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From the Congo to the U.S.-God's Goodness Saw Me Through

Coming to the U.S. was not without risks. I came with no stable place to stay, left behind my family without any support, and did not have a work permit to earn money to send to my family. The process of being approved by the U.S. government lasted three long years, after which I was able to bring my family to join me. During this time, God was faithful to see me through every trouble. An American church and many kind people helped me find permanent housing and pay my rent and bills until I could make it on my own. Some even sent money to my family back home.

Memories from Childhood

Home for me was the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. The oldest of ten children, I grew up in a small town of about 1,000 people where I lived until I was 23 years old. Our small two-bedroom house had walls made of earthen bricks and a thatched roof. My father was a simple fashion designer, without enough money to send all of his ten children to school. My mother took care of our home and worked in the fields near our home. Both of my parents were Christians who lived out their strong faith in their daily lives. They taught us children the stories of Jesus from the Bible, how to pray before going to bed, and songs to sing before going to sleep. When any of us faced a problem, my mother would always tell us that Jesus would see us through it. By the time I was a young person, I had invited Jesus into my heart as my personal Savior. I wanted to please Him with my life because He loved me enough to die for my sins.

Saved by God’s Goodness

When I was twelve, something happened that changed my life and the life of my family. My little brother (who was ten) and I were playing with a box of matches when we accidentally lit a fire on some stubble my father kept in the house. As the stubble caught fire, so did the whole house. With no firefighters to put out the fire, by the time neighbors came to help, it was already too late. My little brother and I were saved, thanks to neighbors who entered the house through the blazing flames and took us out the window. Fortunately, my other younger siblings were not in the house. But my mother, who had come back from the field to fight the fire, was severely burned on one leg. The house and everything in it were consumed, including my father’s sewing machine.

There was no hospital in our community, so the Red Cross came and looked after my mother. Knowing I had caused the fire, I felt terribly guilty. My father, who had lost his way of making a living, also became very dejected. Moreover, at this time I fell ill with smallpox. There were no vaccines against smallpox at that time, so I was treated with traditional medicines. Unable to eat, I became very thin, and it was three months before I had enough strength to return to school. In our suffering, our church took us in and hosted us for more than six months, even though we were a large family with many mouths to feed and my father had no job. They helped build a new house for our family with three bedrooms—not two as before—and they bought a new sewing machine for my father! For me, this was a miracle of God! We were able to begin a new life with joy. My mother’s wound was healed, my father resumed his work as tailor, and my sickness was gone. I saw that God had changed our family’s weeping into joy, our shame into pride, and our painful situation into thanksgiving. In all our circumstances, He worked for good, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Discovering My Life Purpose

After graduating from high school, I began teaching school in a neighboring village. One day I was reading my Bible and my mind fixed on what Jesus said in Luke 10:2: “The harvest is big, but the workers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers to his harvest.” I pondered this verse and felt God was calling me to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the people of my town. In my country, being a pastor meant poverty, because pastors were usually badly paid. It was also believed that ministry should be done by old people, not young people. I prayed earnestly that God would show me His will and what my response to His call should be. Then one night, I had a dream that God was calling me as He did the Prophet Isaiah: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And in my dream, I said, “Lord, here I am.”

When I told my pastor about my dream, he assured me that the dream was confirmation God was calling me to pastoral ministry. He prayed for me, encouraged me to go to seminary, and told me that his parish would support me. I entered a Presbyterian seminary in my country a month later, at the age of 24. My years at the seminary were times of joy in Christ as I grew in wisdom and gained knowledge of God’s Word. After graduating, I was ordained by my church and assigned to a small rural parish, far from my parents and my home town.

My parish was very poor and very small with about 50 members. With no building, we held morning worship in a shed, with members and their children sitting on the floor. Our village was known for evil forces that kept people in fear and bondage. I knew God had sent me to this village for the purpose of serving the poor and bringing Christ to the witch doctors. With a team of intercessors, we began to pray in the name of the Lord against the demonic spirits. Within six months, more than 30 witch doctors had abandoned their fetishes and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. I was so happy because the will of God was being fulfilled: I had become a pastor—a shepherd of the Lord's flock—and the Good News of Jesus Christ was being received in our village.

Our first two children were born while we served this parish. Even though the village had no health clinic and no source of clean water—water was brought from surrounding rivers or streams, which were often contaminated—God was with us. He showed His love and goodness every day, keeping us safe from physical danger and deadly diseases. We clung to the promise of God: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). Members of the parish lovingly supported us through donations of cassava and corn, staples from their homes, and green vegetables from the local gardens. My wife or I walked 30 miles to another village to buy things like salted fish and dried meat to supplement our diet.

God’s Goodness in a New Land

After working several years among the poor, I was appointed by my denomination to serve in a city of almost one million people, doing radio evangelism. We used the airwaves to get the message of the Good News of Jesus to people all over my country, many of whom at that time were facing persecution. During the years that followed, God blessed my wife and me with six more children, and I continued to serve churches as a minister. Then in 1998, I was amazingly blessed by my denomination to be sent to the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, a predominantly African-American graduate school that trains leaders for the global church and international/immigrant churches in North America. After completing my degree in Christian education, I returned to the Congo and began a professorship at the Presbyterian University/Seminary of Congo. By 2007, the political situation was heating up in my country. Justice activists were being brutalized and arrested by the government. This was a sad period in our country’s history. Because I was an evangelist, I was seen as a social activist in our city. So, after 27 years of rich ministry, I had to leave my country. I fled persecution and sought protection in the United States.

When I came to the U.S., it was not my intent to work again as a pastor. I worked in a secular job for four years before God revealed that He had not released me from the call to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. In 2012, an American church with an African ministry invited me to pastor the African congregation. Most members are immigrants from French speaking countries of Central and West Africa. Many have lost hope and feel helpless as they adjust to the American way of life, which seems so complicated at first. Many face significant legal and economic challenges, language barriers, difficulty accessing public services, and obstacles to employment in better-quality jobs. Many have been psychologically traumatized by armed conflict, persecution, and displacement. I tell them, as my mother always told me, that Jesus will see them through every circumstance, and the trials they go through today will become their testimony tomorrow.

My heart is filled with joy as I see American Christians befriend and share Christ’s love with these newcomers to our country. God is good—always good. He gives strength when we face painful and devastating situations in life. And as Christians, we always rejoice because we have a relationship with God who will never leave or forsake us. His goodness and mercy will surely follow us all the days of our lives (Psalms 23:6).

Rev. Joseph Kazadi serves as Director of Discipleship with Africans and Their Families at First United Methodist Church, Hurst, Texas. Besides the local African ministry, his church has funded well-digging projects in the Congo. Joseph, his wife Marie Mande, and five of their children live in the U.S. Their three oldest children live in the Congo and serve the Lord as laypeople.

Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=chg20190303
To reuse online, please credit Challenger, Jul-Sep 2019. CCMUSA.