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The Body of Christ in Motion

January 8, 2024

As we witness the Body of Christ in motion, we sense God’s power on earth and receive a taste of the Divine. Motivated by the same Spirit, people living in different parts of the world often work together unknowingly, not seeing how their combined contributions shift lives and the concentric circles of humanity that emanate. We can see how it fits together only from a bird’s eye view. The Central Conference Theological Fund (CCTEF) illuminates the power of the connectional Spirit among us.

United Methodists in the East Congo Episcopal Area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo live in a rich faithfulness where life often centers around the church. Hymns unify people throughout the day among those walking to retrieve water from a distance, gathering for various community programs, or closing the day with prayer and gratitude. Grace-filled social action is taken to include survivors of regional conflict, especially women and girls suffering from gender-based violence. The Gospel brings good news in tangible ways amid existential threats over land and natural resources such as gold, cobalt ore, and diamonds, while “over 60 million people there live on less than $2.15 per day.” (https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/drc/overview#1

In 2022, the Methodist University of Kindu received a grant of $48,600 from CCTEF to support the theological education of 72 students. CCTEF’s ongoing commitment to “Charles Wesley’s vision: to ‘unite the pair so long disjoined – knowledge and vital piety’ makes visible the unity of the two as those called to ministry in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo apply both. 

Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda shared, “I am very pleased and proud of the support in pastoral training that my episcopal area receives from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM).  Today, our university is a reference for having a virtual library, having a video conference room. It is the only university in the city where students do defense online and this is a mark that we have with the support of GBHEM.  East Congo will always be there every year with projects supporting training and pastoral education for pastors, their wives and children.  I continue to pray for the entire GBHEM team that God will continue to protect them.” 

Learn more about the Central Conference Theological Education Fund and how to apply here: https://www.gbhem.org/education-leaders/cctef/

Theological Formation through Education

Professor Jacqueline Lumumba Luhahi, Academic General Secretary of the Methodist University of Kindu said, “First of all, it should be noted that the majority of students in theology or other faculties come from socially disadvantaged families or modest backgrounds. Supported by CCTEF, theology students do not pay academic fees. But, not yet having residential homes for our students in general, theology students are also obliged to stay with host families or rent small houses on the outskirts of Kindu. Their travel to university, their accommodation, and food costs are, in large part, provided through CCTEF support.”

Host families who provide a stable living and learning environment for those moving toward church leadership are yet another pulse point in the Body of Christ activated through the process of theological formation.

Technology Making Theological Education Accessible

In 2020, Methodist University of Kindu students were met with the additional challenge of the pandemic. For communities not oriented toward frequent use of online learning, finding stable internet connections and equipment threatened the possibility of their theological education.  At the end of the 2022-2023 academic year, Professor Lumumba shared, “Let me remind you that since December 2019, universities around the world stopped operating according to traditional rules because of COVID-19, a disease that had stopped all programs and disoriented all our activities. We were forced to adjust our behaviors and academic plans to the rhythms sanctioned by the consequences of the inflexibility of this pandemic.”

A progressive plan was made to shift to online learning, made possible through gifts given to and distribution of the CCTEF. The Methodist University of Kindu is now “among the rare universities in the Province of Maniema capable of organizing distance learning this year thanks to its computer laboratory equipped with the latest generation of technical equipment,” said Lumumba. 

While a call to ministry within the United Methodist Church is at first experienced individually, it is through the connection that a calling is discerned, nurtured, and, by God’s grace, brought to fruition. Church leaders are called upon to lead in times of peace and unrest, and both require the ongoing support and prayers of those within the connection. It takes the pulse of the Body beating strongly together to continue the transformative work of pastors worldwide.

As the 2023 graduates move forward in their responses to God’s call, they were given these words from Lumumba: “We invite you to remain intellectually vigilant because you must make a difference in our societies and in the world. The world expects a lot from you: your know-how, the quality of your knowledge, your ethics, your spirit of creativity, and your patriotism. University values cannot be hidden. They illuminate.”

Learn more about the Central Conference Theological Education Fund and how to apply here: https://www.gbhem.org/education-leaders/cctef/

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