You never know what the Lord has in store for you. The greatest blessings and adventures may be right in front of you. Several years ago, my wife Marcy made a connection with a refugee student while substitute teaching. That connection turned into a beautiful friendship with an amazing family, who happen to also be followers of Jesus. Marcy grew close to the mom, Claudine, and was able to walk beside her as she battled cancer up until the Lord took her home. We were so blessed to see such faithfulness in Claudine and the Banyamulenge people living in Cedar Rapids.
After the derecho I reached out to Adonis, the pastor of New Bethesda Church, a Banyamulenge congregation here in Cedar Rapids, to see if everyone was okay. The building they were meeting in suffered some damage and we invited them to worship at Veritas. For the past three months, New Bethesda Church has been meeting in our Equipping Room on Sunday afternoons and Adonis has become a dear friend who I am eager to learn from. Both Adonis and I long for the connection between Veritas and New Bethesda to be more than just a space to worship. We want to see greater connections between the two congregations and hope to see relationships developed where we can be a blessing to one another. As we explore what that could look like, I would love for you to get to know Adonis a little better. Below is a bit of his story in his own words.
Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
I was born in 1965 in a place called Minembwe in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the tribe of Banyamulenge. My family then moved from Minembwe to a new place called Vyura near the city of Kalemie. I grew up in that place and got my high school diploma 1994. It’s something I’m very proud of as I had to walk around 18 miles from my home to school — so I had to walk 36 miles every day while my father was dying from cancer. So many young adults dropped out of school during that time but I’m very glad and I thank God for strengthening me to go through that hardship. At that point, I was married to my beautiful wife, Marcelline Nahoza, and we went on to have three children.
Our country was at war, a genocide against the Banyamulenge people. It was very hard as I had to take care of my family, our three children and my mom as well as she was already a widow. We were captured and they put us in rooms and told us they were going to burn the kids, kill all the men, and they were raping women and then killing them after raping them. So many people died at that time as they were taking one person at a time and they would kill him/her as we were watching.
Luckily, we were saved from our capture before they killed us all — I was one of the lucky men who made it out alive. Soon after, the whole village was destroyed and to this day nobody lives in Vyura. We were able to escape to the neighboring country of Rwanda. It was there that my calling was revealed, and I went to theology school and got my four year college degree. Life was so hard in Rwanda for us as refugees and it became hard to put bread on the table for my family. We were forced to move to Kenya where life was still very hard but better than in Rwanda. My son got very sick and the doctors couldn’t treat him which was the reason why we were resettled in the USA, so he could be treated and cured from his illness. Because of all of this, I can say that God works in mysterious ways and that is how I found myself in the USA.
How did you come to faith in Jesus?
My calling started when I was young, my father liked praying so much and he taught us to pray when we were young. At the age of 10 in 1975 is when I was given the prophecy that I would be a servant of God. It was little confusing to me, it happened during an overnight prayer, one of the evangelists that was there was filled with Holy Spirit and had no pen close by to write with, so he took a burning wood charcoal, and he wrote on my back with it these words: I choose you to be my servant. The evangelist’s hand was not burnt, and neither was my back. It confused me so much — I had heard of miracles but that was the first time I had experienced one. I spent the next week thinking that maybe my back was burnt, and I just couldn’t feel it.
When I got to Rwanda 26 years later was when God completed what he promised. I started my theology school in 2001 and completed it in 2005. I was blessed with the ordination to be a pastor in 2006 and led a congregation from 2006-2009 in Kenya. I was then ordained to be a Reverend Pastor for Grace Tabernacle Church from 2009-2013 when I was resettled in the USA.
I started New Bethesda Church in 2014 and still lead that church. It’s been a very hard journey especially, in the US due to the language barrier, but God has been providing great guidance to me.
What would you want the people of Veritas to know about the Banyalemenge people?
We are a minority tribe in the country of Congo. The community has faced political and civil discrimination for generations. As we all know, no one chooses their race or place of birth. I probably would have chosen a different one if I could be given the choice due to everything I’ve gone through.
Banyamulenge people have lived in the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] for more than four centuries but have found it hard to be accepted by the rest of the country as citizens. I was born in 1965 and found that my people had been being killed by the other tribes for a long time. The president and government decided to commit genocide against Banyamulenge in 1996. The mission was to kill all of us, but our God protected us and here we are today.
Even today, Banyamulenge who are in the country are being persecuted and the government has done nothing about it. Recently, there have been a lot of attacks in Minembwe, the place where I was born, and many people have been killed and villages burned down. Churches, schools, and homes have been burned down. As people who come from that place, we are trying to help in the rebuilding of the community and have contributed as much as we can. If you have a heart to help, please reach out to us. We appreciate you so much as one small contribution of yours combined with ours can make a huge impact on our people and give them access to hospitals and help kids go to school. We want to create a future of hope for these innocent people.
The primary reason my people get killed is because of how God has created them.
Tell us about New Bethesda Church.
The ministry started back in 2014.
One of the main reasons why I started New Bethesda Ministry is because our people were suffering. There were many widows and orphans with wounds in their hearts as they had lost their family members and everything they owned. It was hard for them to adapt to the community. When they went to churches, they could not understand the language. Due to the difficulties they faced in the war, they really needed a place of comfort.
My next goal was to continue to share the good news of gospel. In order for me to reach out to the younger generations here in the USA, we needed somewhere for them to gather. I want to teach our young people in a way they understand, in their language, so they can share with their fellow young Americans instead of getting lost in drug usage and other things that may keep them from coming to church – I could see it was happening already.
We are very happy to get involved and get more connected with Veritas Church.
Having a place to worship is very important to us and we thank Veritas for helping us. COVID-19 and the derecho had affected the church very much but having a place to worship these past several months has helped our church to function normally again. We are very happy and willing to learn, even a small thing that you think doesn't matter means a lot to us, especially as new people in this country. We are looking forward to working with you and appreciate the guidance you provide.
We believe in Christ and the one mission we have, as every other church, is to expand the kingdom of heaven on earth.
How can the people of Veritas be praying for you and New Bethesda Church?
Pray for the congregation in general as we are going through a lot. Many of the church members have moved out of state looking work. Pray for the congregation to have the strength to overcome challenges and focus on building their relationship with God. Sharing resources with the congregation might be very helpful as well. Pray for the younger generations to stay in church. The church is going through financial hardship so praying for God to open more doors is important for us as well.
Veritas, these are our brothers and sisters, and we look forward to what God may do in and through this new relationship. Click here if you would like to learn more about the Banyamulenge people.