By Nicolas Kyalangalilwa
My city is Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s a beautiful city of 1.5 million people – nicknamed the Switzerland of Africa because of its amazing, temperate weather and hilly landscape. There are a relatively high number of educational institutions here, making it a perfect environment for student and young-adult ministry.
But this area is also one of the poorest places in the world. It has gone through over 20 years of war and instability, with over six million people losing their lives during those two decades. When combined with the sequels of colonialism and over three decades of dictatorship, the picture could not get darker.
There are many churches in Bukavu, and people are not hostile to Christianity, but planting a church here has been the most difficult endeavor of my whole life. People simply do not want to hear the biblical message of grace. It’s offensive to them. They much prefer a message of works that fits with their desire to feel they have done something for God and now God owes them something back. Widespread poverty creates much unemployment, even among the highly educated, making it difficult for the church to become self-sustaining and forcing many young people to leave the city to find work. And the volatility of the political and security situation causes people to live in panic mode with no long-term planning
Our church is called Lephare Bukavu. (The name is French for lighthouse.) Our morning French service gathers about 110 people, and attendance at our evening English service is about 40. We have 17 Bible study groups, and we are working to plant a second church in our city in 2019.
Our vision at Lephare Bukavu is to be a biblical family on mission. God has called us to serve this city for the greater glory of Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we hope to be a community that shines the light of the gospel in our neighborhood so that Christ’s redemptive purposes can be accomplished through the transformation of our city. We seek to work for the good of our city – encouraging those who can to start businesses to provide employment and create economic opportunity for the community. We are calling Christians to operate from a biblical narrative rather than the fatalistic narrative so common in our area.
We are seeing God’s hand in many ways. Patient is a young man who was full of guilt and uncertainty. He would try to be good and do church; then he would go through a season of total rebellion followed by guilt and remorse over his choices. He was angry with God over how his dad had left. Patient found his way into our community. He heard the gospel and trusted in Jesus. For over 18 months now, he has been growing and finding peace, joy and security in Jesus. He is leading a small group of 12 young entrepreneurs who are seeking to find out what it means to love Jesus through their businesses.
These changed lives are what excites me. And I cannot wait to see many more people come to know Jesus and have a radical impact on our society and city.
In 2012, Nic and a team planted Lephare Bukavu to reach the younger generation with the gospel. He participated in the International Intensive that same year. He also serves on CTC Africa’s advisory team. Nic is married to Rachel, and they have two children.