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Displaced pastor serves God in Malawi refugee camp

Pastor’s act of forgiveness gives teeth to the message of peace
By Safari Mutebesha

I have no nationality. I am just of Jesus Christ.

My name is Safari, and I have been a refugee for more than 20 years—because God wanted me to be.

My tribe, the Tutsi, is not accepted in Congo. Many have been killed, including my family. When they killed my father, I was in my bed. I saw how they killed him, I knew who killed him and I thought I would be dead as well. By the grace of God, I survived.

I fled to a refugee camp in Rwanda. After a time, I returned to Congo, but I was persecuted, so I went to Burundi. I went back to Congo but had to escape again. This was in 2007. When I arrived (at the refugee camp) in Malawi, God called me to serve him. The camp is a small place with 27,000 people all crammed together. People die every day because of conflict.

But in my time in Congo, the Mennonite Brethren church taught me about forgiveness, that God lives in peace and that I need to love others in the same way God has loved me. So I prayed and began to share the good news.

Starting with four people who received the message, we moved around in the camp preaching the good news. How you can be forgiven. How you can live together in peace. God gave me grace to be listened to. We began to call ourselves “the Menno Group” because we speak about peace, repentance and love.

One day there was news that a rebel had come to the camp. Many people knew what he had done in Congo, and they ran and hid. I found the man all alone. I started to tremble. Here was the man in charge of the operation that killed my parents.

“My brother, how are you?” I said. “Do you remember me? I’m the son of the pastor. It’s you who killed my father.

“But, my brother,” I told him, “you are good. It’s not you that killed; it’s the thing that’s inside of you that is bad. Come to my house,” I invited. “It’s your time to receive Christ.” He accepted. For three years, he was in my house. Now he’s one of the pastors in our church.

Because of this testimony, the message of peace is now grounded—people see it has teeth. God is using us, the church is continuing and people are accepting Jesus Christ. In 2008, we got official government recognition as an MB church.

I have been teaching others by the grace of God. We now have 15 churches with more than 2,500 people. We do literacy work with women and Bible training to form servants of God. In the camp, people know this is a church that brings peace. I thank the Father that because of war people are accepting Jesus.

I have had opportunities to go to the West as a refugee, but I refused because my mission in Malawi is not finished. If these 27,000 people in the camp are transformed, they will transform the world. God uses people who were not accepted to do his work. May all glory be to God.

Safari Mutabesha, a church leader living in Malawi, shared his testimony March 13, 2017, at the International Community of Mennonite Brethren “Church in Mission” consultation in Thailand. This essay was adapted by Karla Braun, editor of the MB Herald, from a recording.

Photo: Safari Mutebesha, a Mennonite Brethren pastor from DR Congo who is ministering in a Malawi refugee camp, sits with Randy Friesen, MB Mission executive director. Photo credit: MB Mission

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