UM Seminary in Congo needs support and prayer

Katanga Methodist University in the Mulungwishi Mission Station, Katanga Provence, Democratic Republic of the Congo, is the oldest United Methodist school for the training of pastors and others leaders on the continent of Africa, and was founded by missionary Woody Bartlett in 1951.  It is served by United Methodist Missionaries David and Lorene Persons.  Pictured are seminary graduates and faculty.   

As United Methodists, no matter where we go, we are connected to other United Methodists and we know if we need help, they will help us.  This has been so since John Wesley.  For over 90 years the land at Mulungwishi Mission Station in the DR of the Congo has the training ground for United Methodist pastors and other local church leaders, their spouses and children.  Currently it contains six schools for all age levels, including Katanga Methodist University, the oldest UM Seminary on the African continent (nearly 60 years) and other United Methodist support functions.   It needs our help and prayers.

Read a letter from UM Missionaries David and Lori Persons: Bishop’s Appeal for Katanga Methodist University.

We may lose this land due to a local property law that requires renewal of land titles every twenty-five years, which process has been overlooked by both local UM people and the government for over 50 years.  To correct this, Mulungwishi’s land needs to be surveyed and its title renewed or others may claim it. The cost to do this is $45,000 for the survey and renewal fees. This amount needs to be raised fairly quickly. (The local Annual Conference is attempting to reduce a part of the fees.) Gifts should be sent through the Advance for Katanga Methodist University #14433A with the designation “Mulungwishi Property”.

Mulungwishi Women's School FacultyPictured at left are the faculty of the Doris Bartlett Women’s SchoolThe Women’s School provides education and training for the wives of pastors plus others from the surrounding area.

Front row, right, is Lorene Persons, UM Missionary, whose parents, The Bartletts, founded the schools nearly 60 years ago.

What happened?   Property laws in this part of the world require that land titles be renewed every twenty-five years.  Title renewal shows the land has not been abandoned.  Abandoned land can be re-titled to another.  Due to government and UM people changes, title renewals were not done in 1959 (Belgian Congo), 1984 (Zaire), and 2009 (DR Congo).  Since the time span is so long, a new survey is needed and renewal fees also include current fees and penalties.

This area of the Katanga Provence in Democratic Republic of the Congo has extensive mineral deposits.  Already small freelance pit miners take these deposits from the property.  If the Mulungwishi land title were lost, a large mining concern could start a large pit mine that could destroy the mission station. Devastation of this kind has happened to people and towns in areas in this county when strip mining occurred.

Pictured at left are United Methodist missionaries Lorene and David Persons.

Why is Mulungwishi important?   Think of what our American United Methodist education facilities do for our churches, our conferences and our leaders.  They provide pastors and leaders with good Christian education to effectively help the rest of us learn more about God through Christ.  What would happen if some of these facilities were lost?  By lost, we do not mean closing a department or school at a university, but the university is closed, bulldozed and its land is sold for other purposes.  The seminary at Mulungwishi provides theological education for pastors called to support one our world’s fastest growing areas for Christ.  The Women’s School serves the pastor’s wives allowing them to also support Christ’s Call. To learn more about what goes on at Mulungwishi mission station, see its blog:  http://umccongo.blogspot.com/.  Additional pictures are at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/umccongo/

Article by Jim Holton, Christ Servant Minister, and a member of West Chester United Methodist Church.