Lebone Lumbu (formerly Elaine M. Lumbu), 2005
Many people in Africa believe that in the beginning, when people were created, three people were present. They were Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They believe that the Garden of Eden was in Africa and that the first person was black. The first man and woman were very tall indeed, about 40 meters tall. Their bodies was decorated with precious metals like gold, silver and diamonds. They mirrored the glory and image of God the Father. They were beautiful, shining and sin free. They had His power and strength, and their words alone could move mountains. They had authority over all animals and were permitted to do all the work on earth. Satan tempted them and they ate from the forbidden fruits. Consequently God the Father punished them. They were kicked out of the Garden of Eden and had to perform hard labor and would bear children with much pain.
After thousands of years Jesus Christ came to reconcile God and us. He was crucified and through His resurrection we now have a second opportunity to live again eternally. Jesus promised before he left to ask the Father to send us another Comforter / Helper, the Spirit of the Truth to live with us forever. This person would be greater and would do more than Jesus Himself. They believe that just as the Word became flesh and lived amongst us, so too did the Holy Spirit arrive in the form of Simon Kimbangu as the one promised to us as comforter.
KIMBANGU Simon c.1887 to 1951,
Congo Brazzaville/ Democratic Republic of Congo/ Northern Angola
As my fascination with African Saints and Prophets is growing stronger daily, I have read many articles on the subject. I can only remember being this focused when I was about nine years of age. I took flute lessons at school and became the best at playing flute. Now almost twenty years later I find the same kind of enthusiasm possesses my soul each time I hear or read about these mighty people of the African continent. One called Simon Kimbangu particularly fascinates me. Most of us at some point or the other need divine power to carry us through difficult times in our lives. Mine was last year, when my family was involved in two car accidents two days in a row, September 28 and 29, 2004. Before both occasions I had a sixth sense that something was going to happen. I felt hopeless. I remembered my husband once telling me that he often prayed and called on Kimbangu should he be in need of divine intervention. I decided to do the same; I called on Kimbangu to prevent anything bad from happening to my family. In both cases my husband and kids escaped unharmed. To me it was a miracle. I made a promise to spread the gospel of Simon Kimbangu in whatever way I could.
As history has it, the Kongo originally consisted of communities north of the Malebo in the Congo River (River Zaire). The ethnic groups Nsundis, Bembes, Yombes and Vilis had one kingdom and one common language: KiKongo. A king or Manikongo led this powerful and structured Kongo kingdom. Collectively known as BaKongo these groups have kept part of their original tradition up until today. Wars broke out between the king (Manikongo) and other tribes and most of the Mbundu tribes were defeated . The focus of power then shifted 200km to the southwest, south of the River Kongo, with its capital Mbanza Kongo (Sao Salvador) under Portuguese rule. The first European expedition arrived in sub-Saharan Africa in 1482 and was led by the Portuguese navigator, Diogo Cão. Two years later he visited the capital (Sao Salvador) and initiated trade between the BaKongo and the Portuguese. The Portuguese found the Kongo people as a group dominated by monotheism with a powerful code of ethics. They were intelligent, friendly and well regulated by the King and his next of kin. Agriculture formed and essential part of the existence of the BaKongo.
In 1506 the Manikongo, Nzinga Mbemba, who was the seventh king of Mbanza Kongo was converted to Christianity and baptized as Afonso I. The Kongo kingdom expanded under the rule of Afonso I (The first Catholic king) and three very important states to the west and north of Sao Salvador were allied with the king namely: Loango, Ngoyo and Kakongo. Afonso I launched expeditions in search of new territory and sent chiefs to the west, northeast and south where new outposts to the Kongo empire were established. At its height Kongo was the biggest state in western Central Africa.
