Dear Friends,

Thank you for praying with us this week for José Thontwa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Nearly 102 million people live in the DR Congo, the world’s most populous French-speaking nation. Approximately 94% of Congolese identify as Christians: 30% Catholic, 27% Protestant, and 37% other Christian (mostly Evangelical). The Second Congo War (1998-2003), which involved nine countries and 20 armed groups, left over five million dead (many from disease and starvation) and displaced another two million. Despite a peace agreement, dozens of rebel groups persist in armed conflict, particularly in the northeast, over multigenerational ethnic rivalries, the country’s rich mineral resources, and extreme food insecurity.
 

In 2012, José left the DR Congo to begin his doctoral studies in Systematic Theology at Faculté de Théologie Évangélique de Bangui (FATEB), a client school of the Vital SustainAbility Initiative, in the Central African Republic (CAR). When civil war broke out in the CAR that December, José’s family moved to Yaoundé, Cameroon so that he could continue his research at the FATEB extension site there. Although he has since returned to Bangui, José was recently stranded at home in the DR Congo for almost five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite these disruptions to his studies, José is preparing to revise and submit his dissertation on Christian identity, a particularly important topic for a region that faces ongoing ethnic conflict and political strife. José has received support from both ScholarLeaders and Langham Partnership for his studies. When José graduates, he will teach at the Protestant University of Ubangi in the DR Congo. José and his wife Amina have five children. 

José shares the following message:

My family and I are doing well by God’s grace. However, life has not at all been easy for me during the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread panic it has caused. I have been stuck at home in Gemena (DRC) from March until August. 
 
In March, I had come from Bangui (FATEB campus) to pay a brief visit to my family in the DR Congo. Unfortunately, the authorities of both countries then closed the border between Zongo (DR Congo) and Bangui (CAR) because of the pandemic. 
 
I thank God that the border on the Congolese side was finally reopened on August 11. Nevertheless, this situation prevented me from returning to Bangui for the completion of my work until August. Since the border is open now, I am able to return.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has made me think a lot about the fragility of the human person, the brevity of life, and the need to rely on God alone in times like these. The best thing for my wife and our children is for all of us to stay together. That way, there is less stress from worrying whenever one of us is somewhere else, out of the country.
 
The impact of COVID-19 on my studies is that, even though I have finished my thesis, I was not able to access the large library on campus to make final corrections and adjustments, since I was out of the country. But now, I may. I hope to submit the final version as soon as possible, with the approval of my supervisor.
 
I have also thought a lot about China, where the pandemic broke out, as well as Italy, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, where thousands of people are dead and sick. It is the same in our African countries and even in my hometown, which has five sick people. 9,000 others throughout the country have gotten sick and 212 have died. 
 
Please keep praying for my future plans to serve God after my doctorate. I seek to be available to the whole body of Christ here and elsewhere as I pursue the following three commitments: 
 
(1) To ensure the mission of the Church through biblical and theological teaching; 
 
(2) To contribute to the academy through publications; 
 
(3) To promote theology in the public sphere.
 
Please, let’s pray also for my family.
 
Thanks a lot,
 
José Thontwa