Kandale, Beauty for Ashes

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
~Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV)

Last week for our Christmas special, we posted three separate articles about Kandale. If you have not read the history of Kandale or if you would like to review it, you can use the following links to do so in order:
Part 1,
Part 2,
and Part 3

Now that you have read each of those posts, perhaps the healing that occurred this past October will have more meaning for you. Below is a re-post of Brad’s report originally posted on November 2, 2017:

_____________________________

 

KANDALE
A Story of Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Restoration
by Brad Graber

The purpose of Hope for Congo’s trip to Kandale was to take part in an event needed to help the community overcome its history. Our interest in the community stems from our childhood connection to the mission station that was part of the Congo Inland Mission, now known as AIMM (Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission).

Originally known as the Kandala Mission Station, it was burned to the ground in 1964 by members of the Congolese-led Simba group. The Simba (Swahili for “Lion”) rebels were born of a new conflict against the four-year-old Congolese government.

The primary leader of the Simba rebels was a man named Pierre Mulele of the Bapende ethnic group. Mulele was an avowed Maoist and was supported by Communist China. Along with a Maoist political worldview the Simba incorporated aspects of their African worldview with its animistic beliefs and practices. They roamed in groups bringing terror, death, and destruction wherever they appeared.

Jeunesse, a French word meaning “youth,” was a common term used to refer to gangs of young men who were dissatisfied with how the official independence of 1960 failed to meet their demands. Their attacks were aimed predominately at government centers. However, mission stations were also attacked because of their close link to the government.

All of this activity became known as the Kwilu Rebellion. Some have referred to it as the “Second Independence,” suggesting it was an effort to correct some of the abuses and injustices that occurred in the four years following the official independence. Thus they viewed it as an effort to realize the original goals and dreams promised by what they termed the “First Independence.”

On a Tuesday evening in January 1964 the Simba rebels approached Kandale. First the gangs set the village on fire. Then they moved to the Kandala Mission Station. There they captured seven missionaries and two young missionary children, approximately seven years old. Next they burned the station to the ground and destroyed the missionary homes. Our parents and youngest sister were among the hostages.

The missionaries were held captive until a negotiated release obtained their freedom. The UN rescued them on Friday of the same week.

Kandala was not the only mission station attacked. The Kwilu Rebellion impacted both Protestant and Catholic missionaries. The most remembered hostage situation took place later in the city of Stanleyville. It included the death of missionary doctor Paul Carlson. His story is recorded in the book, Out of the Jaws of the Lion.

Ultimately the Kwilu Rebellion failed. However, it contributed to the ongoing chaos and instability that continues to challenge the people in Congo today. Mobutu eventually came to power and raped the country of its resources and potential.

The attack at Kandale resulted in a series of broken relationships within the community between those who participated locally in the events of that week and those who did not. Many struggled with a sense of guilt for not being able to stop the destruction of the mission station and capture of the missionaries. The community has been mired in a combination of those broken relationships and guilt for the past 54 years. All of this added up to a sense of there being a “curse” on them for their past.

Church members and church leadership initiated the desire for reconciliation. The entire community including the local chiefs and government officials embraced it. A Christian businessman became the lay leader of the movement.

God, in His timing, brought together a group of individuals from Congo and the United States to play a role in bringing about the needed forgiveness, reconciliation, and a new beginning of restoration for this community. Participants included the Kandale Church and community, the Mennonite Church of Congo, AIMM, Hope for Congo, and REVE Kandale.

A delegation of twenty people in five vehicles made the two-day trip from Kinshasa to Kandale. Others came on foot and via motorcycle. As we neared the site, a succession of painted rocks pointed the way and palm branches lined the road. A large group of people surrounded us as we entered the station. A palpable sense of excitement and anticipation rippled through the gathering.

The next day at 9:00 a.m. the delegation met with the local chiefs to communicate and acknowledge the past with an eye to the future. We were given symbols of a renewed relationship and a new beginning. This was followed by a large celebration at the church on the mission station from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (Congolese time).

The celebration included singing, dancing, and stories of God’s goodness and faithfulness. An estimated crowd of 1000 people inside and outside of the church building shared the joy of what God was doing in that moment.

At the end of the celebration on Friday, a shade tree was planted in front of the church as a symbol of new life. It will be a memorial to the day’s events—a visible reminder that can be passed down to future generations.

