DRC (MNN) — Being involved with the Church means different things for different people.
For Jonathan Blomberg of Mission Aviation Fellowship and his fiancée, Lisa Justum (formally of Samaritan’s Purse), that meant starting a lasting discipleship program that ministers to the church in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
While working in the Eastern DRC, Blomberg and Jutsum noticed one of the church’s great needs.
Jutsum says, “DR Congo has experienced over two decades of war, and the church has often been–like any other organization, any other person in the DRC–affected by the war.
“And what you have is a church that really is weak in discipleship and a church that is eager to learn. The young people are eager to learn more about what it looks like to follow Christ and really obey Him in discipleship.”
Blomberg and Jutsum wanted to do something to address the strife the people of the DRC are living in.
They decided they were going to provide discipleship guidance for members of the church.
Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (ESV).
Taking this commandment to heart, the couple named their group M28. The name is even more significant because it addresses the violence of the last couple of decades. The rebel Congolese army is known as M23.
Blomberg explains that he wants the group to focus on being rebels for Christ in a way that unifies believers.
Jutsum says, “It is counter-cultural to follow Christ and to be honest, and to be not just a good moral person but to be somebody who follows Christ and seeks to see Him glorified in everything that they do.”
This call to obedience must permeate every area of a Christian’s life, even to the point where they’re sharing it with others.
Blomberg asks, “How do you obey His commands if you don’t know what they are? You have to know the Bible to know what they are.”
The group focuses on the youth who are already going to church. As their sessions progressed, Blomberg and Justum were informed by a leader of the church that the participants didn’t have a clear understanding of what their salvation meant.
Jutsum says, “As a result of that, we sort of adjusted our curriculum to include a section of a very beginning basic explanation of the Gospel. And we did it in such a way that we believe […] for the first time, maybe, they accepted Christ.”
Even while the group is geared toward the younger generation, the couple hopes to have a far-reaching impact.
“Most of our students are college age or just post-college age. Ideally we want to affect the older generation as well, but we think one of the best ways we can do that is by reaching the younger generation who are becoming the leaders of the church.”
At the end of the two and a half years Blomberg and Jutsum ministered to those people, they were seeing individuals from M28 step up in leadership positions in the church.
Not only are they affecting the church, but they’re taking what they’ve learned to their families.
In reality, M28 is reaching more than the youth of the church.
There remains some tension between various ethnic and tribal groups of the church in the DRC. “A lot of the churches are basically split based on tribes. Sometimes it’s not talked about in the culture,” Blomberg explains.
One of the lessons taught in M28 is about conflict resolution. They talked openly about the conflict between tribes within the church.
As a result of what they’re learning in the group, many members of M28 have since reached out to other tribes and churches they would have never approached before.
Jutsum explains it like this: “Once you realize that your primary identity is in Christ and that identity transcends tribes, it transcends culture, I think that was a big realization for a lot of our young people seeing that ‘Wow, our relationship in Christ goes beyond nationality, goes beyond our tribes.'”
In its own small way, M28 is healing the rifts created by 20 years of war.
The couple is pleased to see that the group is quite independent now.
Blomberg says, “Probably one of the most encouraging things to see is the Congolese youth kind of take over the group basically. I know it’s been a struggle for missionaries in the past; it’s hard to let go and it’s hard to transfer the ownership of the church or these different mission projects to the Congolese.”
The leaders have actually told the couple they’re ready to take over and construct the curriculum.
“By the time we left, they were basically doing it themselves,” Blomberg says, “We trust God and we trust the leaders that we left the group with. We really believe that it’s mostly probably through these guys and girls that great things will happen over in Congo in the next generation.”
What started out as a side project from the main work that Blomberg and Justum were doing has turned into successful ministry that they hope will continue to glorify God no matter what it turns into in the future.
Jutsum leaves us with this thought: “I think prayer is the #1 way that people can help MAF [and] help M28, because we know that being a Christian is not easy: it calls us to come and die. And at the end of the day in Congo, it’s a challenging place. There is war, there is suffering on a large scale. And it’s a challenging place to be a Christian and to be a light for Christ. So just pray for M28 to be a light in the midst of darkness.”