Methodist Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda Makes First Trip to Remote Areas in the East Congo Conference

People in the village of Samba, Congo, line the streets to welcome East Congo Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda, who spent 10 days in late September and early October visiting all seven districts in the remote East Congo Conference. It was the first time many United Methodists in the area had ever seen a bishop. Photo by Judith Osongo Yanga, UM News.

United Methodist Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda made his first trip to the most remote areas in the East Congo Conference to spread the word of God and see first-hand the “rural realities” facing United Methodists.

It was also the first time many United Methodists in the area had ever seen a bishop.

The East Congo Episcopal Area, which includes three annual conferences, is blanketed by forests. Access to some villages and cities is difficult, with many roads impassable.

With seven districts, the East Congo Conference covers a vast area with more than 340,000 United Methodists living there.

Unda said his visit to every district in the conference is a way of experiencing the realities of the area and evangelizing to the thousands of people living in these parts.

“As a pastor, I want to meet people of God who live there. I receive several reports from the pastors who come to the annual conference meetings who tell me about the difficulties they encounter in reaching the conference venue. (They talk about) the difficulties their women experience during childbirth due to lack of health facilities; difficulties related to the education of young children for lack of a school built of durable materials; and in the end, the inaccessibility of these places and the bad conditions of the roads.

“That’s why I decided as pastor and in my episcopal duties as a bishop to go out of my office to experience these rural realities,” he said.

Many of the United Methodist faithful in the region said they were strengthened to see the bishop in their local church.

“It is a great honor for us to receive the visit of our bishop for the first time in our local church,” said Musafiri Muzaniwa, a 60-year-old member of Samba United Methodist Church in the Kasongo-Samba District, which is nearly 250 miles from the bishop’s office.

The Rev. Martin Kasongo, head of evangelism for the East Congo Episcopal Area, accompanied the bishop on his visits.

“Most of these places are inaccessible, but the visit of the bishop to these places plays a big role in evangelization,” Kasongo said.

“There were groups of people standing on the road … (because) the bishop was coming down for greetings. We heard screams calling for The United Methodist Church in their village, and it was an opportunity for us as evangelists to speak and preach the good news,” he said.

He said there is a strong need for more evangelism in the area.

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Source: United Methodist News