Following the day of celebration we interacted with the community for two more days. Communion was served after the Sunday morning service to bring closure to our trip and to remind us all of our oneness as the family of God.

We left late Sunday afternoon and arrived back in Kinshasa at 3:00 a.m. Tuesday morning. Tired? Yes! But grateful and carried along by God’s presence each step of the way.

Poverty is a reality that is experienced by all on some level of their lives. I believe it begins with spiritual poverty, which leads to relational poverty, which in turn results in material poverty. The integration of all three can become so convoluted that it is difficult to separate one from the other. Such is the story of what happened in Kandale.

The Kandale story is not an isolated one. I have been told there are other places in Congo with a similar history and a similar need for forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. What makes this story unique is the miracle God unfolded. In a miraculous way He orchestrated the events leading up to the day of celebration. He answered the prayers of His children. It is now a story that revealed the heart of God and His desire for restoration. The grace of God reached down to lift people out of their broken relationships.

Hope for Congo’s goal is to provide tools and resources to our Congolese brothers and sisters, to provide them with the opportunity to participate in the process of lifting their communities out of poverty through the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus a shared lifting of assets can occur in each community to minister to both the body and the soul of each person.

Your prayers and donations to Hope for Congo are ways that you can actively participate with us and make an investment that has eternal impact. The Kandale story could be one among many stories of God at work in Congo.

How will you be part of those stories?

© 2017 Hope4Congo

______________________________

For Blog Roll, Click on this link and scroll to the bottom left

Prayer Requests:
• Praise God for the healing He sent to us through His Son, Jesus.
• Pray for the people of Kandale.
• Pray for our ministry, Hope4Congo to work effectively for Christ’s Kingdom.

© 2017 Hope4Congo

Why Jesus Came, Part 3

Forgiveness, Reconciliation & Restoration
Behind this Joyous Woman Lies the Valley Across from Kandale

Today’s post is the last of a three-part series we’re running this week for our Christmas special. To re-read the previous posts or to read posts you may have missed, please click on Part 1 and/or Part 2 as needed.

When Brad and Stan visited Kandale in October they carried the following letter from their mother addressed to the people there. In the years since 1963-64 the spelling has changed from Kandala to Kandale. Although the spelling has changed, her love for those she served has not.

_______________________________

To the followers of Jesus at Kandala and my sisters and brothers in Christ:
May God’s mercy, love, and grace be your daily experience as you live to serve Him.

In God’s providence, my husband, Muambi Muoyila, my youngest daughter Jeannette, and I, Mama Mbuyi along with the Bertsches and Selma Unruh came to live at Kandala. It was 1963 and there was unrest in the area. This culminated in the destruction of buildings and the cessation of our ministry there in 1964. Our lives were threatened, but God miraculously spared us from what seemed certain death. God gave us His peace in the days that we were held captive.

During those days we experienced the love of God through the hands and feet of Christians who brought food to us, braving the wrath of our captors. They pleaded for our lives and they wept with us for gladness at finding that we were alive after a night of terror. The pastor took a severe beating as he tried to intercede for us.

The Bible Institute students who had come from all of the AIMM stations had to leave with their families and make the long trek back to their home villages. They and the local residents suffered greater loss than the missionaries who were taken out by helicopter.

As God alone can do, He turned this experience into blessing. We felt His comforting presence with us and He brought to our minds many scriptures that reassured us of His care. So through this experience my faith has grown. What is retained in my memory are the blessings we received from those who love and follow God. I am so grateful for their faithfulness and their courage during that difficult time.

My heart is filled with love for each one of you. How I wish I could express this to you personally. May the Spirit of God assure you today that we are one in Christ who offers forgiveness to each one of us.

“God is able to bless you abundantly so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” May this great promise from 2 Corinthians 9:8 bless and prosper you in your faith.

In fellowship always,
Gladys Graber (Mama Mbuyi)

___________________________

Mrs. Graber also sent this prayer with her sons: Words seem so inadequate to express what I’d like to convey! I hope your presence there will overcome this inadequacy as healing and love prevail.

____________________________

Amen and Praise the Lord, Mama Mbuyi! Your prayer was answered.

May you, our dear readers also find forgiveness and healing in your relationships so that the love of God may prevail in your hearts and lives this blessed Christmas. Christ came to restore broken relationships: first our relationship with God and second, the relationships we have with each other. Praise be to God for this greatest gift of Christmas!

