DeMaret Cheney reflects on her experience in Africa with a team from the Anglican Mission aiding in educating and encouraging clergy. For more details on the trip as a whole, click here.
In the late 1800s, Ugandan missionary Apolo Kivebulaya was the principal pioneer of the Anglican church in what is now The Democratic Republic of the Congo. He shared the gospel, made disciples, and planted churches.
The Anglican Mission in America sponsors a Leadership Training Conference for priests and church leaders of the DRC called The Apolo II Initiative after Apolo Kivebulaya. This year and last it took place in Gisenyi, Rwanda, just over the border from the DRC.
I had the privilege of being on the Apolo II team this year from June 24 to July 6. On Monday our team left for Gisenyi on Lake Kivu to begin our week of ministry. We loaded books, Bibles, video projectors, luggage, and nine people into an SUV and traveled four hours up a narrow road into the mountains of northwest Rwanda. Dark red begonias were blooming everywhere. Bishop William from Boga Diocese welcomed us with lunch.
Our conference, which was more like a pastors’ retreat, lasted from Tuesday through Saturday. Thirty-five leaders in their respective parishes came to a retreat center in Gisenyi. They represented four dioceses in northeastern Congo. The archbishop and three bishops led the conference.
The Congolese speak French, Swahili, several tribal tongues, and a bit of English. Their church services are all in Swahili. Our singing was also in Swahili; this was my favorite part. I enjoyed speaking in French while visiting with the pastors over “chai” (tea time) each morning and afternoon.
There was a “theme” for each day: evangelism, outreach, leadership, storytelling, prayer, etc. Team members taught in English, and Bishop William translated into Swahili. I taught on communal and liturgical prayer in French, and it went well. After each talk we broke into small groups for discussion and prayer. It was thrilling to see these pastors reach out to each other, be transparent and vulnerable, and support one another in their struggles and challenges.
One evening we had Holy Communion together. It was my first time to have the Eucharist in an African Anglican setting. It was a moving and memorable service. We performed skits illustrating Peter’s freedom from prison in Acts 12; we are still laughing at some of the portrayals.
Just as the Lord went before the first Apolo, He went before Team Apolo II and blessed the conference in so many ways. For me this trip was a gift from God; I am already looking forward to next summer.