with amazing speed, emailed us both the church by-laws needed for government registration and the complete translation of the French Common Beliefs (Dogmes). Swahili is one of the five official languages used in Congo. It is also a language used in neighboring countries, including the English-speaking districts in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. We immediately laid out Common Beliefs into a small booklet. After reviewing the By-laws, we promptly sent it back and instructed them to use it immediately and register it with the government. Coworkers in UK were thankful and gave praises to God when they saw the translation of Common Beliefs. They will use the translation for their trip to Kenya in the beginning of September.

G.     Goma was Occupied By the Anti-Governmental Forces

·         On August 27, I read an online report, dated the day before, by the French paper, Le Monde. Rebel forces had occupied Goma. There was a deathly stillness; only the armies were coming and going on the streets. We wrote a letter to the members in Goma to comfort them. Please pray for them.

·         August 27-30. After reading the report on the 27th, Dn. Luke Chen and I flew to Dublin, Ireland to assist the ministry and visit members. Since I could not get online, I could not receive any news about Goma. I was very concerned. On several occasions, I told Dn. Chen that, whether during the night or early in the morning, I absent-mindedly thought I was still working in Africa. I could not forget the Lord’s grace in Goma and the faithfulness and diligence of the newly baptized coworkers in that difficult environment.

H.    Printed Common Beliefs, Completed Church Registration, in the Final Stages of Translating Essential Doctrines

·         On August 31, I returned from Dublin to Dn. Luke’s house in Leicester. Banyanga wrote to report safety and that Common Beliefs had been printed and was being used. Banyanga and Baraka have also been preaching the truth to other EJC members who hope to be baptized the next time.

·         On September 8, we received registration documents from Banyanga, dated September 2, of the CongoChurch. Since the translation of Essential Doctrines was almost complete, we had to find printing estimates quickly to decide whether to print it in or outside of Congo. (Every chapter would be printed as a stand-alone volume for convenience and cost savings.) Praise the Lord!

·         In addition, Banyanga also requested intercession because opponents of the truth began to disturb the church. Nevertheless, our coworkers firmly believe that the truth will be triumphant. We pray that the Lord will add strength upon strength, and grace upon grace.

IV.  REFLECTIONS

During this missionary journey, the work of the Holy Spirit was shown with unexpected power and speed. As I worked, I noted the four stages of work through daily prayers:

1.       “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” During our preaching, we focused on discussing the truth so that everyone could understand the truth and turn back to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

2.       “Your kingdom come.” The objectives of the ministry were to pray for the Holy Spirit, to baptize and to establish the church.

3.       “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” By relying on the Lord in everything, we solidified the foundation of the truth, built upon previous successes, expanded the ministry, established structure and held seminars.

4.       “Give us this day our daily bread.” We prayed that the Lord’s grace would be with the newly baptized members so that they would have more than they needed to give to others.

Goma is a city by the mountains. The uneven terrain posed a great challenge to me since I have difficulty breathing. Before this trip, I prayed to the Lord to give me a “workable” body, which He granted my request. Because of my shortness of breath while climbing hills, a coworker in Goma suggested carrying me on his back. I refused, taking each step in God’s grace to complete the path I needed to travel and the work I needed to do.

Unfortunately, outsiders will have difficulty accessing this place and other potential places to spread God’s word because of the chaos caused by war and the remoteness of the region. Therefore, this ministry and the execution of sacraments must be entrusted to local, good, and faithful coworkers as soon as possible.

Other than some previous ambiguities about the truth of baptism (now that they have accepted the truth, they are just like us!), the coworkers at Goma are almost alter egos of our early church workers: full of faith, love of the truth, disciplined, finding repose in poverty and delight in wisdom, willing to sacrifice and offer, and diligent!

I thought to myself, if one day these co-workers were to come to “our” place and see the church in spiritual lethargy amidst God’s abundant material blessings, would they cry out aloud?

Ananias received the truth before Paul did and baptized him in the name of the Lord Jesus. But Paul turned out to be a more precious vessel and had a deeper understanding of the truth than Ananias did. If we pray and hope that the church will become perfect over time, we must recognize and accept that our successors will be better than us.

Only then can the promise of “the glory of the latter shall be great than the former” be realized continually and in everyday of our work. We should also learn from the teachings and discipline of our successors and not grow accustomed to being teachers. If we always think that only other people need to be “trained,” then we lose the opportunity to examine and improve ourselves.

During this trip, the former EJC spent much of its savings sponsoring such a big event. They did not make any material requests before and after baptism. After baptism, they immediately threw themselves into the ministry of the “true church” (translating publications and evangelizing in former EJC places of worship).

We turned a blind eye to their poverty and did not make any promise to provide material support and subsidies. I did not even give one of the hundred-something M&M’s I had with me. I was tortured by such “cruelty.”

After personally experiencing the mighty and constant power of the Holy Spirit, I was filled with astonishment, excitement, and thanksgiving. But what followed was the unforgettable feeling of unworthiness.

On the last day, I walked through the customs, which was closed one month earlier because of the war. After having my passport stamped by the authorities in Congo and Rwanda, I felt as if I were in a dream. I did not believe so much can happen within 10 days. Looking back at Goma, amidst the dust kicked up by the car, I was filled with gratitude and longing. We plan to make another trip to Goma in January 2005, when Bro. Gin-Jia can take his winter vacation leave.

            Oh! Goma, may the Lord guide your coming and going. We will return quickly!

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