© 2017 Hope4Congo

Why Jesus Came, Part 2

For our Christmas special this year we are reviewing the events that occurred in 1964 at the Kandala Mission Station. To read Part 1 in this three part series, please click here.

You might ask, why review those evil days? Because as we comprehend what was done, we see how deep the Father’s love for us truly is, how tremendous the forgiveness offered us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. We can appreciate His gift to us all the more. Without that gift, we would have no reason to celebrate Christmas.

The Kandala Mission Station was burned to the ground in 1964 by members of the Congolese-led Simba group. The Simba (Swahili for “Lion”) rebels were born of a new conflict against the four-year-old Congolese government.

Along with a communist political worldview, the Simba incorporated aspects of their African worldview with its animistic beliefs and practices. They roamed in groups bringing terror, death, and destruction wherever they went. During 1963-64 their attention was focused along the Kwilu River.

The following excerpt is taken from Jim Bertsche’s story in The Jesus Tribe: Grace stories from Congo’s Mennonites, 1912-2012 edited by Rod Hollinger-Janzen, Nancy Myers and Jim Bertsche. Photo above is also courtesy of Rod Hollinger-Janzen from the same book.

___________________________

The first warning Pastor Emmanuel Wayindama and his family had was the sound of excited shouting in the distance and the sight of shadowy figures leaping about, systematically setting fire to the thatch-covered homes of Bible Institute students.

Pastor Wayindama had been brought to Kandala in the fall of 1963 to serve on the teaching staff of the AIMM Bible Institute. An earlier graduate of the institute, he had demonstrated not only a keen mind but also a deep commitment to his Lord and to the church. When the search was on for Congolese to join the teaching staff at Kandala, Pastor Emmanuel Wayindama was an early choice.

The institute had been displaced from Tshikapa on the banks of the Kasai River some 100 miles to the east because of the tribal conflict that had erupted there after the hastily granted independence in 1960. Unfortunately, the move placed the institute in a territory where a different kind of unrest was brewing, in which missions were often a target.

On this violent night in January 1964 all along the Kwilu River both Catholic and Protestant mission posts were attacked. In the rebels’ view, missions had partnered with the hated Belgians and needed to be eliminated before the country could be reconstructed for the good of all.

The young rebels declared, “We need to remove all traces of what was before so Moscow will come and help us rebuild our country.”

As rebels arrived at the small thatch-covered home of Pastor Wayindama, his wife and family managed to escape into the surrounding darkness but the pastor was intercepted.

“And who are you?” they asked him. “Are you also part of this school of foreigners that the missionaries brought here to Kandala?”

“Yes, I am a teacher at the Institute.”

“So you are not a student?” (Pastor Wayindama was a small man.) “Are you then a pastor?”

“Yes I am.”

“A pastor! That’s even worse.”

From that point on the interrogation was accompanied by a hail of blows, some with fists, some with the arrows and wooden arcs of the bows carried by each rebel. Pastor Wayindama was soon bloodied and beaten to his knees.

Then the rebel team leader leaned over and shouted into his face: “You know that I can kill you right here on this spot, don’t you?”

Pastor Wayindama looked into the eyes of his tormentor and through bloody, swollen lips replied: “Sure you can, but if you do, that’s all you can do to me!”

The rebel leader was speechless. He had fully expected to see the pastor grovel at his feet pleading for his life. For a long moment he stared at him, then turned and ordered his team elsewhere.

Pastor Wayindama lived to lead student families to safety across some 125 miles of dry, hot landscape, limping painfully all the way. His experience and witness are part of the precious legacy of the Mennonite Church of Congo.

_______________________________

Through Pastor Wayindama’s paraphrase above, “…That’s all you can do to me!” I hear the echo of Jesus instruction to us:

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.”
Luke 12:4 (NIV)

For further study see also Matthew 10:28

God’s Word has power to convict hearts. Praise God it convicted the heart of a young man bent on terror. Can you imagine the heartache he would have experienced one day if he had murdered that dear man of God? The terror he intended would have come back to torment his own soul.

We have one more part of this story to share. Join us this Friday for Part 3 of this series. To review Part 1 click here.

© 2017 Hope4Congo

How Deep the Father’s Love For Us as sung by Fernando Ortega
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLDGVl8D5UU

 

 

Why Jesus Came, Part 1

Missionaries, Republique du Congo, circa 1964

At this wonderful time of year we celebrate Christ coming to earth—Emmanuel—God with us. Sometimes amid all the glittering lights, festivities, and way too much food, we lose sight of the reason he came.

