Sunday, July 24, 2016

Empowering the Local Church

My experience at a portable Bible school graduation ceremony in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

A group of pastors gather for a portable Bible school training

Samaritan’s Purse has an amazing program that provides biblical training for pastors living in rural Democratic Republic of the Congo. For three months, pastors undergo intensive training close to their home villages. Most of these ministers haven’t finished secondary school, yet alone any form of seminary education. The hope is that these trainings will equip and empower these pastors to continue their ministries among the regions most devastated by military conflicts.

On a recent Sunday, I had the privilege of attending a graduation ceremony for a portable Bible school in a village about three hours south of Bunia, where Samaritan’s Purse is based in the Congo. Roughly 30 pastors graduated, including Baptists, Pentecostals, and Anglicans. Congregants from all the pastors’ churches came to support them for this exciting occasion.

Empowering the Local Church

A graduate shakes hands with community leaders and Samaritan’s Purse staff members.

It was a great celebration—this was the first academic graduation ceremony many of the graduates had participated in. Over the span of four hours, various church choirs led worship in Swahili, and a graduate, church leaders, and Samaritan’s Purse staff members gave speeches in French. The commencement speech from a Samaritan’s Purse staff member came from Genesis 12, where God calls Abraham to be a blessing to all nations.

He shared a story about a single mother in Uganda who was unemployed and discovered that she was HIV positive. A concerned neighbor told her pastor, who then invited the woman to their church. The woman immediately felt welcomed by the members of the congregation, and, soon, the church was moved by the woman’s situation. This church, situated in a rural and impoverished region of Uganda, decided to pool all their resources together to ensure that this woman and her children had all their physical needs accounted for.

The commencement speaker shared this story to emphasize that the local church is called to be a blessing to its communities. It’s my prayer that this program will empower them to continue doing exactly that.

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