REPORT ON THE PIONEERING WORK IN NORD-KIVU, REPUBLIC
(August 4-15, 2004)
YM Yang — Paris, France
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They baptize in the
name of Jesus Christ in living water, with full immersion and face upward. They
also practice excommunication.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Marriage and dress code:
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.)
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
Elder: likened to an “advisor”
Prophet: a member who has the gift
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 ).
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.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR EVENTS BEFORE AND
AFTER THE PIONEERING TRIP
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
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
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,
We had services and visited members until August 3.
had been seriously ill for several days and I myself was burdened with ailments
as well. Miraculously, both of us were healed that night!
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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:
“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.
“Your kingdom come.” The
objectives of the ministry were to pray for the Holy Spirit, to baptize and to
establish the church.
“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.
“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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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.
may the Lord guide your coming and going. We will return quickly!