Renewal 2027 testimony: Anabaptists today
Renewal 2027 is a 10-year series of events organized by Mennonite World Conference’s Faith and Life Commission to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Anabaptist movement. This series highlights leaders in the movement from history to the present.
“Certainly, true peace comes from God Eternal. However, this peace is disrupted by the different challenges of life that human communities face,” says Toss Mukwa, a member of Communauté des Eglises des Frères Mennonites au Congo (CEFMC – Mennonite Brethren church) in DR Congo and an independent coach in community development and therapy.
A deacon in the Kitambo/Kinshasa congregation, Toss Mukwa was trained in Switzerland, the United States, Cameroon, and South Africa. He is married to Ngasi Bebe; they have three children.
Since 1995, he has been working in 43 countries with church and parachurch organizations. He is currently accompanying local churches in CEFMC.
“My work with my brothers and sisters is done from the church and is open to the entire human community in which the church operates,” he says. “Our preoccupation is to help the human person and the community to better explore the resources that God has offered us in order to live. It is work that is open to the world, but founded on basic Mennonite values, notably peace, justice, reconciliation, the biblical foundation.”
“What is striking at this level is that communities and entrepreneurs are accomplishing with their own resources what used to be financed by partners in the past,” he says, “There is a growing consciousness of a paradigm change, but still on a small scale.”
“The objective of these processes is to facilitate a solid consciousness, on the basis of the past, to learn from experience and act, as needed, differently in the future on the basis of the assets and resources available to us,” says Toss Mukwa. “Change is the order of the day, starting with oneself.”
“It signifies giving another meaning to poverty, at times, with a profound eye on the word of God,” he says.
“This is what helps the local community and the church give alternative responses to the challenges of life, especially the lack of food, health care, education for children, housing, access to resources, promotion of fundamental human values,” he says.
The church contributes to development through mutual support that reduces dependence on the North and offers a model of autonomy; evangelism that addresses the whole person; and a more stable financial base.
Development work has a lot to do with healing and peace.
“Our interventions have revealed that a number of Congolese, even Christians, live under the weight of permanent stress and trauma,” says Toss Mukwa. This is linked to physical maladies and unhealthy behaviours like abusing alcohol and drugs.
“On the face of these persons one can read fear, anger, even shame, especially in the face of poverty that affects their dignity as human beings.”
This development work addresses peace with God, themselves, and others by helping people to seek justice, taking charge of their own action, and paying attention to the dignity of others.
“True peace in this work is that which starts with myself and belongs to me and which I can share with the other at any time and in all situations of conflict or relative calm.”
“I believe that we do not adequately exploit or value what God Eternal has made available to us in the way of resources.” he says.
“Everything can change with the human person who is, beyond a brain, God’s image on earth. Change is built in the person and the community, over time, as much in the mind and mentality as in the physical and material aspects of life,” he says.
—A Mennonite World Conference release by Karla Braun