The green children of Kawama

A divine service for children in Lubumbashi (DR Congo). There has never been anything like it: about 40,000 children in total and a Chief Apostle who walks through the rows during the service and involves the children. An amazing experience of a very special kind!

More than 4,000 quiet, excited, and very motivated children are sitting in the large central church Kawama in Lubumbashi on 14 July 2017. An additional 12,000 are sitting outside in tents around the church, and the rest are watching a transmission in central churches in other parts of the country and in Burundi. Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider is delighted by the sheer numbers. And the topic he has chosen seems to meet everyone’s approval: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12: 21). In order to drive the message home, the Chief Apostle has chosen an unusual method.

The Chief Apostle in the middle of the congregation

“What do you think? How long will it take to clean the city and remove all the dust and dirt from the streets and the houses in Lubumbashi?” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider asks the children. As he poses the question he steps down from the altar and positions himself between the benches right in the middle of the congregation. “Long,” is the unanimous opinion. “And what would you need for this?” he wants to know next. The children volunteer things like brushes, brooms, buckets, water, and so on. The Chief Apostle is satisfied and goes back to the altar, but he is not alone. He has asked six children at random to come to the altar with him. He hands each child a broom to illustrate what it means to be properly equipped.

“Do as Gideon did”

And then he explains the story of Gideon to the children, who are quiet as mice and listening intently. God told Gideon to destroy the altar of Baal and to build an altar for God. Gideon said to God that he was too poor and too young for this, but God encouraged him and provided him with what he needed for this task. Gideon listened to God and trusted in Him. And in the end Gideon was victorious.

Meanwhile the Chief Apostle is moving through the church again. He goes and gets a trumpet and a torch and puts them next to the altar. This is what Gideon and his companions had at the time, nothing else, he explains. And then Chief Apostle Schneider chooses a young boy—Robert Katwa Kamesha (14)—and asks him to come to the altar with him as Gideon of Kawama. He asks Robert to stand next to him, hands him the torch and the trumpet, and finishes Gideon’s story.

Overcoming evil with good

Gideon’s men were outnumbered by 450 to 1. To defeat an army that size really requires courage! The four thousand children listen with rapt attention, their eyes glued to the Chief Apostle. They have never been in such an amazing service. And it becomes even more amazing, because now the Chief Apostle wants to know from them what kind of spiritual enemies we have to deal with today. Again he makes his way through the rows and asks several children directly. They come up with things like stealing, hitting others, killing, lying, in short, everything that is contrary to God’s commandments. These are the evils in our time, the children say. And this is what the Chief Apostle elaborates on in his sermon. He asks the children to remain honest and to help along in their families, their village, and their school. He asks them to pray like Gideon did and to always have an eye for the wonders of God. “Will you make that your agenda?” he calls into the congregation. The echo from the children is an even louder, “Oui!”

Green children

District Apostle Tshitshi Tshisekedi was very impressed with this day. It had taken many months of preparation and rehearsal for both the choir and the orchestra to learn all the pieces. The District Apostle has put a special focus on sustainability in his District Church, also where the pastoral work among the children is concerned. Months before the service he therefore suggested to the children that they build their own altar, or better, carve their own altar. And this is what they did: the altar was carved from a massive tree trunk. The message: our faith is to grow like a tree in the middle of the forest—strong and firm. All the decorations used for the altar were green. “Green children” was the slogan. According to the District Apostle, this not only applies to the environment but also to our faith: it is supposed to be original, sustainable, and full of hope.