After this I looked, and there before me
was a great multitude that no one could count,
from every nation, tribe, people and language,
standing before the throne
and before the Lamb.
They were wearing white robes
and were holding palm branches in their hands.
Last week we shared Chapter 1 of Pastor Athanase Musende’s story. He had called his friend, Charity Schellenberg about his great difficulty walking. For two years, she and her husband had tried to get him the help he needed for his feet and his severe heart disease, but without success.
Charity was overwhelmed with the significance that he had called her. “We’ll pray for you,” she offered. Before she could say more, the call was dropped. She tried unsuccessfully to reestablish the phone connection between Kinshasa, where she was, and Pastor Musende in Kamayala.
Charity (Eidse) Schellenberg continues his story this week.
Musende’s Last Visit, Chapter 2
by Charity (Eidse) Schellenberg
Later I was able to speak on the phone with Wenyi Nzey’, an elder of the congregation. I asked about Pastor Musende. “Can he walk?”
“He’s still walking, but with difficulty,” said Wenyi.
During Easter week of 2012 Pastor Musende gave the seminars at the Kamayala church. Every day he expounded the death and resurrection of Christ. He compared it with the human experience of death. “You have to endure suffering in order to experience resurrection.”
“He spoke with special insight, as if from personal experience,” said Wenyi Nzey’. “He interspersed the teaching with songs filled with pathos. We were astounded and moved to tears.”
After the Kamalaya Good Friday service, Pastor Musende borrowed Wenyi’s motorbike to visit a village four kilometers away. He administered baptism and communion before returning home.
On Holy Saturday morning, April 7, Pastor Musende died in his footsteps, so to speak.
Wenyi said, “During the week Musende told me once that he couldn’t sleep at night. He wondered if he would live until morning. We realize now that God extended his life through this week so he could impart this teaching.”
News of Pastor Musende’s death shook the region and the Mennonite Church of Congo (CMCo) community.
In addition to Musende’s other gifts mentioned in Chapter 1, it should be noted that he was a skilled peacemaker. A calm man of few words with a ready smile, when he did speak, it was with wisdom and insight.
He served Kamayala and Kahemba districts as a Bible institute professor, a high school teacher, and a key pastor and spiritual leader. He did not seek high position or power and had turned down the nomination for head of the district.
In spite of his heavy teaching and preaching load, Pastor Musende farmed and worked hard in his dry-season market gardens. He provided for his wife and extended family. He was a loving husband, father, friend, and mentor, a victorious and dedicated Christian.
“One thing in particular stands out about him,” said Wenyi. “He never despaired, even in these last years of suffering.”
Justin Mbuyuyu was the pastor of the congregation in the village where Pastor Musende traveled the night before his death. Those baptismal candidates were the first fruits of Justin’s work.
Pastor Musende’s last visit, each painful step he had taken, was in order to administer baptism in Justin’s congregation.
In his death, as in his life, Pastor Musende Uthu Naweji Athanase demonstrated the transcendent power of the resurrection.
As we stood on the threshold of heaven on Easter weekend, we relinquished our brother to the One who gives and who takes away. We persevered to say, “I know that my Redeemer lives!”
Thank you so much for sharing his story with us, Charity. Surely Musende will be one of those standing before the throne.
Charity (Eidse) Schellenberg, M.A. was born in 1956 to Canadian parents Ben and Helen Eidse, in Kahemba, D. R. Congo, and was raised among the Chokwe-Lunda people, along with sisters, Hope, Faith and Grace. She later married John Schellenberg in Manitoba, Canada. They have lived with their three children in Burkina Faso, in a traditional Senufo village where they served two terms with Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, sent by the Canadian conference of the Evangelical Mennonite Church.
Charity authored the Forward for her father Ben F. Eidse’s published dissertation: The Disciple and Sorcery, The Lunda-Chokwe View (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK, 2015). She contributed a chapter in the anthology Writing Out of Limbo, International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids (Bell-Villada, Sichel, Eidse and Orr; Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK, 2011). Charity co-authored her self-published The Peace Seekers, The Story Of The Canadian Mennonites From The Reformation To The Present, an ESL/Literacy workbook used in classrooms across Canada and in teacher training programs. In 2016 it became the basis for her thesis, The Peace Seekers: An ESL/Literacy Curriculum Development Project (Unpublished, Providence University College). Charity’s texts appear in the acclaimed Canadian composer Carol Ann Weaver’s musical offerings: Earth Peace, and subsequent Earth Voices. Charity performed with Carol Ann at the 2015 Mennonite World Conference in Lancaster, PA. Charity’s articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Among Worlds.
Since 2005 Charity and John have lived in the DRC where they collaborate with the Communauté Mennonite du Congo. She provides leadership for 4C (Creating Capacity in Communities of Congo), an NGO co-founded by John and herself along with Congolese friends. She is an active member in the Mutuelle Tshokwe, a civil association whose goal is to promote the culture and development of the Chokwe people, who span south central Africa like a belt in twelve countries from the east to west coasts of Africa. She is a frequent public speaker and has appeared live on Congo television and radio interviews.
© 2018 Hope4Congo
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