KINDU — In 1980 Pastor Kalungu Kongolo and his wife sensed that God was calling them to go to the remote province of Maniema in DR Congo’s vast jungle interior. They left their home, their extended family and the life they knew in Kinshasa and embarked on a long, treacherous journey by boat up the Congo and Lualaba Rivers to the city of Kindu. Pastor Kalunga and his wife were among the first national AG missionaries ever to go to the Maniema Province. When they first arrived in Kindu they struggled with the everyday challenges and hardships of life in the village. Pastor Kalunga’s wife had never had to carry water on her head before nor had she ever had to work so hard just to live. But they embraced their new home and worked hard to learn Swahili, the predominant language spoken in eastern Congo. Pastor Kalunga preached everywhere, traveling hundreds of miles on foot each week to reach remote villages in desperate need of the light of the gospel. Over the course of the next 25 years he planted more than 150 churches and became the first Provincial Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in the Maniema Province. But the excessive walking took a terrible toll on his knees, which became so inflamed and painful that he could no longer make the long treks to remote villages
In 1992 Rwandan rebels marched into the city of Kindu and literally took over. The city was under siege for five years and the population suffered immensely as their crops were devoured by rebel soldiers. No farming could be done because of the high level of insecurity. Many of the inhabitants of the city fled into the jungle where they lived in hiding for months at a time during the siege. Some lost their children to starvation, disease or abduction by rebel soldiers. Pastor Kalunga sent letters to Kinshasa requesting assistance, but had no response from the outside world.
We visited the Maniema Province in 2005, hoping to encourage and strengthen the work that had been started by Pastor Kalunga and his wife. We organized a leadership conference in the city of Kindu and quickly discovered that, with the lack of accessible Bible School training, there was only one trained AG pastor in the entire province. In response to desperate pleas for help we opened a Bible school extension in Kindu in 2007. More than 80 students enrolled that year and Pastor Kalunga was one of them. During the opening ceremony he stood beside the platform with his hands raised in the air, weeping. He was crying out to God with tears streaming down his face, saying, “Lord, I thank you that after more than 20 years you have remembered us.”
Although esteemed by most of the other students as a spiritual father, he humbled himself and studied alongside them for three years. He graduated in 2009 with high honors, earning the respect and admiration of his classmates.
Today, Pastor Kalunga is giving back by helping train and equip others for ministry at the Bible school we are building in Kindu. He still walks with a very severe limp and the sphere of his ministry is greatly diminished, but the fruit of his labor remains.