Baptized books

Pakisa Tshimika, Heritier Funga, David Wiebe

ICOMB supports Anabaptist curriculum in DR Congo

“I baptize this book in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

With these words, Gerard Mambakila, president of Communauté des Églises des Frères Mennonites au Congo (the Mennonite Brethren conference in DR Congo), poured a glass of water over the book he was holding. It was a copy of a new curriculum – seven years in the making – about to be released into the school system.

Once again, I was surprised by cross-cultural experience. I would never purposely allow water to touch any of my books. But in DR Congo, the church honours a book’s spiritual provenance with a public baptism.

In this case, spiritual provenance started with an ICOMB education consultation in 2009. Under the leadership of Pakisa Tshimika (Mama Makeka House of Hope, Fresno/Kinshasa), 50 Congolese educators discussed ways to revitalize the Mennonite school system.

The Congo education department guide says, “We must teach children that there is a God who loves us.” Unfortunately, the government’s ideological nod was not supported with funds over the 1990s because of several civil conflicts.

As funding dried up, church schools suffered. Some of the teachers willing to work for low pay were not believers and disparaged the faith. Leaders of other major religions (primarily Islam) began building schools, offering better – even free – education. These are “good schools” – and every parent wants their kids to get the best education. But who knows the long-term consequences when a generation of children are educated into another belief structure?

The consultation concluded with a dozen solutions. Ten could be done within the Congo, using their resources. Two needed some outside help. One solutions was to develop a new curriculum to teach Anabaptist values to children Grades 1–12.

After the consultation, ICOMB continued to support the project. In 2012, international donors helped cover expenses for a writing committee to outline the scope and sequence for a 12-year teaching plan. Writers then fleshed this out. Finally, in March 2016, the new curriculum was launched…and baptized!

The work isn’t done. ICOMB now seeks support for the next phase of training area superintendents to orient teachers who will use this curriculum. Florent Muaku Kinana of Kinshasa leads this work. The revitalization of Congolese Mennonite church schools continues.

[David Wiebe is director of ICOMB, the International Community of Mennonite Brethren. He loves to assemble people of God, opening space for all to listen to God as a community for inspiration and direction.

 

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