The BaKongo traded copper and iron for salt, food and raffia textiles. With the discovery of Latin America the great need for cheap labor arose and consequently trade in human beings became a reality. Ultimately Kongo’s alliance with Portugal benefited only the Portuguese. As the kings began to correspond with the Portuguese and in the 17th century with the British, Dutch and French, the transatlantic slave trade grew. It came to include mass murder of the indigenous people of Kongo. Afonso I launched a complaint in 1526 with his counter part in Lisbon that the slave trade was depleting his population. The country was raided and annually five to ten thousand slaves were shipped from the Kongo. This led to the depletion of manpower in the Kongo. King Afonso I adopted Catholicism as state religion. With King Afonso I’s death in 1545 the kingdom was in near ruin. King Diogo I succeeded him under Portuguese rule. These war trends continued and consequently the Portuguese gained more power in this region.
Tragically today the people of BaKongo are constantly reminded of the effects of the early agreement between the Manikongo and the Europeans, which opened the kingdom to modern influences, and Christianity. Later, according to Manuel Roboredo, son of a Portuguese father and the Kongolese princess Eva, Christianity as brought by the missionaries should have been adapted to the customs and traditions of the BaKongo people. He was instrumental in the initiation of the first KiKongo dictionary. He was ordained as priest in 1637 and in August 1652 he was formally admitted into the Order, taking the name Francesco da Sao Salvador. Linguists have found scores of words found in the biblical Hebrew contained in this language (KiKongo).
The selective integration of traditional western religions into existing ones could have prevented a religious war at the time (1660). Following King Antonio’s death in 1665 the Kongo was divided among the French (Congo Brazzaville), Belgian (Zaire) and the Portuguese (Northern Angola).
People living in Africa have always traveled and exchanged commodities. They brought with them many cultural developments like agriculture and Metallurgy. With their arrival food was traded for the first time. Bantu speaking people, from the Benue River in what is now Nigeria, made the first economic impact in the Kongo region and continues to do so even today.
Several saints and prophets arose from what was then the Kongo kingdom. Some of them were well documented. Their literature is seldom read and appreciated by indigenous peoples today. This attitude is mainly the result of the European Christianity condemning the African ways of worship. Without proper investigation they described our religious practices as barbaric.
Genesis of Kimbanguism
In Africa from about 1918 Jesus Christ appeared to a man called Simon Kimbangu. This year the influenza pandemic was fast becoming a worldwide scourge. He lived at the village of Nkamba in Belgian Kongo (Lower Zaire) about 200 miles from Kinshasa. Jesus Christ confided to Simon Kimbangu a special mission of redeeming the oppressed and rejected nation from the ambush of the enemy. He was to prepare humanity to welcome the Universal Kingdom of God on Earth so that eternal peace prevails under the rule of the Holy Trinity. Around this time Simon Kimbangu was a devoted catechist and teacher at the British Baptist Missionary Society. At first he rejected the Lord’s mission and went to work in Leopoldville (Kinshasa) for an oil company. He argued that he had no formal education and the Lord should choose someone who is intelligent.
Simon Kimbangu was the child of Kuyela and Luezi; he was born on Monday, 12 September 1887 in Nkamba. Simon Kimbangu’s parents passed away and his maternal aunt, Kinzembo, took him in.
Kinzembo was the first African black woman to be converted to Christianity and baptized. A Baptist missionary called G. R. Cameron was attacked by a group of villagers and found refuge in Kinzembo’s house. For this Cameron blessed Kinzembo and her adopted son, Simon Kimbangu. On the 2 July 1929 Kinzembo passed away. Kimbangu’s uncle got married to Miulu Marie Kiawanga. Together they had a daughter (Nkitudia Nelhi). This uncle died after a short illness but requested Kimbangu to wed his wife and look after their daughter, so that’s what he did.
In His early childhood Kimbangu was said to perform miracles like turning a feather into a bird and transforming a rotten coconut fruit into a fine one. He was said to be an extraordinary child, with outstanding wisdom and knowledge. He never attended any of the Colonial schools. He went to church and was an Anglican Catechist before being baptized in 1915 by the British Baptist Missionary Society.
Muilu Marie Kiawanga regularly overheard her husband talking to someone whose voice she did not recognized. One day she decided to ask him whom he was talking to. Kimbangu then answered her and said: “I am talking to Jesus Christ, He is giving me instructions regarding the task I have to fulfill here on earth. The Work of the Holy Spirit”.
