French Connections

May 26, 2014 by and

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Hilaire Louis Jean came home from the Democratic Republic of Congo admiring the Mennonites he met there.

Eight women were among the participants at the Francophone Mennonite Network conference in Kinshasa, Congo: Christine Kalume, professor at University Center for Missiology; Martine Audéoud of Mennonite Mission Network; Anastasie Tshimbila of Mennonite Church of Congo; Mundedi Bercie of Mennonite Church of Congo; Martine Akwa Mfwilwakanda of Wholicare Community Missionary Church in Pasadena, Calif.; Bumba Lola, professor at University Center for Missiology; Marie Fumuna of Mennonite Brethren Church of Congo; and Beatrice Kadi of Mennonite Church of Congo. — James Krabill/MMN

Eight women were among the participants at the Francophone Mennonite Network conference in Kinshasa, Congo: Christine Kalume, professor at University Center for Missiology; Martine Audéoud of Mennonite Mission Network; Anastasie Tshimbila of Mennonite Church of Congo; Mundedi Bercie of Mennonite Church of Congo; Martine Akwa Mfwilwakanda of Wholicare Community Missionary Church in Pasadena, Calif.; Bumba Lola, professor at University Center for Missiology; Marie Fumuna of Mennonite Brethren Church of Congo; and Beatrice Kadi of Mennonite Church of Congo. — James Krabill/MMN

“I feel that the African Mennonites are more Mennonite than people in Mennonite churches in the U.S.,” said Louis Jean, pastor of Church of God Prince of Peace, a Mennonite congregation in Miami.

“Their vision is so big, and they are so proud of their faith. They are always talking about what it means to be a Mennonite.”

Louis Jean was one of two Mennonite Church USA representatives who attended the Francophone Mennonite Network consultation Feb. 26-28.

He praised the courage of Congolese Mennonites in the face of daily difficulties. He commended Mennonites’ passion and vision for educating young people.

Louis Jean leads one of the eight MC USA congregations where French is used in worship. Church of God Prince of Peace, affiliated with Southeast Mennonite Conference, began in Louis Jean’s Miami home in 1997. Today, attendance has grown to 200 people with services conducted in three languages: Hai­tian Créole, English and French.

According to Matthew Krabill, a doctoral student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., there are eight French-speaking congregations in MC USA. Four minister mostly to people of Congolese descent, two mostly to people of Haitian descent and two mostly to people of Cameroonian descent.

Krabill is researching African immigrant congregations affiliated with MC USA, focusing on how the experience of migration shapes beliefs and practices.

Louis Jean and Martine Akwa Mfwilwakanda were sponsored by Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite Mission Network to represent MC USA. MMN also helped to underwrite the Francophone Mennonite Conference, including a grant from the Schowalter Foundation.

“Our connection as Ana­baptist churches is a critical component of our unity in working for God’s kingdom,” said Bruce Campbell-Janz, executive director of Mennonite Central Committee East Coast.

“Gatherings like the Kinshasa consultation help support Francophone churches in the U.S. as they relate to each other and with the broader Francophone Mennonite world.”

Mfwilwakanda is a deaconess and active in women’s ministry at Wholicare Community Missionary Church in Pasadena, Calif. Wholicare, affiliated with Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference, was founded by Mfwilwakanda’s father in 1994.

“The conference was truly a blessing to me, a double blessing since it was held in Congo,” said Mfwilwakanda, who was born in Congo and lived there until she was 18.

“French-speaking Mennonites can bring more members to the worldwide church by winning more souls for Jesus.”

Louis Jean agrees that more connections are part of God’s plan for the global Mennonite church. He is inviting every MC USA member to join Church of God Prince of Peace in Miami on June 21, when worship will take place in five languages: English, French, Garifuna, Haitian Creole and Spanish. This is an annual event of the Miami District of Southeast Mennonite Conference.

“It will be Pentecost,” he said. “It will be a taste of heaven. The Holy Ghost will be present.”


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