This past Sunday we all loaded up in the Loves’ “family” car (everyone being Carlos included). We drove to a church that I had never been to or had even really heard them talk about. On our way, Rick started to tell me about the church and how it was established a little bit over a year ago by Sam. It was basically a house church because it was a very small church with five members that literally meet at a member’s house.
When we arrived, we were greeted by two men, and we were welcomed into their kizaza (a hut that has a thatched roof but doesn’t have any walls that enclose it). They had a couple of little one-person benches and three larger chairs and two “mats” (old corn meal bags) for the children to sit on. Of course, when we walked in they wanted the mwngu (white person)/ guest to have the nicest chairs/benches. So we sat down with the two men, and someone else showed up, and we all visited until another person showed up.
Rick started asking one of the men questions, and the man shared his story with us. He was born again last May when Sam (the Love’s teammate) was teaching the men in his area and trying to start a church. He told us that several years ago he attended an evangelical church for a while. His wife was unfaithful to him and wanted to divorce him. He went to the churches leaders, and they didn’t do anything and pretended like nothing had happened. His wife wasn’t punished, and was allowed to continue sinning. So after she divorced him, he stopped attending the evangelical church and wasn’t going to church anywhere else.
He had visited a group who called themselves a church of Christ, but were definitely not because they still followed the traditional African beliefs. Some of the church leaders were involved in a “floating coffin” ceremony. This is a ceremony that is practiced in situations where they believe that the deceased died “randomly.” In other words, the deceased didn’t die for any obvious reason (illness, accidental death, etc.). They believe that in these types of deaths, the deceased had been “witched.” In the ceremony, everyone gives the person who holds the coffin money and pays that person off. If someone doesn’t or isn’t able to give money to the person holding the coffin, they are assumed to be the person who had the deceased “witched.” This person is then killed. After he saw the church leaders participate in this ceremony, he didn’t want to have anything to do with that church congregation. Sam and some others were doing Bible studies to start a church in the area, and he was baptized and became a member of the church that was being started.
The church consists of five faithful members. The man who shared his story with us was the same man who had given his house to the church and was in the process of “shifting” (the word they use for moving) to his new house that he had just finished building.
He asked us if we would pray for their church because they were having a hard time growing more than the five members. They had been doing Bible studies every week at different nearby villages to teach and encourage others to become Christians. But despite their efforts, they still weren’t growing. I think that the other church nearby that claims to be Christians but still practice the traditional beliefs is what might be scaring people away from the church they are trying to start.
I admire these men so much because of their commitment to continuing what they believe God is calling them to do even though the fruits of their work might not be evident right now. They are devoting everything they have, including their homes.
I would like to ask you the keep the church in Mapunga springs in your prayers and keep the people that they are reaching out to in your prayers.