Today’s post contains remarks prepared by Rev. Jacqueline Ngoy Mwayuma for the panel “African Women and Mission” at the Methodist Mission Bicentennial Conference. Rev. Mwayuma is administrative assistant to Bishop Mande Muyombo of the North Katanga Episcopal Area. Rev. Mwayuma’s remarks are translated from French.
The Role of African Women in Mission, Today and Tomorrow
Women are the strength and vitality of the churches of Africa by their great number, their drive and their constant availability. They are the bold energy of God, indispensable today as they have never been, capable of provoking a change. They are everywhere and interconnected.
They keep the flame of faith awake, especially in the most remote areas. They transmit the faith to children, who are the face of the future generation of the church of tomorrow.
Despite the zeal of the male missionaries, their efforts do not produce sufficient fruit if they are not helped by women.
For example, consider M. Louis and Madame Deschact and Marc Nelis and his wife, missionaries among the teachers at the United Methodist station of Mulungwishi. They cannot fulfill this ministry themselves. Only women can freely approach pagan women, maintain with them loving relationships, heal their evils, touch their hearts.
It is thus that the doors open wide before women, not only those of preaching but also those of female education, pastoral coordination, the ministry of evangelization, medical work, as well as the exercise of the hospitality.
Africa is a continent characterized by wars, violence, discrimination and poverty. Several African women have decided to lead a fight for a better life through an evangelistic and pastoral ministry. Consider these cases:
- Reverend Joaquina F. Nhanala, first woman United Methodist Bishop on the African continent, serving in Mozambique;
- Reverend Kabamba Kiboko, first woman pastor in the South Congo Annual Conference. Currently head pastor of Forest Chapel United Methodist Church in the city of Cincinnati, OH;
- Reverend Jacqueline Ngoy Mwayuma, first woman Assistant to the Bishop in the North Katanga Episcopal Area in the Democratic Republic of Congo;
- The Reverend Mutombo Kimba, first female Methodist pastor in the North Katanga Episcopal Area, subsequently working in the South Congo region and Zambia;
- Ms. Leymah Gbowee, a Methodist woman from Liberia who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her role in the management of a women's peace movement;
- Mother Odette Kalangwa and Ngoie Mutwale, missionary women from northern Katanga and Tanzania.
Nowadays women have a strong influence, especially in social work, education, technical training, etc.
The future of the mission of The United Methodist Church in Africa is to increase evangelization in difficult to reach areas. We must use all the means available to achieve our objectives, with a single goal of strengthening and extending the trust of the mission. This is based on the church's main mission, which is to put faith into action by making all nations disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the whole world.
With God's help, I wish that all mission activities continue, for Jesus said in the Gospel according to John (10:10b) that he came to give a life in abundance. It would be better that the people who will be brought to Jesus enjoy this life in the church of God. The church must open its buildings and systems to persons with disabilities, orphans, widows and widowers, must welcome those who have mental and psychological difficulties and work in a way that integrates each person.
And then the church is called to reflect the love of one’s neighbor by reassuring them of their basic needs such as food, clothing, housing, education, health care etc.
Jesus himself was the example. Wherever he went proclaiming the word of God, he was not indifferent to the sick, nor to the hungry (Luke 7:21), nor to the suffering. In the Gospel according to Matthew (15:31), the crowd was in awe to see that the mute spoke, that the crippled were healed, that the lame walked, that the blind saw. All glorified the God of Israel.
As a church, all these activities should not be separated. They must evolve simultaneously.
Since it is the primary activity, evangelism must be the main purpose of a church for the transformation of the world, bringing lost souls to Christ (Matthew 28:19).
The Church must support all activities without regarding one as more important than the other.
The Church must ensure active participation in all activities, according to the organization, in order to contribute to its development.
The Church must expand the ministry of compassion to needy people, because faith and social work go together hand in hand. This leads us to say that the relationship between these activities must be regarded as an equal one.
To do so, it is appropriate to give the woman all the necessary training so that she is able to regain her dignity and improve her condition of life in the church. Education is necessary because it allows her to play her full part and ensures greater integration into the structure of the Church in the decision-making process.
We affirm that men and women are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). All human beings are endowed with an equal degree of the same dignity. In the Lord, the woman is no different than the man, and the man is no different than the woman.
For just as the woman was taken out of the man, so is the man born by the woman, and all come from God (1 Corinthians 11:11-12). What is important is to encourage African women to bring their stone to the building of the church, that they are not only necessary in the field of the family, that they have ecclesial positions like men because of the educational and transformative power of this equality for a church of tomorrow.
Women’s potential must be taken into account by entrusting them with responsibilities in the ministry of evangelism because they are very present and very engaged in the daily life of the communities. Without the contribution of women, the Africa of tomorrow will not succeed in its evangelizing mission.