Congolese Bishop’s goal: 100 wells in 100 villages07-02-2010
For the Arkansas United Methodist
Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo grew up pagan in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. At his father’s bidding he used to periodically sacrifice large chickens to two household idols. His grandfather, he said, was a “witch doctor.”
“You can see how far we were from Christianity,” he said.
The Methodist education he received in high school, he said, was what transformed his faith — and his life.
He began regularly attending church services, joined a Christian youth group and read the works of Martin Luther King Jr., who introduced him to Jesus’ command to “love your enemies.”
In a country long torn by war — first against Belgian colonizers and then among local tribes — the idea of loving one’s enemy was a revelation.
“I gave my life over to Christ,” Ntambo said. “I asked God to let me become a pastor so I could preach the Word of God to my people. This is how I became who I am.”
Today, Ntambo, 62, is bishop of Congo’s rapidly growing North Katanga Annual Conference and a widely respected senator in Congo. He is also a peacemaker, who was recently recognized by the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding for his role in ending hostilities between a rebel militia and the Congolese government.
Ntambo was the guest preacher at this year’s Annual Conference in Hot Springs. He came, in part, to share his gratitude for the aid the Arkansas Conference to Congo’s development and to discuss his home community’s still critical needs.
Bishop Charles Crutchfield described Ntambo and his wife “Mama Bishop” Nshimba Nkulu as “an enormous force for good in the lives of the United Methodist Church and in the building of the Kingdom of God.”
In the 50 years since Congo gained its independence from Belgium, the number of United Methodists in the country has grown from some 60,000 to more than 500,000 members. Ntambo expects North Katanga’s membership to triple in this quadrennium.
United Methodist conferences throughout Africa report similar growth at a time when most U.S. conferences, including Arkansas, are struggling to reverse of longtime trend of declining church membership and attendance.
Ntambo attributes the growth in part to ministerial outreach and active youth ministries. Daily, he said, church members have activities in town or at the church to reach people.
Another contributor to growth, he said, is the church’s charitable outreach. The church provides comfort to the grieving, food to the hungry and ministry for those in prison.
“We all are human beings, and if we are touched by kindness, it can change your heart,” he said.
The global United Methodist Church also is taking a lead role in helping to develop Congo, including providing education, clinics, agricultural assistance and even bridges. The benefits of these advances in infrastructure aren’t limited to just United Methodists.
The Arkansas Conference has been a partner in that development.
Since 2006, the Arkansas Conference has provided Bibles, bicycles and support to dig 26 water wells. The wells now cost $8,000 each.
At Annual Conference, Arkansas United Methodists presented the bishop with $35,000, enough for four more wells. At the gathering, Ntambo shared his goal that 100 wells would be constructed in 100 villages in North Katanga within two years.
“Water is life,” Ntambo said in an interview. “With all the rain we have, we have no clean water. …We have a lot of children and adults who die of cholera or typhoid.”
Since the construction of water wells in various communities, Ntambo said fewer people are dying. Also, more girls are going to school rather than traveling to collect water far from home.
“The water wells provided by Arkansas I can say are saving the life of millions of people,” he said. “They bring hope. They bring a clean body as well as a clean spirit.”
To learn ways to help the North Katanga Annual Conference, visit HYPERLINK "http://www.northkatangaumc.org/" www.northkatangaumc.org/.
Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.