|A view of Katonga village on the eastern end of Lingira Island.|
Katonga village had a reputation.
The second largest of the three main villages on the island, Katonga had been known for its stronghold of alcoholism and witchcraft. If you wanted to "party" on the island, go to Katonga. One of the primary witch doctors lived there (until about four years ago when he was eaten by a crocodile).
The oppression and darkness could literally be felt as you entered the village with its random scattering of mud homes, shops and bars. Few of the village's many children attended school.
Churches had started there and later "collapsed" because of sin in the congregation, a lack of a good foundation, and other damaging factors. The remaining Christians were few and despised by their neighbors.
As a ministry of SHIM we often prayed for Katonga for God to bring light and change there.
And He is doing it.
Around two years ago, Philip, an elder in the local church, began teaching discipleship classes for the handful of Katonga believers. Faithfully, he would open his home each week for prayer and Bible study - shining the small light with which he had been entrusted.
Then over days and months other people of the village embraced salvation and those who had been backslid returned to their faith. And the small fellowship began to grow, slowly by slowly.
|Members of the Katonga fellowship with other island friends. Elder Philip who started the weekly gathering is pictured fourth from the right. We said goodbye to Philip that day as he moved to the mainland to be with his family.|
Oliver, a mother of many, came to salvation after her home was burned by fire and the local Christians reached out to her as she spent most of her days under a tree with her young family.
On a recent Sunday, Andrew of Katonga stood before the church and told of being away from Christ for about eight years and having recently returned. Viewed as a "pastor" on the island, there is no doubt that his wayward ways had also caused others to stumble. And yet, the "prodigal" had come back. (I put pastor in quotes because of the many island pastors have had no formal training - some cannot read or write - and yet are put in leadership positions in the church.)
In those eight years as a prodigal, Andrew spoke of being "caned" by God as his Heavenly Father attempted to get his attention. "God has been wanting me to serve, but I have always refused," he said on that recent Sunday.
In those years, he lost several thousand dollars and suffered the death of three children, including his only son. It was at the burial of this dear and long-awaited son, that Andrew turned again to the truth of God's Word and realized how far he had fallen.
Now, Andrew says, "I have come back to serve."
He and his wife knelt before the church to be prayed for as a couple and a family. It will take some time for Andrew to recover the ground he lost and to again be fed with the "milk" of the Word, so he can someday teach and lead others, including his own family.
|One of the women of Katonga being baptized in 2011. She and her husband were among the local leaders, before leaving the island later in 2011.|
It's a good thing that God is patient. With all of us.
Even as Katonga appeared to be so "dark" for so long, God's light was there. He never gave up on Katonga. By His grace and faithfulness that light has grown and is expanding.
Now Katonga is an example to the other island communities and its believers are challenging others by their growing faith and godly examples. Presently, the majority of the village's children attend school and families go to church together.
Since the Fall God has been working to restore mankind to Himself. Some areas and some people seem harder to "reach," yet God does - not - give - up. He loves His children so much that He will continue to pursue them, even the prodigal with the hardest of hearts.
I praise God for His love and faithfulness toward Katonga and its people. And I look forward to the work He will continue and accomplish there.
"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." - Philippians 1:6