Train Them 2 Fish
Thomas Ongasa, the Global Vistas speaker this week, served as a pastor for 17 years and then as a conference president. His career was successful, but something was missing. While attending a conference in Zambia, he was astonished to discover that the Adventist message was largely unknown in the French-speaking African populations. In the country of Congo-Brazzaville, for instance, there were two Adventist pastors for the entire country of 5 million people. Then was a born a dream.
Ongasa was still serving as a conference president when he started the initiative that would later become Train Them 2 Fish. Armed with only his vision for French-speaking Africa, he called Robert Folkenburg Sr. at ShareHim. Ongasa begged for volunteers to help run an evangelistic series in Bukavu, one of the largest cities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). But it was too dangerous. No one wanted to go to the Congo in 2009.
Situated near the borders of DRC and Rwanda, Bukavu was the home of 1.2 million people who had never heard of Adventism. But no American would come. However, ShareHim decided to work with Ongasa, and about a year later, 40 volunteers arrived in DRC ready to do God’s work. During that year of waiting, Bible workers had descended on the city of Bukavu in preparation. The volunteers presented the ShareHim messages at 11 different sites around the city. When the series closed, 250 people had been baptized. But that wasn’t enough for Ongasa. He wanted to make sure that the people who had been baptized stayed in the church. So he asked the volunteers if they would be willing to help sponsor the Bible workers to stay in the churches for a year. They did, and the retention rate for the individuals baptized during those series is currently 98 percent.
By 2013, Ongasa was ready to launch a second major initiative. This time the series included a medical and health component, and 3,000 people were served. One lady brought her son, who had a hernia, and the church paid for all the surgery costs. When the mother asked about the bill, Ongasa told her that she didn’t owe anything. She exclaimed, “This is how I know you have the truth! You do as Jesus did — healing and teaching.”
Ongasa wasn’t finished yet. In 2014, he set his eyes on yet another goal: Kinshasa, the capital of DRC. This was not a small-time endeavor. Fifteen million people who had never heard the Adventist message lived in this city. Again missionaries and Bible workers worked together to preach the gospel in Kinshasa. At the end of their endeavors, 500 people were baptized, also with a high retention rate.
The lady whose son was operated on for free is now a deaconess in a church in her city. More than 30,000 people have been served by free mobile clinics. The government has partnered with Train Them 2 Fish and authorized them to vaccinate and treat any and all people in their country. Sixty-six churches have been founded, and an evangelistic school is being built to train Bible workers.
Ten years ago there was no Adventist influence in this corner of the world. Today God’s love is reaching people whose hearts are hungry for Him.