Democratic Republic of the Congo: on the up and coming

Vibrant and touching … The Church spokesman, Peter Johanning, experienced a very unique divine service for children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But the children are not the only ones who captured his heart. Join us for part two of his travel diary.

What has happened so far: “What is so special about the Congo?” I had asked the Chief Apostle on our flight there. “The people,” he had said spontaneously. Already when we arrived and were welcomed by the brothers and sisters I began to get an idea of what he was driving at.

Friday: children first

Friday morning, 10 a.m., divine service for children in the congregation of Kawama in the centre of Lubumbashi (DRC). Four thousand children are sitting in the huge church, excitement and joy written all over their faces. And thousands of others will be following the service on national television. Sure, the children are on their school holidays, but even then it is quite remarkable to be able to bring so many children together on a Friday morning for a divine service.

Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider was really looking forward to this special service. It is a first for the Church here in more ways than one. Never before have so many children been together, never before has such a divine service been transmitted on national television, and never before was the Chief Apostle here for something like this. And never before has the Chief Apostle celebrated such an interactive service for children.

He went through the rows with a microphone pinned to his lapel, and asked the children questions. Patiently he listened to their answers. And sometimes he just could not suppress a smile, for example, when one of the children who had been asked what it does not like and wants to overcome, responded: choir practice.

It was a lively and moving divine service. And everything the children did was beautiful: how they listened, how they participated, and how they sang. And the Chief Apostle was completely in his element. Of all those who were there, I think he was the happiest!

Commitment without pressure

After lunch and a short break the Chief Apostle was invited to join a group of women and men who have been invested with certain functions and duties in the Church. Women in particular are involved with the work and identify themselves with their Church very much—and they assume responsibility. The gathering was for those in leading functions in the fields of music, youth care, and teaching of children.

They were standing in a large circle when the Chief Apostle came into the room. And although he knew little about the nature of the gathering, he went to the microphone and addressed the group for a good half hour and spoke about bearing responsibility in the Church. All on the spur-of-the-moment, without a manuscript!

He spoke about how important it is to give glory to God, even if personal talents and skills are no doubt useful. He addressed the fact that music is not a means to its own end, but an expression of love for the Lord and the congregations. He mentioned that children need examples, especially in those phases of their lives when they need orientation. A good teacher will share his wisdom with his students without pressure, the Chief Apostle said. Their priority here is to convey faith in Jesus Christ and His salvation—not their strength or their abilities. “Music is a message from God to the congregation,” he summed things up for the invited musicians.

I meet Marie and Higelin. Marie is studying journalism. We hit it off immediately. And Higelin is the organist in the divine service on Sunday morning. A great guy! How did the Chief Apostle put it? The people are what make it special!

Tomorrow in part three of the travel diary: More people in the DRC have been displaced than even attend divine services in Germany. The Chief Apostle takes the floor to speak about this—in the divine service and in a meeting for Apostles and Bishops.