Mennonite women in Congo have received training to be literacy trainers to help people read the Bible. They have worked tirelessly with the resources they have and invite the assistance of their North American brothers and sisters.
About eight years ago, Congolese Mennonite women church leaders came to the bitter realization that many people in the three Mennonite denominations in Congo were not able to read.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, we formulated a response to this unfortunate situation: Programme Mennonite d'Alphabétisation comme Moyen d'Évangélisation (Mennonite Evangelization through Literacy Program). We chose three women to take leadership — one from each denomination: Marie Fumana, from Communauté des Eglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo (Community of Mennonite Brethren Churches in Congo); Hélène José Mbombo, from Communauté Evangélique Mennonite (Evangelical Mennonite Church); and me, Adolphine Tshiama, from Communauté Mennonite au Congo (Congo Mennonite Church).
It took three years for this project to get funding. Finally, at the Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission (AIMM) board of directors' meeting held in Tshikapa, Congo, in 2016, our project was approved. [Mennonite Mission Network partners with AIMM to support this project.] In April 2017, we had our first training as andragogues — adult educators using learner-centered methods — with Timothée Sila in Kinshasa, the capital city of Congo.
During the next two years, we held four more "training-of-trainer" sessions in different regions of Congo — Kikwit, Mbuji-Mayi, Tshikapa and Ituri. We were given blackboards, chalk, megaphones, cameras (to illustrate our reports) and primers, and we went to work. We rode motorcycles across long distances and endured many hardships. There wasn't a lazy person among us. We were encouraged by the praise we received from people who learned to read through our ministry. Watch Hélène, role-playing a learner, and me demonstrating the work of an andragogue.
Adolphine Tshiama and Hélène José Mbombo demonstrate a learner-centered approach to literacy training. Video by Lynda Hollinger-Janzen.
By October 2019, we had trained 200 trainers, and more than 3,000 people had learned to read. I personally trained 23 trainers in the six months between October 2019 and the government shut-down, in March 2020, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
We are so aware of God's grace in our country. There are no social, economic or scientific explanations that can account for why Congo has been spared in this pandemic. We continue to pray for you, our brothers and sisters in North America.
Recently, I picked up my literacy work again, adding masks and hand-sanitizers to the materials I carry. From September 26 – October 6, 2021, I traveled thousands of miles by motorbike and visited 24 different teaching sites. This is difficult and tiring work, but I do it for the Lord and to encourage and help my people.
Marie Fumana, Hélène José Mbombo and I have put ourselves into the Lord's hands, so that this evangelization through literacy can move forward in peace, even though the areas we are trying to cover are so vast and travel is so strenuous.
Our work would be much easier if we had:
- Our own motorbikes. When we rent them, their owners always try to make a profit of off us, which takes money away from our program.
- Some remuneration for our work, as we must leave our families and our income-generating projects for weeks when we go on these trips.
- More trainers, because the need for literacy-training is so great. But it hard to find people who are willing to do this work without compensation.
- Bibles. We like to give Bibles to those who have learned to read.
To contribute toward these requests, donate and write Congo Evangelization through Literacy in the space for special designation.
We express our gratitude to our brothers and sisters in North America and to our church authorities for all they have done to promote the Evangelization through Literary program. We give special thanks to Nancy Myers, who has made five trips to Congo to encourage the Mennonite women here and our efforts to help our people read God's word.
We cannot grow tired of working for God during our time on this earth, because we will have to give an account to our Lord. Matthew 24:13-14 tells us, "[T]he one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (NIV).