‘You’ve Come Home’
Captain Dwayne Barnes, assistant candidates secretary in the USA Eastern Territory, traveled to the Congo (Brazzaville) Territory to attend a week–long Holiness convention and a Brengle Institute. The following story describes how his first visit to Africa revealed what is possible in a growing Salvation Army.
On a Sunday morning, Captain Barnes opened his eyes and was immediately reminded that he was on the great continent of Africa. He and Commissioners Stewart and Hope Mungate, former territorial leaders of the Salvation Army’s Republic of Congo Territory, were being hosted by Commissioners Onal and Edmane Castor, territorial leaders. Barnes dressed himself in his blue uniform and entered a vehicle headed for the convention.
Commissioner Onal Castor said, “Captain Barnes, I want to remind you that this morning, you’re going to enroll 70 junior soldiers. Barnes immediately thought, Oh my goodness! And before he recovered from that surprise, Castor continued, “And while you are enrolling the junior soldiers, I’ll be enrolling 370 senior soldiers.” At that moment, Barnes realized that he would witness firsthand the explosive growth that is taking place in the Congo (Brazzaville) Territory with its nine divisions and two districts.
An audience of nearly 10,100 Salvationists gathered for the convention. Seven thousand people assembled in the convention hall. Many more delegates sat outside under tents where they heard the events via a public address system.
“I led all the seminars for young people 15–30 years old,” recalls Barnes. “For three days, we explored the topic of holiness. We talked about what Samuel Logan Brengle (legendary Salvation Army teacher) taught on the subject. In my seminars, we had a total attendance of 800 Salvationists.”
Barnes kept the task from being overwhelming. “I had them split up into smaller groups. After they talked among themselves, a representative of each group asked their questions, and I gladly responded to these questions.”
Through interactions with delegates, Barnes learned of the challenges many of them have in reconciling the differences between their traditional religious beliefs and New Testament Christianity. Many young Congolese Christians want clarification on how to live a life of holiness in the 21st century.
Hearing this teaching from Barnes was an added incentive. “They were excited and upbeat because they were hearing this from someone of a different culture, country, and point of view on life.” His African ancestry also excited them. “Someone would always remind me, ‘You’re African!’”
Later at a men’s rally, Barnes was greatly moved by their depth of worship and love for the Lord Jesus. Adorned in traditional clothing that was decorated with repetitive patterns made of Salvation Army emblems, Barnes took a seat on the platform beside Commissioner Onal Castor and Commissioner Mungate.
“These delegates had their own dance, which they choreographed around a large basket in the middle of the room in front of the pulpit. As they moved in a circle, they dropped into the basket a variety of fruit. And they sang a familiar harvest song, Bringing In The Sheaves, ‘We will come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves!’”
When the basket was full, the men brought it to the platform and said to Barnes, “We don’t have much, but this is for you. We want you to enjoy these fruits while you’re here in the Congo.” Barnes remembers, “We stood, lifted the basket, and ate some—right there!”
They put an African chief’s hat on Barnes and said, “You’re a chief!” He was awe–struck. “Every minute of every meeting moved me. And in every meeting, there was a new expression of love.”
Near the end of the meeting, they brought Barnes a suitcase full of African outfits. Again, someone said, “We don’t have much, but whatever we have, we want to share it with you.”
That evening at a Youth Night service, Barnes spoke from Romans 12 about being transformed by the renewing of your mind. He also shared from the book of Acts on how believers came together as one as the Holy Spirit empowered them to influence the world.
“The young people were completely engulfed,” Barnes remembers. “They all came to the center of the chapel and knelt at a seekers’ table shaped like a cross.” After they prayed, delegates spent time together in fellowship, talking about the Bible.
Barnes will forever remember the march on Sunday morning. “Salvationists from the nine divisions and two districts gathered. They came with their youth bands, territorial bands, and divisional bands. There were so many people marching!
“Their song sounded like a cry. I asked Commissioner Edmane Castor, ‘What are they saying?’ She said, ‘If we live a holy life, the Lord will bless The Salvation Army. And the Army will bless others.’”
Captain Barnes hopes to return to Africa with his family. “I wish all of my colleagues could have had this opportunity to be nurtured, mentored, and encouraged as I was. I said to my wife, ‘We have got to go to Africa!’”
by Warren L. Maye
Captains Hervé Michel and Naty Dorcias Ahouyanganga are believed to be the youngest divisional leaders in The Salvation Army. At ages 38 and 32 respectively, they opened the work in Togo, West Africa. In just two years, their corps had grown to 1,200 soldiers. And following similar successes that involved reviving the business community through strategic entrepreneurship, they received appointments as divisional leaders for the Pointe–Noire Division, which includes the second–largest city in the Republic of Congo. When asked about their vision, Captain Hervé Michel said, “To grow spiritually and to create funding for the work.” When asked, “How will you do it?” he said, “With prayer and hard work!”