As I prepared the blog post for this month I re-read Pastor Harold Graber’s detailed account of the horrific events of 1963-64 at what was known as the Kandala Mission Station. Then I came across the story of Pastor Emmanuel Wayindama during those same days. Finally, I re-read the letter that Gladys Graber sent with her sons, Brad and Stan for their trip to Kandale in October of this year. (Kandala and Kandale refer to the same location; the current spelling is now Kandale.)

Through studying these three documents I was struck by the enormity of the healing, which has occurred this year in Kandale. This is all an illustration of why Jesus came to earth in the first place—to restore relationships. And when I say, restore relationships, I mean first our relationship with God and second with each other.

To sense the full magnitude of the miraculous healing, you also need the opportunity to read these original documents. Following is Part 1 of the story, Pastor Graber’s letter, dated March 1964.

________________________

Dear Friends at Home,

In the past weeks we have been forcefully reminded of two truths of God’s Word . . . the world will hate you (we tasted of this in our experience at Kandala) and the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.

During our ordeal with the terrorists we drew strength from the sure knowledge of His presence. All we had was swept away so suddenly, yet we have lacked nothing! Missionary co-workers and dear African friends have so graciously met our needs.

Until now we have found it difficult to put our experience in writing and yet we knew that many loved ones and friends at home wanted to know about it. Now our minds and hearts are rested . . . also, we have found temporary residence after so many weeks of living in with others.

When we arrived at Kandala station along with the Bertsche family and Miss Selma Unruh in mid-September we found a warm reception. The task of re-opening this station that had had no missionaries since July, 1960, was great. So many things needed our attention. We were also opening our Bible Institute. The challenge was great. We paid little heed to the rumors reaching us of Jeunesse activities as early as mid-October. These were always at places some distance from Kandala and we were always told there was no local organized Jeunesse.

Late November and December the movement was gathering momentum. We heard of school directors being killed, the police commissioner at Gungu, 35 miles away, was murdered. An attack was made on a key ferry between Kandala and Kikwit. Local government posts and chiefs were being attacked at night. The buildings were burned and many were beaten or killed.

Our Bible Institute students, many of whom came from other areas and tribes, became apprehensive and asked to be evacuated. However, thus far we had heard of no move by the Jeunesse against Protestant Mission stations.

The night of January 15 our local state post was burned only 2 kilometers from our station. The following day it was nearly impossible to conduct classes. Everywhere one looked on the station one saw people walking with huge burdens on their heads—they were leaving the area or taking their things to be buried in some hiding place. The government personnel were fleeing their posts.

The next morning, Saturday, a truck load of soldiers came on the station asking for gas. They said they were making an inspection tour of the area. Moments after their departure our local ferry was cut and set adrift on the Kwilu River. Now our route of evacuation was cut off. We had hourly contact by shortwave radio with Mukedi and Nyanga stations. It was a very tense day.

The executive secretary, Mr. Vernon Sprunger, flew over in a MAF plane (Missionary Aviation), later landing at Gungu, and was picked up by Mr. Bertsche whom we had called home from a meeting at Tshikapa. The MAF plane checked on a vital bridge which we had heard was wrecked—then dropped a note to Mr. Bertsche in the road telling him that the bridge was still intact.

Sunday, Mr. Sprunger met with all of us and the Institute students encouraging us to stay, and “sit tight.” Monday night we witnessed the burning of our secteur post across the river. All one could feel these days was tension. Many people continued to move their belongings, some sent their families to distant villages, many came requesting to sleep at the missionary homes.

Monday, Loyal Schmidt and Charles Sprunger arrived having had to drive a long way around to reach our station and through an area that was “hot”. Mr. Schmidt, having previously served at Kandala came to be of assistance during this difficult time, particularly with obtaining food for the Institute. Mr. Sprunger came to install a transistor transmitter, in case the Jeunesse would damage our motor used for the other transmitter. This was no time to lose radio contact!

Our Institute students seemed in better spirits Tuesday. Classes went on normally. Perhaps they felt enough had been done by the Jeunesse in our area and they would move on, or perhaps they felt relieved when the pastor told us that the Jeunesse had surrounded the station the night before but their leader, a protestant, had convinced them to leave the station alone.

