It's been an interesting week. We had a visit from Charles Jones, our area director at International Ministries. He was here to meet with all our missionaries and the leadership of our national partners, the Congolese Baptist Community (CBCO), to talk about the future of our partnership. I must admit that I rarely look forward to these kinds of meetings. They often feel like a disruption in a busy schedule. I was surprised, however, that it turned out to be such a meaningful time of fellowship. Because travel within Congo is so time consuming and expensive, it has been several years since all of the I.M. Missionaries have been able to meet together as a group. Charles' visit gave us the chance to be together, to pray and talk about the future of our ministries here in the Congo. I'm very thankful for that time of fellowship and to be reminded that we are part of a very gifted team of missionaries.
Another major blessing of this week was getting to celebrate the reconciliation within the Congolese Baptist Community (CBCO). For 10 long years the Baptists from the Western region of the Congo have been divided from the rest of the community. It has been a huge drain on the leadership of CBCO, but many pastors and leaders never gave up on their work to reunite the Church. It seemed it would never happen, but in December, CBCO held a special assembly meeting to try again to bring the 'dissident faction' back into the fold. They managed to come to some agreements and papers were even signed. Since that time, we haven't heard much talk about the reconciliation and even doubted its validity.
This Sunday, however, we missionaries, along with Charles, were blessed to participate in a huge celebration service in honor of the reconciliation. The service took place at the Kintambo Lingalaphone Church. I believe there were about 1,000 people in attendance. There were so many people that tents had to be set up outside for all those who couldn't fit inside the church. Congolese church services are always exciting with all the music and energetic preaching. This service had all of that, but there was also a real sense of fellowship in this celebration that I'm not sure I can explain. You could sense the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. It really struck me to see people who had been such bitter enemies now worshiping in unity side by side. That kind of transformation does not happen without God's help and grace. This reconciliation did not come about easily. It took a lot of people working through a lot of issues and a great willingness to forgive. CBCO's struggle for unity is far from over and they really need our prayers. Pretty much all odds are against them – expect for one thing – God is on their side...
These days we hear so much about churches and denominations dividing, but CBCO's experience stands as an example to us that, against all odds, reconciliation can happen. I'm inspired to pray for our churches in the U.S., that we be as tireless in our striving for unity as the people of CBCO.
Please keep the Baptist Community of Congo in your prayers, that they would hold on to this spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness, and that the church may go forward in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
2 Cor 5:18-19
Jill and Mike Lowery