As we adjust to life in America after spending most of our lives in Congo, I continue to follow our final project. The project is at the village of Kinkosi. Kinkosi is about 15 miles away from Kikongo in a straight line. I flew there three or four times to project the JESUS film. I sometimes rode there by bicycle, taking shortcuts across the valleys, and visiting villages along the way.
Historically, Kinkosi is the village that welcomed the first missionaries to this area. It was the faith of the people of Kinkosi that so impressed the missionaries that the Congo Missions Conference of 1928 decided to establish a new mission in the are.
Pioneer missionaries Charles and Viola Smith were then sent to Kinkosi to prospect the area to find a site for a new station. After three months, the present Kikongo site was selected. Thus, Kikongo’s roots are at Kinkosi.
People are already anticipating Kikongo’s centennial celebration. Kikongo was founded in June of 1929. I have insisted that Kikongo cannot celebrate it’s own centennial without recognizing our roots at Kinkosi. 1926 marks the birth of the Kinkosi church when Seventy nine people were baptized. Thus, Kinkosi’s centennial is only five years away.
For nearly fourty years, Kinkosi’s cement brick church has remained uncompleted. A number of times, thatch roofs were put up, but they all deteriorated over time. We decided as a church district, we needed to honor the church of Kinkosi by helping them complete their church construction. Upon inspection, however, we discovered that the walls did not have a suitable foundation. In order to hold the weight of a roof, we had to start from the beginning with a new building and foundation.
We have built on the original site of the old church, and noticed that the size is just a little bit wider than Sim’s Chapel in Kinshasa. Sims Chapel is a clay brick church that was built at the Baptist compound by Dr. Aaron Sims on the bank of the Congo river in 1891. It stands as the oldest building in all of Kinshasa. We decided to build the church at Kinkosi on a plan similar to the historic Sim’s Chapel.
We drew up an agreement that we would provide most of the construction material, and pay the salaries of the two visiting builders. Kinkosi would feed and house the builders, and collect the local material; sand, stone, water, and lumber.
It is amazing how the project has united the people of Kinkosi. No one is above the task of walking down to the stream to bring up a load of stone or sand. From the elders to the youngsters to the old ladies, everyone has been involved. One day, there were 18 young men at our Kikongo doorstep. They had walked from Kinkosi to get some roofing material that had been deposited at Kikongo. They walked all day, spent the night at Kikongo, then walked back to Kinkosi with the load the next day. On another occasion, the village contacted some men who had a chain saw to come and cut them some lumber. The youth then had to carry lumber 8 km. from the forest to the church.
One old man at Kinkosi who has been interested in the building of the church has been named “Simeon”. He is unable to carry anything, and can barely walk, but sits outside his house every day keeping a close eye on the progress. He has siad that he is not going to die until he sees the church completed. The villagers named him
Simeon because he reminded them of the Simeon in the temple of Jerusalem who as an old man was not going to die until he had seen the Messiah.
Everyone who comes through Kinkosi is so impressed with the building. News has spread far and wide about the wonderful building going up to honor the faith of their ancestors. There is no other church building like this in the villages around Kikongo.
I had hoped to have an opening ceremony before we departed, but the project had not been completed. Since our departure, the roof has gone up, the cement floor has been poured, and the interior and exterior walls have been plastered. The main door and pulpit have been built, and they will little by little begin building benches.
The church at Kinkosi, our final building project and a tribute to the faith of our elders, both missionary and Congolese who have built a lasting legacy of fulfilling the vision of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.