Loyal and Charles left in the morning to take Vernon Sprunger to Gungu to meet the MAF plane. They were due back at Kandala that afternoon. They never made it. Just outside of Gungu on their return they were captured and their vehicle overturned and set afire.

Being very tired after so little rest the past nights we were hoping to retire early Tuesday night. Just as we were ready to go to bed we heard shouts and cries from the nearby Christian village. Looking out we saw flames leaping skyward as all the huts were set aflame. We fled from the house. Jeanette (our youngest child) began to cry.

Next-door at Bertsches we hastily decided the only thing we could do would be to go to the pastor’s home just a few yards away. By this time we heard the windows of the house and the car windows being smashed and saw near naked figures setting fire to our home. There were so many of these youths that almost everything was set aflame simultaneously. Next we saw the homes of the Institute families and the school going up in flames.

It didn’t take them long to find us. As this large group of frenzied youth approached us the pastor and his wife disappeared into the darkness. She was weeping.

Soon we found ourselves surrounded. Some had their bows and arrows drawn, others had large corn knives poised in the air. They shouted at us and pushed us around. They grabbed glasses off our faces and watches from our arms. Some grabbed off clothing, others hurled it back at us. They ordered us to take off our shoes as well as socks and they hacked them to pieces with a vengeance. Time and again they said, “Let’s kill them,” but always another of the group would restrain the others.

The Lord gave us a calmness that was not of ourselves. Most remarkable was the peace given us by Jeanette’s behavior. She was terribly frightened, but she hid her face in her daddy’s shoulder and in a little tune she sang over and over, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

The Lord brought to my mind words that I had read hours earlier that evening, Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness.

Now they were demanding that we give them gas. We moved in a group towards the garage and motor house. These buildings were already smoking. They placed us in a tight little circle and said, “Don’t move.”

They proceeded to set the grass afire around us. I noticed one had a length of clothesline in his hand. I wondered if we were now to be burned alive or if they were going to hang us. Now I felt we were committed to death and I prayed only for our four precious children who would survive us. Who would care for them? (The Grabers other children, including Stan and Brad, were at the missionary boarding school.)

We realized, fleetingly, that God does give grace to face a martyr’s death.

Suddenly, the leader addressed his “comrades” and ordered them not to follow him and he led us away towards the girls’ compound buildings. Here he ordered us to sit on the grass, and then with a strange solicitude, noticing it was wet with dew, he found a mat and put it down for us. We thought we were to spend the night there, but soon we were told that we could all go to Selma’s house, which was still untouched. He said, “You can stay there until you find a way to leave.”

We thanked him and we were led to Selma’s house. This refuge was ours for scarcely 15 minutes when another group came and ordered us out, saying that we must stand trial in the village. They now proceeded to set Selma’s house aflame also. They pushed and shoved us down the path past the burning buildings.

Soon two figures clad in white approached us. What a contrast they were to the nearly naked and armed warriors surrounding us! These were our two mission medical workers from the dispensary. They asked to take us to the dispensary and at first were firmly denied their request. Finally, after a long discussion, they were given permission to put us in the dispensary. Though we were exhausted, sleep was impossible.

Some time later, the mission carpenter and chauffeur came in. They had removed their shirts and cut off their trousers to disguise themselves as Jeunesse. They fell down before us on the floor weeping. At last, when they could speak they said, “Are you really safe? We thought you’d be killed.”

Now that they knew we were safe they went out in search of the Institute families. Soon they came back to let us know they had found them all. As morning dawned one by one the students came. They were unable to speak, but their tears and the expressions on their faces spoke volumes. A new bond had been formed between all of us. Christian friends ministered to our needs in every way they possibly could in the next three days. This was a new experience . . . having them serve us!

When other stations could not contact us by radio they knew something was wrong and MAF was alerted to fly over the station. Meanwhile, we were much concerned about Charles and Loyal. Wednesday night in the midst of a pouring rainstorm the dispensary door burst open and a crowd of Jeunesse came in. Among their group were Charles and Loyal. What a relief to see them! They were stiff and sore having had to travel some 30 miles on foot with their hands tied behind their backs.

Thursday morning, quite early, MAF flew over. The pilot was able to radio from the plane directly to Leopoldville. The Embassy there had already been contacted. He dropped two notes to us, first asking us if we could make an emergency landing strip. Since no Jeunesse authority was immediately available to ask permission, we could not answer the pilot. Then he asked us to sit on the ground if we wanted a helicopter. This we did as we felt it was our only means of rescue.

