“I baptize this book in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
With these words, Gerard Mambakila, president of Communauté des Églises des Frères Mennonites au Congo (the Mennonite Brethren conference in DR Congo), poured a glass of water over the book he was holding. It was a copy of a new curriculum—seven years in the making—about to be released into the school system.
Once again, I was surprised by cross-cultural experience. I would never purposely allow water to touch any of my books. But in DR Congo, the church honors a book’s spiritual provenance with a public baptism.
In this case, spiritual provenance started with an ICOMB education consultation in 2009. Under the leadership of Pakisa Tshimika, founder of Mama Makeka House of Hope with offices in Fresno, California, and Kinshasa, DR Congo, 50 Congolese educators discussed ways to revitalize the Mennonite school system.
The Congo education department guide says, “We must teach children that there is a God who loves us.” Unfortunately, the government’s ideological nod was not supported with funds during the 1990s because of several civil conflicts.
As funding dried up, church schools suffered. Some of the teachers willing to work for low pay were not believers and disparaged the faith. Leaders of other major religions (primarily Islam) began building schools, offering better—even free—education. These are “good schools,” and every parent wants their kids to get the best education. But who knows the long-term consequences when a generation of children are educated into another belief structure?
The consultation concluded with a dozen solutions. Ten could be done within the Congo, using their resources. Two needed some outside help. One solution was to develop a new curriculum to teach Anabaptist values to children in grades one to 12.
After the consultation, ICOMB continued to support the project. In 2012, international donors helped cover expenses for a writing committee to outline the scope and sequence for a 12-year teaching plan. Writers then fleshed this out. Finally, in March 2016, the new curriculum was launched…and baptized!
The work isn’t done. ICOMB now seeks support for the next phase of training area superintendents to orient teachers who will use this curriculum. Florent Muaku Kinana of Kinshasa leads this work. The revitalization of Congolese Mennonite church schools continues.
Did you know?
There are 325 elementary and high schools that serve some 75,000 students operated by Mennonite churches in Congo.
Florent Muaku Kinana is a pastor and the education coordinator for 62 Mennonite Brethren-run schools in the Kinshasa region.
All three Mennonite conferences in DR Congo are involved in this project: Communauté Mennonite au Congo (CMCo; Mennonite Church of Congo), Communauté des Églises de Frères Mennonites au Congo (CEFMC; Mennonite Brethren Church of Congo), Communauté Evangélique Mennonite.
Congolese children need school kits. You can make a difference by giving one school kit to MCC for every school-aged child in your church.
—Drawing from his travels to visit Mennonite Brethren churches around the world, David, Wiebe, the International Community of Mennonite Brethren executive director offers insights on faith.