1921, April 06th Nkamba, South West of the Congo Simon Kimbangu started unwillingly a movement of spiritual awakening, requested by Jesus Christ. He cured many people of their ailments. He preached the Word of God and prophesied the end of colonialism and oppression of the African people.
This movement drew so many followers that the Belgium government got shaken. They became anxious and plotted His arrest. Armed mobilization took place in the capital out of fear of an African uprising propagated by Kimbangu.
Kimbangu insisted that he was sent forth by Jesus Christ to do the work of the Holy Spirit on earth. When Kimbangu started his work in Nkamba, echoes of the return of an Mvuluzi (Apostle, Messiah) were among the Kongo people. Many left their work places and brought their loved ones for healing to Kimbangu. They realized he was extraordinarily wise and intelligent. He taught people about God’s closeness to the African people. He rejected the practicing witchcraft, dancing, polygamy and use of traditional African symbols. He went from village to village, fulfilling His mission whilst fleeing the forces of the colonial government. He appointed twelve apostles to assist him. They all continued to work with Kimbangu and healed people in His name. Some were also arrested and imprisoned for their convictions. Mikala Mandombe lived the longest; she passed away on 18 May 2001. She went to jail in support of Simon Kimbangu at the age of twelve.
Everywhere he went people followed. People left their duties in the plantations for him. Many left the hospitals in search of divine healing. The Church’s following declined enormously. People accepted the teachings of Kimbangu without a murmur, though the priests had taught the same rules for years without impact on the natives. This disturbed and angered the Catholic Church.
Kimbangu told his followers that the time for his arrest was not yet due. He had to do more work in order to save his people. Escaping an attempt to assassinate him, Kimbangu went abroad to regions such as Congo Brazzaville, Northern Angola and Zaire (now DRC). There too he drew a great following. They were surprised to see the demonstration of his power through miracles. The people of all ages believed that through Kimbangu, an indigenous African whom had direct contact with God (Nzambi), they would have access to the same channels that gave their white counterparts material wealth.
After almost six months Kimbangu gave himself up for arrest. He told his followers not to resist the forces of the day, but that they should continue the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He promised them that His work could never cease, because he was the Holy Spirit. Simon Kimbangu announced that he was sent forth by Jesus Christ to fulfill the promise made many years ago of sending a helper and comforter. He also claimed to be the Father of Christ. He promised never to abandon his followers.
Kimbangu predicted that he would be born again in 1918 (Kimbanguists associate this prophesy with the birth of his youngest son Diangienda Kuntima Joseph); and that one day black people would be like white people. He also predicted his prison sentence as a long silence bestowed on his body. Kimbangu insisted that he received mission directly from Jesus Christ. The last moments before finally being arrested he urged his disciples not to despair but to keep on praying and to do the work of God. He warned them against forceful resistance of the armed forces because in his view the nature of liberation was spiritual. Kimbangu knew his betrayer. It was the same person whom on 04 July 1915, baptized him and his wife, Muilu Marie Kiawanga as Anglican Catechists.
On their way back to Nkamba, from a six-month tour of all the surrounding villages, a wooden stick led Kimbangu and his followers miraculously. As history has it, this wooden stick indicated when the time was due for them to proceed to the next village. On returning to Nkamba, Kimbangu and his disciples were awaited by thousands of people who heard about him and saw his work. They waited for him and lined the streets of the village with palm branches. They were singing and dancing welcoming Kimbangu back in Nkamba. Never in the history of Nkamba has there ever been such a huge crowd of people for any reason.
The Belgium Government accused Kimbangu of practicing witchcraft. They believe that he performed these miracles with “kindoki” (witchcraft). He replied:” I am the one who gives life. I cure people from blindness, paralysis, and mental illness, and much more, yet you accuse me of something bad. But satan who stripped you of your life, who decided you would be born deaf, blind, lame, and stole the soundness of your mind. Him you do not accuse of anything”.
