Songs of praise as university opens in rural Congo

Songs of praise as university opens in rural Congo

People living far from Congolese cities can now get recognised qualifications thanks to this remote centre of learning in remote Kikongo. But how have MAF aircraft helped make it all possible? Story and photos by Mark and Kelly Hewes

Songs of praise bounced off concrete floors and resounded from the tin roof. A parade of officials, professors, pastors, wives, and national leaders flowed around the chapel in celebration.

This was a very special day!   The small village of Kikongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) now had a university. 

Watch the video to see how you are opening the doors for a university in the DRC through aviation and technology! 

The ceremony marked the inauguration of the pastoral training institute that had been led by missionaries since 1948. Now as the Baptist University of Congo, it offers degrees in theology, agriculture, and education. It is a huge opportunity for people far out in the bush who have not had access to education to get a nationally recognised qualification. 

Teaching the Truth

'We are working to ensure there is a pastoral presence in rural Congo,' said Glen Chapman, a long-term missionary with American Baptist International Ministries. 'The local churches are up against a lot of syncretistic movements and sorcery, so we need theologically trained pastors who can protect the villagers from the deception of sorcery and magic and all the violence and poverty that go along with that.'

Having a university here is important because the pastoral institute was struggling—the number of students had dwindled down to about six. Many of the people who sought higher education would leave for the city and often would not return to the rural interior part of the country. This year, however, the enrolment is up to 80 students, with the hope of increasing to 150 by next year. The ability to get a full-fledged education is a huge boon in such a remote area.

12 hours by road

The village sits on the banks of the Wamba River, nestled on the grassland at the edge of a lush jungle. The people there live off the land—residing in thatch-roofed mud homes and eating what they farm, fish, or hunt.

'It is hard for you to really understand what rural means until you take this trip to Kikongo,' said Mike Lowery, a theology professor who lives in Kinshasa and teaches at the university.

'It is very exciting to have the university here.Thank you MAF! If you were not there, we could not come here.' Dr. Robert Nkwim, president of the Baptist University of Congo

Kikongo is at least an 8- to 12-hour drive from Kinshasa by four-wheel-drive vehicle if everything goes right—a journey that is subject to bandits, roadblocks, or being stranded on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. An MAF flight only takes 55 minutes.

'I have made the trip by bicycle and it took three days; I have done it by canoe, and it took about 12 days,' said Glen. 'MAF is always there. They are the guardian angels who can get you out if you have an immediate need to leave, like a medical emergency.'

'MAF has been instrumental in what we do,' said Mike Lowery. 'You can’t really be a missionary upcountry in the Congo without some kind of air support.'

55 years and counting

MAF has been serving the Kikongo village for about 55 years and, because of the access they provided, played a key role in the institute making progress to gain the accreditation to become a university. MAF flights not only supported the missionaries living here but brought in professors from Kinshasa to teach at the institute and now at the university.

'It is very exciting to have the university here,' said Dr. Robert Nkwim, president of the Baptist University of Congo. 'Thank you MAF! If you were not there, we could not come here.'

An MAF flight brings church leaders and other dignitaries to Kikongo for the inauguration of the university