Monday, June 26, 2006

Born Again and Again - Christianity Today Magazine

Born Again and Again - Christianity Today Magazine:
Jesus gives us strength,' says a Congolese pastor.

by Isaac Phiri

"Goma lies beside deep-blue Lake Kivu surrounded by majestic mountains, so it looks like it could be home to a resort. But endless border conflicts make it a battleground for its 600,000 inhabitants.

Natural forces also threaten Goma. The picturesque Mount Nyiragongo hurled smoke and unleashed rivers of lava through Goma in January 2002. Much of the city was burned and buried.

But one thing seems to keep Goma growing: the church. There is a house of worship around every corner. Or so it seems. Many are simple wood- and zinc-roofed structures. ..."
This is a sidebar to an article in Christianity Today that tells a story of hope in the Congo, where 3.9 million people have died, and 40,000 have been raped since 1996. People have been born, lived and died without knowing anything but warfare.

From the main article:
"...The statistics are depressing. The country's 62 million people live with an infant mortality rate that is ten times higher than that of the U.S. Nearly 50 percent of the population is under age 16, and few will celebrate a 50th birthday. Ten years of war exacerbates the brevity of life. More than 3.9 million have died since 1996, when perpetual fighting first broke out. ..."
How has Christianity dealt with this? A turning point was in 1964:

"...DRC's missions history is equally grim. The nation is the graveyard for hundreds of Western missionaries. In 1964, American Paul Carlson, a medical missionary with the Evangelical Covenant Church, was shot and killed while trying to escape rebel killings. He stopped to help another missionary climb over a wall when machine gun fire ended his life.

Carlson's sacrifice and that of others is enduring in Congolese minds. "We killed them," laments Lusi, "but they kept on coming." Missionary persistence has been rewarded. Today, 72 percent of the population confesses historic Christian faith: 50 percent Catholic and 22 percent a blend of mainline Protestantism and evangelical Pentecostalism. Another 20 percent mix indigenous beliefs with Christianity. ..."

They kept on coming...

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