Editorial note: The following article is a transcript of an interview with an FTC graduate who is a teacher and a missionary in Congo. His is one of many stories of people who are equipped and energized by the ministry of Friends United Meeting to equip others to know Jesus Christ.
“I’m Henry Sabatia from Vokoli Yearly Meeting in Kenya. When I finished my training at Friends Theological College in 2010, I got an opportunity to go to Congo as a teacher and also as a missionary. While in the Congo, I had to learn a new culture, how they do things and how they worship. Since I’m an African and an evangelical, it was easier for me to get in tune with them. My first mission work had been in Uganda. I had learned then that God had given me the gift of adjusting to any environment. So I told the people in Congo, “I’m no longer a Kenyan, I’m a Congolese. I’ve come into you. I’ve acquired your identity. We do things the same. What you eat, I’ll eat. Whatever you do, we’ll do together.” They rejoiced that I was the first African missionary they had seen. They had white missionaries, yes, but I was the first African missionary to reach them. I felt somehow proud, knowing it was all for the glory of God.
While in Congo I taught eight courses, while continually giving devotions, preaching and counseling. I remember when I first arrived somebody telling me, “Now that you have come, nobody else is going to preach. You’re the one preaching for the two months that you’ll be here.” They used to have a morning devotion every morning from Monday to Saturday and I was to do them all. I thought of Proverbs 25:25 which says, “Like cold water to a thirsty person, so is good news from a distant land.” It touched my heart that this is what the Congolese wanted from me. I prayed for God to give me what to tell these people. I thank God because through that prayer, through the Holy Spirit, He gave me a message of building up. Even me, I felt I had been built up. I would pray to God, “Give me what to share with them. We need a message today and also again tomorrow.” At times I would be given a message that lasted for four days. Throughout my stay with them, I was given many messages of building one another up.
Their actual church building was almost falling down. Compared to here in Kenya, we don’t have churches in such condition. I had a heart of sympathy but I had no ability to assist financially. I prayed to God, and asked God, “How can I help these people?” Through the morning devotional services, God inspired me. The people had made some bricks, but because of lack of finance the bricks got destroyed. They had prepared some soil to make more bricks, but the roof was going to be a problem. Time was running short, the rainy season was about to begin and they were afraid. Suppose the rains may come before we finish the project? Through prayer, God had shown me that He is faithful. He will never leave the work to be destroyed. So, I kept on encouraging them, but they said to me, “Missionary, do you really know the rains of Congo?” I said, “I don’t know about them, but I know God. What He promises will come to pass. So, if He says a project will come to fulfillment before it rains, it will.” Yes, we saw God.
The first time I went to help them prepare bricks, they said. “No, you are a visitor!” They brought a seat for me to sit. I told them “in my Kenyan culture, you cannot sit as other people are working. Either I stand, or I join you in working.” So, the second day I joined them, because I have that heart of working. I’m not used to just sitting idle. So, I joined them in making the mud and preparing the bricks. When they were dry, we transferred them to the church. Each member was given a certain number to carry to the church, but me, I transferred countlessly because I wanted to motivate them. They told me, “We’re amazed because even our yearly meeting leaders, whenever they come, they just have a seat and watch as we work. But you, from far, you’re here! You’re joining us. You’re like a part of us. You have even challenged other members who are just idlers. These other ones say ‘if a foreigner, a visitor, is working then who are we? Let us join him.’” Therefore even members of the other churches in other denominations joined us in preparing bricks. When the mason came and started making the foundation, I joined him. The people looked at me and said, “Wow! Come make bricks and you are there. Come make a foundation and you are there. Come to class you are there, you’re all round.” It is a gift of God. I like being active all around.
I want to thank God because on the last day when I was leaving, they were just roofing. God did a miracle because the moment they finished roofing, it rained heavily. It touched my heart to see how faithful God is. While we were building the church, the rains would fall on all sides. You could see it coming but God would drive the rain aside and the wind would blow it in a different direction, therefore you could see how faithful God is.
I enjoyed being in Congo, despite the challenges of war and tension. God protected me. You know here in Kenya, it is rare to hear a gunshot, but there it is more common. The first time I heard it, I asked if it was action between robbers and the police. Because in Kenya when you hear continuous gunfire, it is normally the police. But they said no, they don’t have police. So, I prayed to God. There were some rebels coming. I was praying and fasting for Congo. The presiding clerk wanted to move me from the interior to the town for my safety, but God assured me of what was to come. I told him. “I’m here. Whether I’m alive or dead, I’ll be with you.”
My students also motivated me, they encouraged me and yet, they could pose challenges. Before going to Congo, I didn’t feel I could teach. I wanted to be a preacher, maybe offer some guidance and counseling. But I learned I could also be a teacher. In 2012, I taught a course at Friends Theological College on mission and evangelism and my class did very well. I taught out of my own experience. I remember when the students realized that a mission is different from a church. The mission field holds so many challenges. When you reach the mission, people look to you as a provider. You have to teach them that God is the provider. There are so many expectations when they see you. You need to know how to present yourself to them, to give them hope. Some are desperate because of what they are going through, because of poverty and they need a word of hope. You have to show them the way to depend on God.
I am yearning to reach other people with the gospel. I’ve been in Uganda; I’ve been in Congo; and I’ve seen the need. Sometimes we say we are handicapped — we lack the manpower, our pockets are empty — and it’s true you can not go for mission without finance. But with the little we have, we do what we can. And as we pray, God will add us more so that we can reach more.”
Click here to view a video of this interview with Henry Sabatia.