The mighty Congo River

Today’s Bible reading

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:18-20

More thoughts for meditation

We are on a spiritual pilgrimage with daring Jesus-followers who were convicted to act on today’s reading.

Before we get into it, let’s acknowledge that the Congo has been and is the scene of the worst atrocities of colonialism [King Leopold’s Ghost]. But it is also home to a vibrant church, including the second largest number of Mennonites after the U.S.  The number of Christians of all sorts in the Congo is estimated at over 63 million by the Pew Research Center, which is about 95% the population and 3% of the world’s believers.

During the 1500’s the rich gold mines at Sofala (now a port of Mozambique) attracted the Portuguese to the East Coast of Africa. They used intermarriage with the Africans as a means of gaining favor and pushing into the interior of Africa. In turn, the Africans gradually lost their anti-Christian hostilities and gave in to being converted to Christianity. Through these kinds of processes, Christianity was introduced into the Kongo before 1491. The Prince of Sogno (a province of the kingdom at the mouth of the Congo River)was the first Kongo nobleman to embrace the Christian faith. The Muslims, also coming into the Congo from the East Coast, prevailed upon the Africans to resist being converted to Christianity, telling them that Christianity was a subtle method used by the Portuguese to take over their country. This warning notwithstanding, Christianity continued to spread.

In 1513, Henrique, son of the King of the Kongo, was sent to Lisbon and to Rome to study theology. In 1520, Pope Leo X appointed Henrique as bishop and as Vicar-apostolic of the Kongo. Unfortunately, Henrique died before he could return home. He was Rome’s first Central African bishop. The royal archives of Portugal still hold the records reflecting the ceremonial respect that was paid to this Christian son of an African king and queen.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Be with me as I go in your name, always, even to the end.

While there is no doubt that Europeans considered Africans to be an inferior people in need of civilizing, it is also true that love relationships were built between visitors willingly entertained by the native people of the Kongo.

Are you afraid to enter someone else’s “kingdom” with the word of Jesus? Do you think telling someone the truth about Jesus is a colonialist move? Ask Jesus what he thinks of evangelism.

What is Jesus saying to you in today’s reading? Write it down as a mission statement, if that’s fitting. “This is my part of making disciples from all nations:_____________.”