MOMBASA, KENYA (April 24, 2013 – History was made as 25 church leaders from nine countries gathered recently for the first-ever consultation of the family of African Covenant Churches, a group of African denominations that originated from Evangelical Covenant Churches in North America and Sweden.
The seven-day gathering provided opportunities for sharing ministry ideas and best practices, as well as sharing stories of God’s work in the nine countries that were represented and encouraging one another. Click here to see additional photos.
Eighteen leaders came from Congo (Kinshasa), Congo (Brazzaville), Central African Republic, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and South Africa. They were joined by six leaders from North America and one from Sweden. Only a couple of the leaders had met each other previously.
“This consultation was my dream for at least six years,” says Pete Ekstrand. He and his wife, Cindy, serve as Evangelical Covenant Church missionaries and coordinators for Kenya and Sudan.
“After the first consultation of leaders of the Asian Covenant Churches took place, I heard about the inspiration and encouragement it was for leaders to get together for the first time,” Ekstrand recalls. In 2007, Ekstrand joined Congo Covenant Church (CEUM) President Mossai Sanguma for the 125th anniversary of the Communaute Evangelique du Christ (CEC), which was established by the Swedish Covenant. “In observing the interactions between Rev. Sanguma and the leaders of the CEC, I was reminded of how positive it is for leaders of different churches in Africa to meet each other.”
That re-ignited the dream. “I thought how wonderful it would be for the leaders of the family of Covenant churches in Africa to all be together to listen, share story and passion, and learn from and be inspired by each other,” Ekstrand says. ‘I believed that the benefits of such an encounter would be huge. So I began to think about how and when this could happen within Africa.”
Participants arrived in Mombasa on Sunday, April 7, following this agenda:
- Monday – leaders introduced themselves and provided overviews of their respective denominations
- Tuesday and Wednesday – Dennis Tongoi addressed leaders on the theme, “Opportunities and Challenges for the Church in Africa.”
- Thursday – Participants traveled by bus seven hours north and east to Mpeketoni, Kenya, where they visited the Mpeketoni Covenant Church. Additional stops along the way included visits to the Hongwe Covenant Church and the dormitory project that houses high school students.
- Friday – Participants traveled by bus and boat to Lamu Island to visit the Lamu Covenant Church. “We heard how they are reaching out to the Lamu community – which is 99 percent Muslim – by building friendships,” Ekstrand notes. The church also has a “table banking” project that teaches individuals and families to save. From Lamu the group traveled by boat to Manda Island to visit the Manda Covenant Church and join in an impromptu worship service. The visit also included a project that helps young men transport coral building block from the quarries to the port for export and sale.
- Saturday – Leaders traveled to Nairobi.
- Sunday – Participants worshiped and preached at five Covenant churches in the Nairobi area, with leaders returning to their home countries later that day and on Monday.
During his two-day presentation, Tongoi used Genesis passages of scripture to remind leaders of God’s vision that all nations will be blessed, noting that God works through individuals to change nations. Participants discussed the question, who is our neighbor, and examined to what extent love for neighbor is expressed. The matter of church planting also was addressed – not just how many churches are being planted, but what kind of church is being birthed.
Following a session on the “ABCs of culture,” participants divided into small groups (according to the cultures represented) to discuss destructive behaviors prevalent in the respective cultures, such as racism, gender inequality, ethnocentrism, foods forbidden for men, women and children, polygamy and forced marriages. Each group was then asked to select one behavior to examine in greater depth, asking questions such as: What is the lie? How is it transmitted? What are the fruits of the behavior? What is the biblical truth to replace this lie, and how can we share this truth?
“The speaker reminded me of my studies in seminary about the importance not just the knowledge of God’s Word, but of obeying it – that is to say, living it out as described in James,” said participant Rev Mawe Sema.
That sentiment was echoed by another participant, Rev. Gaston Gobelemba, who said, “We need to teach the members to not follow the lies of the ancestors, which come from Satan and which have become a belief, but to obey the World of God.”
Kimy Konde, regional secretary for Africa, sees long-lasting benefits coming from this kind of gathering. ”We believe that the effort given to this consultation will produce fruit of caring for each other, love, openness to the Spirit, and mutual help between the leaders who participated in order that a new orientation to the life of the Church, the mission and integrated development of humankind, will be at the center of our preoccupations each day.”
Ekstrand affirms Konde’s observation on the long-lasting impact of an event like this. “The passion for people to be together, the camaraderie that grew, the sharing, learning and humble acknowledgement of weaknesses, and the challenge each individual and denomination received from the speaker was beyond what I imagined it would be – far beyond,” he says. “A deep connection was established that I believe will bear fruit in the future. When and where I do not know – that is for God. What we simply did was to bring people together . . . and then God started his work.”
Communauté Évangélique de l’Ubangi-Mongala (CEUM), Congo (Kinshasa) :
- Rev. Jules Mboka Ngate, president
- Rev. Jacques Sambo Vungbo, vice-president
- Rev. Paul Blanchard Tayeye Mpa’mudjir, head of the Department of Evangelism & Mission
- Rev. Clement Mawe Sema, head of the Department of Christian Communication
Communauté Évangélique de l’Ubangi en Mission en Afrique (CEUMA), Central African Republic (planted by the CEUM in CAR) :
- Pastor Philemon Blaxime Langandi, president
- Rev. Gaston Gobelemba, missionary from the CEUM
Evangelical Covenant Church of Kenya (ECCK), Nairobi, Kenya:
- Pastor Simon Kamau, Moderator, president
- Pastor Francis Gichia Gaitungu, superintendent of the Central Conference
- Pastor John Muhindi Waweru, superintendent of the Coast Conference
- Pastor John Njaramba Kiruga, head of the Department of Church Planting
Evangelical Covenant Church of South Sudan (ECCSS) and Evangelical Covenant Church of Ethiopia (ECCSSE), Malakal, South Sudan:
- Rev. Abraham Tuach Kiir, president
- Rev. Peter Gatkuoth Makuem, vice-president
- Rev. Matthew Jock Moses , director of Projects
- Rev. Simon Koat Both, superintendent of the Ethiopia Conference
Communauté Évangélique du Congo (CEC), Congo (Kinshasa) (planted by Swedish Covenant):
- Rev. Mvuezolo Diansokila, pastor of the Mbudi parish in Kinshasa
Communauté des Églises Baptistes Unies (CEBU), Congo (Kinshasa) (planted by Swedish Baptists):
- Rev. Paul Mabuna, general secretary
L’Eglise Évangélique du Congo (EEC), Congo (Brazzaville) (planted by Swedish Covenant):
- Rev. Edouard Moukala, vice-president
Gemensam Framtid, Bromma, Sweden (this is the new denomination after the merger):
- Rev. Kimy Konde, regional secretary for Africa
South African Covenant Church:
- Rev. Frank Tuan, missionary from Taiwan
Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC):
- Curt Peterson, executive minister of the Department of World Mission
- Meritt Sawyer, executive director of the Paul Carlson Partnership
- John Kerl, ECC regional coordinator for Africa
- Keith Gustafson, Congo country coordinator
- Peter & Cindy Ekstrand, missionaries to Congo
In addition to Tongoi, also speaking during the consultation was Jeff Sikabwe of Samaritan Strategy.