When the plane left several Jeunesse leaders approached us immediately and tore at our clothing wanting to find the tiny transistor that had called the plane. Patiently we explained why the plane had come. We asked permission to make the airstrip and it was granted.

They thrust hoes into our hands and ordered us to make it ourselves, forbidding the Institute students to help us. However, after we had cleared the first 100 meters they did allow the students to help us complete the other 200 meters.

When the airstrip was completed, we sat down to wait. We fully expected rescue before nightfall. More youths were arriving on the station grounds all the time. We felt we could not endure another night.

What if soldiers should arrive? They had told us countless times that if soldiers came we would be killed instantly. They also told us that if any soldiers came on the planes coming to get us we wouldn’t be allowed to go and all would be killed and the plane burned.

Once again, we had to patiently explain to them what we were doing and gain their approval as we took rolls of bandages and laid out a large sign both in English and French to warn the pilots of their threats. The sign read: OK TO LAND. PILOT ONLY, NO GUNS, SOLDIERS, SAFETY ASSURED.

Nightfall came and no plane. It seemed we couldn’t bear another night in that place. The Lord brought to my mind and heart the words, Be still and know that I am God.

The area president of the movement was now on the station and he assured us that no harm would come to us through the night. He even posted a sentry outside the dispensary so groups wouldn’t disturb us as they had the other nights.

The next day, Friday near noon we heard the welcome sound of UN helicopters. What a relief it was to get on board without incident and be on our way to Tshikapa where our fellow missionaries were anxiously awaiting our arrival. We shall always be grateful to the UN who so nobly came to our assistance.

However, our UN friends had only just begun their rescue work in the Kwilu. Many missionaries were in grave danger and there were many stations where rescue was not performed as easily as at Kandala. Tragically, at Mangungu two brave ladies signified they wanted an airlift, but the UN arrived too late.

When we were safely deposited at Tshikapa the UN planes returned to airlift the Institute families. However, the families had all started out by foot feeling they just couldn’t wait for the planes to return.

Wayindama, one of the Kandala pastors (look for more information about this dear man in the next post) accompanied them on their five-day trip through this hostile area to the Luange River. The Lord was with them in a wonderful way. When they had safely crossed the Luange River after many hazardous experiences they sat down together for a Praise and Prayer Service, singing hymns and reading from the book of Joshua. The pastor then bade them goodbye and returned whence he had come. Let us pray for him and all the dear Christians in the Kwilu.

We are grateful that God’s grace is sufficient. We are grateful for the gift of life and for His divine protection over our lives amid the forces of evil. We are grateful for the serenity He gives in times of peril. We are grateful for the Holy Spirit, His comfort, His guidance, and for the counsel and comfort of fellow believers, many of them Congolese.

Good friends and Christian brothers, Chief Banditu and Pastor Graber

We would rest in the sure knowledge that our future is in His care. We would trust Him to guide us in the decisions we must make. We would ask of Him, grace to follow Him step-by-step, and day-by-day, rather than clamoring to know the end from the beginning. May we know that He will withhold no good thing for we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.

Yours in His glad service,
Harold Graber
(Note: This letter has been slightly edited where necessary for clarity.)

__________________________

Please join us this coming Wednesday for the story of Pastor Emmanuel Wayindama.

© 2017 Hope4Congo

A Story of Forgiveness

If you’ve been reading our blog, you know that Stan and Brad recently returned from their latest trip to Congo. The following is an excerpt from Brad’s report about one portion of their trip.

KANDALE
A Story of Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Restoration
by Brad Graber

The purpose of Hope for Congo’s trip to Kandale was to take part in an event needed to help the community overcome its history. Our interest in the community stems from our childhood connection to the mission station that was part of the Congo Inland Mission, now known as AIMM (Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission.

Originally known as the Kandala Mission Station, it was burned to the ground in 1964 by members of the Congolese-led Simba group. The Simba (Swahili for “Lion”) rebels were born of a new conflict against the four-year-old Congolese government.

The primary leader of the Simba rebels was a man named Pierre Mulele of the Bapende ethnic group. Mulele was an avowed Maoist and was supported by Communist China. Along with a Maoist political worldview the Simba incorporated aspects of their African worldview with its animistic beliefs and practices. They roamed in groups bringing terror, death, and destruction wherever they appeared.

