First service in the Baobab church

The service started at 9 o´clock. We were a few minutes early. A many-headed men´s choir was singing, but the majority of the congregation hadn´t arrived yet. Only about 50 churchgoers had arrived, and they were all seated on the front pews. Obviously, the church is filled up from the front. A good idea to bring back to Sweden. We had received the order of the service a week earlier by email. It had 21 points, and filled a whole A4 sheet. We white people were seated on chairs at the very front of the church. Pastor Damas Mangikulua led the service and the church managing director (archbishop) Edi Diafuanakana preached the gospel. Three choirs sang, one men´s, one women´s and one youth choir. In the middle of the service, an upholstered armchair was placed on the platform in front. Who would be sitting there? It was for the vice governor of Bas-Kongo, Déo Nkusu and his wife, a handsome couple.

The theme of the service was to establish a friend relationship between the Covenant Churches of Blidsberg and Hökerum and the Baobab Church. The communal singing was led by a woman who, full of energy, walked and danced about the church. The youth choir sang the Swedish hymn ”Måne och sol” (”Moon and sun”) in different voices, and they sang it in Swedish. It sounded amazing! The Swedish delegation went upon the platform and we were introduced one by one. Gunnel had greetings from Bildsberg, and I had the same from Hökerum. When the introduction was done, we sang the Congolese hymn ”Se jag vill bära ditt budskap Herre” (I want to be your messenger, Lord) in Swedish. The Congolese knew the song by heart, and they joined in the song, on Kikongo though. When our choirmaster Bernt raised his hands, the congregation was quick to follow his example. Before us we saw an ocean of raised hands. Edi preached for 45 minutes, alternately in Kikongo and French and even a little bit in Swedish. His sermon was about building relationships, standing side by side, deepening and maintaining old contacts between our countries, and helping one another in both sorrow and joy. The collection was taken up at the front of the church, and everyone queued up, singing and dancing. They put their contribution in the basket of their church group. We white people had our own basket. There was not a dull moment. By the time of the collection the church was full, we were about 300-400 people. It had taken between one and two hours before the church got full.

At the end, the vice governor of Bas-Kongo spoke. He spoke in English to us, and he had many appreciative things to say about missionary work. ”I learnt English from an English missionary in the seventies in Sundi Lutete”, he told us. Then he asked his wife to join him on the platform, he talked about how much he appreciate her, and he encouraged every man in the church to take good care of their wives. He and his wife came and shook our hands and wished us the best of luck. I got the opportunity to give him the MSG business card. He would be a good contact for us. He and his wife left the church before everyone else, under the protocol. At 12.30 pm the service ended, but even though it had been long, it was never tedious. A bustling greeting broke out, and it was a very nice experience to say hello to all the friendly, spontaneous Congolese. It´s not every day they have ”knallar” from Sjuhäradsbygden (a part of the province of Västergötland) visiting.

Afterwards we were invited to have lunch with the Global Group of the Church.

At 4 pm we had a meeting with the Global Group and ten other members of the church. Unfortunately, our friends are a little too formal when it comes to meetings. But we hope to set that right as time goes. Some of the spontaneity of the church service ought to be possible to bring to meetings. We took turns in introducing our congregations and decided to share prayer requests with each other in the future. We will meet again on Friday.