The Word on Wheels
Preaching training and pastoral ministry in the DRC
By Jonathan Lamb
International Programme Director of Langham Preaching
Blood River is a best-selling title by Tim Butcher that tells the story of his remarkable journey across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – on the back of a motorbike. He followed the footsteps of Stanley, who first charted its mighty river in the 1870s. And if you would like an insight into the shattered infrastructure, advancing poverty, and sustained devastation from civil war, this is worth a read. ‘His extraordinary account describes a country with more past than present, where giant steamboats lie rotting in the advancing forest and children hear stories from grandparents of days when cars once drove by.’
Yomping through the Congo on a motorbike is near suicidal. But there are others on their bikes travelling across the broken landscape of this huge country. They are pastors and evangelists. For the church in DRC is growing and, against all odds, it is being supported by faithful men and women who teach and preach God’s Word.
Muhindo Isesomo is a short and stocky man, strong in body and in faith, with a mischievous smile and a determined spirit. He once told me that, when visiting some of the far-flung groups for which he cares in DRC, his plane crash-landed, but he survived. I think I would have abandoned the trip, returning home to count my blessings. But walking from the wreckage, Isesomo thought to himself, ‘I’ve survived the crash, so God must want me to visit these believers’. He’s like that. (Do you remember Paul’s testimony to the Ephesians? ‘I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace’ Acts 20:24.)
Isesomo has many jobs, but one is to serve as country coordinator for Langham Preaching. For the past few years he has worked with Gordon Woolard, an American member of the Langham team who is a fluent French speaker and an experienced pastor-teacher, training a small group of 40 pastors and preachers. They have had an annual one-week seminar, bringing together small clusters of 4 or 5 people from each of the main regions of the country. Working steadily on the basics of biblical preaching, the three-level programme has sought to encourage faithfulness to the Bible and Christ-centred application to the challenges of congregations in the DRC. Participants mostly have to fly to the seminars, now that the road and rail networks are so devastated. And now? ‘We have actually 28 preachers’ clubs in the country with 298 members’, says Isesomo, who travels tirelessly to encourage them. ‘And I believe this will increase after the next Langham training of trainers event in October’. Preachers’ clubs are a feature of the work in many countries, providing continuity and local support for hard-pressed pastors, and encouraging local pastors to work on Bible passages together, share their sermon outlines, plan their preaching programmes, train lay preachers, and pray for one another.
Through the generosity of St Andrew’s church Oxford we have recently been able to support their work through the provision of bikes and Bibles, enabling the pastors to travel to their many scattered congregations and to meet to study scripture together. ‘We have bought 200 Bibles, and each member in the club will have one Bible and we can keep some for those who join us later’, says Isesomo. ‘ And we have bought 61 bikes which are now available to the different preachers’ clubs.’
And that’s not all. ‘Another idea came to us for the ten people who will be trained next October as trainers from our different dioceses. We saw that they will also need means of transport to do the work in their areas, and it is not possible to do that by using the bike because of long distances. So through your gift we have bought 10 little motorbikes.’
So with bikes and Bibles, some regular preaching training, and the support of a remarkable pastoral leader, the word of God is making progress across the demanding terrain of the DRC. Please pray for these many preachers as they evangelise new towns and villages, and as they serve their growing congregations – on wheels!