Tshikapa, DR Congo – “We who were hidden in the shadows have just come out into the light!” exclaimed a young woman preparing for the ministry in the Communauté Mennonite au Congo (CMCo – Congo Mennonite Church) in a recent interview. “May this light last forever in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!”
Charlie Kasha Kamba, 21, from Nyanga, is one of four female first-year students, ages 21–62, enrolled at the Kalonda Bible Institute, located near the CMCo headquarters in Tshikapa. The Institute was founded by Mennonite missionaries in 1951 and has trained numerous church leaders.
On the brink of its centennial celebration in July 2012, the central committee of the church, led by Adolphe Komuesa Kalunga, approved the ordination of women. Inspired by this decision, a number of Mennonite women are seeking support to pursue theological studies.
Charlie says, “With the decision to ordain women, I decided to serve God in the ministry to contribute to the expansion of the Lord’s work in general as well as to the unity of Mennonites in particular.”
A cloth market in the exhibit hall of the Mennonite Church USA convention, 1–5 July in Phoenix, Arizona will fund scholarships for women preparing for ministry in the CMCO.
The Congo Cloth Connection, a project of Michiana Friends of Congo, conducts African fabric markets to promote relationships between Mennonites in the United States and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The project will give scholarship priority to women like the Kalonda students, who come from regions far from the capital city of Kinshasa.
“A silent voice has always convinced me to serve the Lord,” says another student, Thérèse Tudiakuile, 41, of Kananga. The mother of five is currently president of the Mennonite women of her province but says she decided to answer the call of God more specifically by studying for the ministry.
“Approval of women’s ordination is a great miracle for us,” Thérèse says. “It affirms our value as women in the church, especially in a culture that has treated women as objects.”
Générose Ngombe, 24, from Katanga province, is married and the mother of a son. Like the other women she has a missionary spirit.
“I answered the call of God like Samuel,” she says. “I would like the church to send me as a missionary to plant Mennonite churches where there are none. I am ready to serve my God everywhere. And my husband has decided to go with me wherever the Lord calls me to serve.”
Marie-Louise Tumba Yama says she will go “even to the remotest village to establish a Mennonite church.” Marie-Louise is 62. Her husband, Pastor Léonard Yama, is one of seven professors at the Kalonda Bible Institute, which currently has 35 students.
The Institute’s only female professor, Bercy Mundedi, will be among the first women ordained in the CMCO this fall. This conference is the last of the country’s three Mennonite conferences to approve women’s ordination. The Communauté des Églises de Frères Mennonites au Congo (Mennonite Brethren Church of Congo) has been ordaining women since 2000, and the Communauté Évangélique Mennonite (Evangelical Mennonite Church of Congo) followed suit last year.
“Support us in your prayers,” says Thérèse Tudiakuile, “so that we can complete our three years of theological studies.”
Article by Charlie Malembe and Nancy Myers. Contributions to the Congo Cloth Connection come through cloth markets held at church or may be sent to: Florence Church, 17975 Centreville-Constantine Road, Constantine, Michigan 49704.
A quilt top that will be quilted and auctioned at the Congo Cloth Connection booth in Phoenix. Photo by Jeanne Heyerly