By Walter B. Fenton
November 08, 2023
“We have over 300 local churches in the country meeting under trees or tents, or at schools and homes, and a few church buildings are now under construction, thanks to Crosspoint Church [a Global Methodist congregation in Niceville, Florida],” said the Rev. Dr. Kimba Evariste, President Pro Tem of the Global Methodist Church’s Provisional Annual Conference in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “People are very excited to join the GM Church. They believe it is rooted in Scriptural teachings and that is built on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Launched one year ago, the provisional annual conference’s growing list of churches are located primarily in the central and northern sections of the country. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, located in the center of Africa, is the second largest country on the continent both in land mass and population. While it is rich in natural resources, the country has faced economic and social challenges since gaining its independence from Belgium in 1960. The median income is $1,509 U.S. dollars.
“Unemployment is too high and some of our people struggle to survive; it’s hard for our members to contribute and respond to church needs,” said Evariste. “However, politically the country is stable as we approach general elections next month. We all hope the country will continue to move forward, and as the people of the church, we are praying and working for peace and prosperity for our brothers and sisters.”
Fifteen presiding elders work alongside Evariste, sometimes traveling nearly two thousand miles by multiple means of transportation to visit pastors and their congregations. Beyond its major cities, like Kinshasa, the DRC’s capital city, travel is difficult all across the country. Infrastructure is limited or in poor condition, so GM Church leaders are often forced to use a combination of roads, rail, rivers, and sometimes air travel.
But despite all of these challenges, Evariste is remarkably upbeat and passionate about fulfilling the GM Church’s mission in the DRC. A former UM pastor, General Conference delegate, and a leader in the influential Africa Initiative movement, Evariste moved to the GM Church shortly after its launch in May 2022, and also became a member of its Transitional Leadership Council.
“Kimba and the team of leaders he has assembled are inspiration to all of us,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, Transitional Connectional Officer for the GM Church. “I’ve known him for a number of years, and he is a dedicated and persevering leader. Instead of fixating on obstacles in his way, he is always focused on finding a way around them or over them. It is wonderful to witness how God is using him and the growing number of Global Methodists in the DRC to fulfill his mission.”
One of three African leaders on the GM Church’s 21-member Transitional Leadership Council, Evariste’s fluency in a number of languages, his experience in various ministries beyond the local church, and his personal connections across the continent, have served the Council well as it welcomes many Africans to the GM Church. In time, Church leaders believe countries in Africa will be home to the majority of GM Church members.
“In a country like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, you really need to take to heart Jesus’ admonition to be ‘wise as serpents and gentle as doves,’” said Ms. Cara Nicklas, Chairwoman of the GM Church’s Transitional Leadership Council. “We are blessed to have Kimba as our president pro tem in the DRC. He sets an example for what it means to live by faith in a country with incredible challenges.”
Nicklas, a lawyer who lives and practices law in Oklahoma, has traveled to the DRC twice to attend the Justice Conference. The conference is a biennial gathering of international lawyers doing what they can to assist Congolese attorneys in the ethical practice of the law. Unfortunately, the conference was cancelled in 2019 due to an outbreak of the Ebola virus, and then again in 2021 due to the Covid pandemic. Still, Nicklas says she’s gained some appreciation of the challenges the GM Church members in the DRC must navigate on almost a daily basis.
“It’s almost impossible for people in the U.S. to understand the problems our brothers and sisters in the DRC face,” she said. “So you cannot help to be humbled and inspired by their faith and perseverance.”
Recently, the GM Church’s Alabama Emerald Coast Provisional Conference formed a partnership with the DRC Provisional Annual Conference. The former conference began operations in May 2023 and held its convening annual conference in September. During that gathering, conference members warmly endorsed joining forces with the DRC Conference to do ministry together.
“We are excited about this partnership,” said Evariste. “We can teach our brothers and sisters in Alabama and Florida how to share and live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in difficult circumstances. And they can help us carry the Good News to places that are hard to reach in our country.”
With great joy and thanksgiving, the DRC Provisional Annual Conference just received 15 motorcycles from the Alabama Emerald Coast Provisional Conference, one for each presiding elder in the conference.
“The motorcycles might seem like a small thing to some people, but to us, they make it possible for us to get up on a high hill, as the Prophet Isaiah says, and proclaim the Good News,” said Evariste. “We’re very grateful our GM Church partner conference is joining with us to tell people that Jesus Christ is alive, that he breaks the chains of sin and shame, and liberates us to be his joyful and obedient disciples.”
You can learn more about the Global Methodist Church by exploring its website.
The Rev. Walter Fenton is the Global Methodist Church’s Deputy Connectional Officer.