There is no peace in our country

Christophe has lived in a refugee camp for 23 years. He not only looks after his own family there, but as a Priest also provides pastoral care for his brothers and sisters in faith. His life is one of huge challenges and an even greater dream.

“We are doing well and are bearing up under the circumstances thanks to the love of Jesus,” Ayumba Eca Christophe writes. The Congolese refugee is husband, a father of eight, and a Priest. Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania has been his home for two decades now. He has an old mobile phone, which allows him to stay in touch with his family at home, his friends, and brothers and sisters in faith. Christophe not only works in the refugee camp, but also conducts divine services for his brothers and sisters.

Months on the run

At the time they had had to leave their home in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where rebels were fighting against the Mobuto regime with help from three neighbouring countries. It was a protracted, cruel conflict that destroyed livelihoods, tore families apart, and cost many lives. For weeks they wandered until they were led to the Nyarugusu refugee camp by officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Tanzanian authorities.

It's not a prison, but there is no freedom either

This is not a prison, Christophe says, but we are not free to do what we want either. “We can only generate a small income, just enough to survive.” However, the father and husband still has not given up on his dreams. “We would like to relocate from our asylum country to a third country, for example the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, or Germany. There we could live in peace.” And there is hope. “Some New Apostolic Christians have already left the refugee camp,” Christophe says. Thanks to the UNHCR resettlement plan they were able to leave and resettle abroad.

Nyarugusu refugee camp is spread over an area of seven square kilometres in the western province of Kigoma in Tanazania. “With about 150,000 refugees the camp is the largest and best-known refugee camp of the twenty-first century,” Wikipedia says. The camp was created by the UNHCR and the Tanzanian government in 1996 after an estimated 150,000 Congolese from the Democratic Republic of the Congo crossed the border into Tanzania in order to escape civil war.

Church built in self-help

Christoph not only looks after his own family, but also thirteen other families in the camp. “I am a Priest. Our congregation includes three other Priests, an Evangelist, and a Shepherd.” Our congregation is not the only one in the refugee camp. “In total there are eight congregations in Nyarugusu: 3,200 New Apostolic Christians are divided into congregations A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H,” he explains.

Two thirds of the New Apostolic Christians across the globe do not have a church building of their own. They worship in the open air or in rented premises. Here in Nyarugusu, however, the brothers and sisters have churches. They are not only thankful for this, but also a little proud. “All of our churches were built in self-help. We really put in an effort and received small donations from the USA—from the brothers and sisters who were able to emigrate there thanks to the resettlement programme and who now support us financially in the camp.”

Holy Communion every Sunday

The divine services provide Christophe and his brothers and sisters with confidence and hope. “We gather for divine service every Sunday. We pray and celebrate Holy Communion regularly, in all of the congregations!” the Priest says. The atmosphere is always very festive, he adds. Many of the brothers and sisters come dressed in black and white—it is important to them.

We even have a choir of about 20 to 25 members. “When there is a funeral service or the Apostle announces his visit, the choir quickly grows to 150 members,” the Priest says. Last year, District Apostle Joseph Ekhuya visited us. He is responsible for Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. His visit brought great joy to the brothers and sisters in the refugee camp.

Trust in God

Christophe is married to Kisiya Bushiri Clementine. The couple has eight children: “A blessing,” Christoph says. They have two sons, Uhana Patient (21) and little one-year old Jack, and six girls: Louise (16), Wakati (14), Vumilia (13), Johari (11), Masoka (7), and Durcas (3).

Ayumba Eca Christophe is a French teacher and works at one of the schools in the camp. He speaks Swahili, Kibembe, French, and English. He earns 20 dollars a month—which is not nearly enough to provide for his family.

“I pray fervently to the almighty God for help,” Christophe says. His biggest wish is to be able to emigrate through the resettlement programme of the UNHCR. “Beyond that I am happy that I know the way of salvation laid by Jesus Christ.” He adds, “Even if we have to cope with an unbearable situation, we place our trust in God. One day He will wipe away our tears and we will see the glory of God.”

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Oliver Rütten
Congregational life, Tanzania