Jeunesse, a French word meaning “youth,” was a common term used to refer to gangs of young men who were dissatisfied with how the official independence of 1960 failed to meet their demands. Their attacks were aimed predominately at government centers. However, mission stations were also attacked because of their close link to the government.

All of this activity became known as the Kwilu Rebellion. Some have referred to it as the “Second Independence,” suggesting it was an effort to correct some of the abuses and injustices that occurred in the four years following the official independence. Thus they viewed it as an effort to realize the original goals and dreams promised by what they termed the “First Independence.”

On a Tuesday evening in January 1964 the Simba rebels approached Kandale. First the gangs set the village on fire. Then they moved to the Kandala Mission Station. There they captured seven missionaries and two young missionary children, approximately seven years old. Next they burned the station to the ground and destroyed the missionary homes. Our parents and youngest sister were among the hostages.

The missionaries were held captive until a negotiated release obtained their freedom. The UN rescued them on Friday of the same week.

Kandala was not the only mission station attacked. The Kwilu Rebellion impacted both Protestant and Catholic missionaries. The most remembered hostage situation took place later in the city of Stanleyville. It included the death of missionary doctor Paul Carlson. His story is recorded in the book, Out of the Jaws of the Lion.

Ultimately the Kwilu Rebellion failed. However, it contributed to the ongoing chaos and instability that continues to challenge the people in Congo today. Mobutu eventually came to power and raped the country of its resources and potential.

The attack at Kandale resulted in a series of broken relationships within the community between those who participated locally in the events of that week and those who did not. Many struggled with a sense of guilt for not being able to stop the destruction of the mission station and capture of the missionaries. The community has been mired in a combination of those broken relationships and guilt for the past 54 years. All of this added up to a sense of there being a “curse” on them for their past.

Church members and church leadership initiated the desire for reconciliation. The entire community including the local chiefs and government officials embraced it. A Christian businessman became the lay leader of the movement.

God, in His timing, brought together a group of individuals from Congo and the United States to play a role in bringing about the needed forgiveness, reconciliation, and a new beginning of restoration for this community. Participants included the Kandale Church and community, the Mennonite Church of Congo, AIMM, Hope for Congo, and REVE Kandale.

A delegation of twenty people in five vehicles made the two-day trip from Kinshasa to Kandale. Others came on foot and via motorcycle. As we neared the site, a succession of painted rocks pointed the way and palm branches lined the road. A large group of people surrounded us as we entered the station. A palpable sense of excitement and anticipation rippled through the gathering.

The next day at 9:00 a.m. the delegation met with the local chiefs to communicate and acknowledge the past with an eye to the future. We were given symbols of a renewed relationship and a new beginning. This was followed by a large celebration at the church on the mission station from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (Congolese time).

The celebration included singing, dancing, and stories of God’s goodness and faithfulness. An estimated crowd of 1000 people inside and outside of the church building shared the joy of what God was doing in that moment.

At the end of the celebration on Friday, a shade tree was planted in front of the church as a symbol of new life. It will be a memorial to the day’s events—a visible reminder that can be passed down to future generations.

Following the day of celebration we interacted with the community for two more days. Communion was served after the Sunday morning service to bring closure to our trip and to remind us all of our oneness as the family of God.

We left late Sunday afternoon and arrived back in Kinshasa at 3:00 a.m. Tuesday morning. Tired? Yes! But grateful and carried along by God’s presence each step of the way.

Poverty is a reality that is experienced by all on some level of their lives. I believe it begins with spiritual poverty, which leads to relational poverty, which in turn results in material poverty. The integration of all three can become so convoluted that it is difficult to separate one from the other. Such is the story of what happened in Kandale.

The Kandale story is not an isolated one. I have been told there are other places in Congo with a similar history and a similar need for forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. What makes this story unique is the miracle God unfolded. In a miraculous way He orchestrated the events leading up to the day of celebration. He answered the prayers of His children. It is now a story that revealed the heart of God and His desire for restoration. The grace of God reached down to lift people out of their broken relationships.

Hope for Congo’s goal is to provide tools and resources to our Congolese brothers and sisters, to provide them with the opportunity to participate in the process of lifting their communities out of poverty through the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus a shared lifting of assets can occur in each community to minister to both the body and the soul of each person.

Your prayers and donations to Hope for Congo are ways that you can actively participate with us and make an investment that has eternal impact. The Kandale story could be one among many stories of God at work in Congo. How will you be part of those stories?

© 2017 Hope4Congo