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The lost churches of Mundu are found

By Kate Azumah

Little did Tom Desloges know the remarkable story his discovery was going to unravel when he found in his church’s archives maps, letters and some reports about the Mundu. The Mundu? How did this name get there? Sources cited this tribe on the DR Congo border with South Sudan as unreached. Perhaps Rev. Lule would know something, Tom thought. But Rev. Lule didn’t know either. All he had heard was that people feared the Mundu—if you went among them, you would not easily return alive. The missions department decided to send Rev. Lule on a trip to investigate.

Tom is a Canadian missionary and the unit leader for Africa Inland Mission in DR Congo. He serves within the Missions and Evangelism Department of the 20eme Communauté Evangélique au Centre de l’Afrique (CECA 20) denomination under the leadership of Rev. Lule Djamba Charles.

Rev. Lule set out from Bunia by motorbike, a better option than going by car, which would have taken all day. The motorbike could more easily maneuver the roads, but it succumbed to the rain’s effect and toppled over many times; nevertheless, God was good. Each time, Rev. Lule got up and found it fit to continue. It never broke down along the way. After travelling for half the day, Rev. Lule finally arrived at the first Mundu chiefdom of Missa.

Rev. Lule explains, “When you get to any village for the first time, you should see the chief and tell him the purpose of your visit. If he doesn’t give you the permission, there is nothing you can do.”  Rev. Lule called on the chief, and the chief and his brothers were very happy to receive him and hear his mission—to enquire about the Christian work that had happened among them many years ago. “Come with me,” the chief said.

We kept it for you

The chief showed Rev. Lule a bush-covered piece of land. “Your building was on this site,” he said. “The church no longer exists, but we have kept the land for you. Send people to come and start a new church for us,” he implored.

The situation was no different in the other Mundu villages. At Ramadala, they took Rev. Lule to see a piece of property—another church that was now no more. But the people’s spiritual openness was hard to miss. “I had not planned to preach,” says Rev. Lule. “But when I saw their attitude, the Holy Spirit guided me to preach from Romans chapter 10. They listened attentively; especially the women, and seven people believed in Jesus.”

“We have kept the land for you. Send people to come.”

In the third village, the Tekadje chief said, “We don’t have any churches at all, but we want you to come. Send people who will teach us God’s Word. We will give them food and housing and everything they need.” He added, “You can even start the church meetings in my home.”

Rev. Lule travelled the Mundu villages for three days. In all three chiefdoms of Missa, Buru and Tekadje, there were a total of four run-down Roman Catholic churches. “The priest only comes once a year to baptize children and celebrate Easter,” people told Rev. Lule. The untrained lay minister in charge of the Catholic churches requested CECA 20 to take over. Spiritual hunger and open doors were everywhere. “Our parents knew about Jesus, but we have never heard of Him,” the Mundus said.

Short-term missionaries from Bunia, Ituri Province, to the Mundu

Lost and found

In the early 1990s, CECA 20 and Africa Inland Mission (AIM) started mission work among the Mundu. They planted the two “lost” churches at Missa and Ramadala. The missionaries journeyed by car every Sunday to hold services in the two villages, until the ensuing rebellion with the Mobutu regime forced them out of the country. The lack of spiritual leadership coupled with continuous instability and population movements meant many Mundu believers also vacated the area.

Within a month of Rev. Lule’s trip, the president and legal representative of CECA 20 visited the Mundu villages and advocated for mission work to begin. Rev. Lule organized a group of people for an evangelistic campaign, and more Mundus placed their faith in Jesus Christ. The CECA 20 church’s evangelism and missions training school, Centre Chrétien de Formation pour Evangélisation et Mission Intégrale, sent two student teams to work in Mundu villages. They revived the churches in Missa and Ramadala and planted two more at Tekadje and Gbere within six months.

The Baka request

Rev. Lule was with the Tekadje chief when they passed a junction leading to a nearby Baka community [the Baka were featured as a least-reached people group in AfriGO Vol. 7, Iss. 2 ]. Some Baka people had gathered there with their chief to mediate a public dispute. When the Baka chief heard that Rev. Lule was passing, he ordered the meeting to stop and requested an audience with the “man of God.”

“I’ve heard news about the Mundu people,” he informed Rev. Lule. “We have seen the great changes happening among them. You go to the Mundus all the time, but you have ignored us. I have come to beg you: send us missionaries too,” the Baka chief pleaded.

“His words really touched my heart,” Rev. Lule expressed. “From the Baka all the way into South Sudan, there are no churches.”

All are called

Churches in Aba, a nearby community, are helping to oversee the new Mundu congregations. Other Mundu believers have also joined in the revived mission efforts. One Mundu pastor sent his church members to do evangelism in the villages. Two Mundu students from Aba and Gbere completed the mission training programme and are preparing to go serve among their people. A student from the previous year’s cohort received approval from the district leadership of his church to live permanently with his family as missionaries among the Mundu. CECA 20 churches farther away are fundraising to support the new church plants, and they also send people for short-term mission trips.

Churches close to the Mundu in Aba, Aba-Cite and Faradje have been awakened to a new understanding of missions and their obligation to send the Gospel among the least-reached. Tom shares, “Local churches usually expect their denominations or the West to initiate missionary activity. We have spent time with these churches, demonstrating the need and showing their role in making mission successful. We still have a lot of mobilization work to do, but some pastors are beginning to realize that it is primarily their responsibility. A little missions education seems to have gone a long way,” Tom says; and we may add “in rewriting the Mundu story.”

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