My recent trip to Kikongo was filled with many high points. I was able to teach all my classes without interruptions. I was able to help the administrator install a new printer and print out reports for an important meeting. I was able to repair the wiring from his solar panels to his computer, so that his laptop battery would charge. I was able to visit with our other missionaries and to fellowship with Congolese colleagues who teach at the Pastor's Institute. There was lots to be thankful for on this trip. However, for me, the highlight of this trip came through one of the pastoral students that I teach.
Even though we Baptists often say that we aren't “creedal”, there's a lot to be learned from the ancient creeds of the Church. In the New Testament Theology class at the Pastor's Institute of Kikongo we start out the year by memorizing the Apostle's Creed. This gives us an idea of the theology of the Early Church and what we will look for in investigating the theology of the New Testament.
When it came time to verbalize what we had memorized some of the students did very well. The first couple of volunteers recited verbatim the Apostle's Creed with no errors. It was obvious that they had worked hard to put the Creed to memory. The next few struggled and with a little help were able to make it through to the end. Others were embarrassed to even try. They hadn't put a lot of effort into it.
Finally, Mahinga raised his hand and asked to try. I hesitated to call on him because he's had a very difficult time in the last few months. I didn't want to add any insult to his injury; especially if he couldn't recite the Creed. I wanted to give him some space to heal.
You see, last year Mahinga's young wife died while delivering their first child. The child survived and was cared for by a fellow student and his family. This worked out well because this student's wife also had just given birth and the two babies could be cared for together. However, when Mahinga went home to his village during the summer break, he was attacked and beaten by his wife's family. They wanted him to pay for the loss of their child. We thought he wouldn't return to study. I thought that anyone who went through what Mahinga did would never come back. But he did.
I knew that we were in for more than just rote recitation when Mahinga stood up and began the first line, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;”. His voice was strong and his stance was sure. It was as if he was giving an important oration or a predication. He wasn't just showing us that he had succeeded in memorizing the Creed. He was convincing us that he believed it.
He continued, “ I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” With determination Mahinga was testifying to us that He believed. Like the Latin “Credo”, he was saying, “This IS what I believe from my very heart.”
When he continued, “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried” I couldn't help but to consider the suffering that this young student had gone through in the last year. How had he gotten through it? Why didn't he give up on his studies and return to his village? Could I have handled such pain?
By the time we got to “The third day He rose from the dead” all the uncomfortable giggling from the other students had stopped. The uneasiness and social awkwardness was replaced by respectful quiet. We realized that somehow we were experiencing a Holy moment. The Truth was being proclaimed in faith and everyone was hushed. It was awesome.
When Mahinga finished the Creed and sat down, I was fighting back tears. Some of the other students gave him knowing smiles or encouraging words. I couldn't help but to be proud of this young man. His faith had been tested to the very depths of his soul. He had come out on the other side saying, “I believe.”
Please join with me in praising God that this young man is struggling to trust God through this incredible trial.
Please pray for Mahinga and for the family that is temporarily taking care of his new child.
Pray that God will send him to just the right church where he can be loved and respected and where he can help others to believe like him.
In His service,
Mike and Jill Lowery