Despite the fact that this action of spiritual rebirth initiated by Simon Kimbangu took place in the official churches, the church was divided in their definition of the role of Simon Kimbangu. Hence Kimbangu handed himself in on his thirty-fourth birthday, 12 September 1921 and was tried for sedition. Punishment for sedition would then result in the death sentence, which was handed down to KIMBANGU on October 03, 1921. The King of Portugal, Albert I, commuted the sentence to life imprisonment with 120 lashes per day. Kimbangu consequently spent 30 years in exile in Lubumbashi (Eastern Congo) 1500 miles from Nkamba. In jail several attempts to precipitate his death failed. One was to put him every day in a tank of salt water for drawn out periods. His stature magnified whilst imprisoned and his sharing, loving and patient personality touched the lives of many a prisoner. The faithful followers of Simon Kimbangu were deported far and wide to different provinces in Kongo hoping to destroy the spread of Kimbanguism. Unintentionally the deportations spread the message of Simon Kimbangu and thus created a multi ethic movement. He died incarcerated on Friday, 12 October 1951, at precisely three pm.
Conduct and teachings
Like many African churches, Kimbanguists adhere to a very strict moral code of conduct. They are strictly monogamous, they do not bath or sleep naked. They abstain from smoking and alcohol. Shoes are removed when praying and in every place of worship, women and girls cover their hair. The church confesses the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (The latter being understood as both a divine power and a full person like the Father and the Son). The bible is the sole authority on matters of faith and the Ten Commandments are taught and read everyday. The church adheres to the Nicene Creed. It has four sacraments: baptism (by laying on of hands), eucharist, marriage and ordination. The Eucharist is only celebrated three times a year: at Christmas, on 6th April (beginning of Kimbanguist movement) and 12th October (death of Simon Kimbangu). The clergy consist of ordained men and woman without discrimination. Woman pastors perform every sacrament without restriction. The Church is fully self-supporting financially through the system of offering “by competition”.
On Nature and Nkamba
Simon Kimbangu respected nature. He was deeply concerned with the preservation of natural resources. Animals are seen by Kimbanguists as part of the same natural environment like human beings. Killing and eating primates is strictly forbidden, because primates are in behavior and mannerism closer to human beings than any other animal. As Nkamba is now a city instead of just a village, every precaution has been taken to ensure that its natural beauty is preserved. Nkamba is perceived as a holy city, also called “New Jerusalem” by Kimbanguists. Dwellings are constructed around sacred trees and groves. The water and ground is used by the believers locally as well as internationally as curative. No shoes are worn in and around Nkamba as a sign of respect for God Almighty, Simon Kimbangu and the land to which each and every human being is attached.
Between 1921 and 1951 Kimbangu announced, by chronological order, the following:
- The liberation of Africans throughout the first nominal independence of the 60’s.
- That dictators would come into power in Africa afterwards.
- The rise of murderous wars everywhere in Africa not too long after independence.
- The exodus of many young Africans towards occidental countries to escape from oppression and extreme poverty.
- The heroic and hard conquest of the second independence (Dipanda Dianzole), led, according to the Messiah Kimbangu, by a Powerful Man who will be spiritually engaged with a highly important mission that will make him a great political, religious and scientific leader. This powerful leader is called in KiKongo, Nkua Tulendo. This leader, who is at the same time an experienced Politician, King and Prophet, will reestablish the broken link between Yahweh and the black people and will restore true peace and harmony. He will come with a powerful message in a Book; this book will be rejected at first but will eventually be accepted by all. Kimbangu announced the coming of this Great Leader and asked his people to wait for him and to follow him when he arrives.
Muilu Marie Kiawanga
The wife of Kimbangu, Muilu Marie Kiawanga, was the first spiritual chief of the Kimbanguist Church, because after Simon Kimbangu was imprisoned she continued His work in secret. She was the privileged witness of Kimbangu’s work, because she was his wife. Every time Simon Kimbangu was in conversation with Jesus Christ, Muilu Marie could hear what was said. She advised her husband on certain matters. If we ask ourselves what the purpose of this union between Simon Kimbangu and Muilu Marie was, it most certainly was a preparation to succession.
Her conduct to the threat of the colonial government was inspired by the power of the Holy Spirit. We can compare Muilu Marie to Magdalene, who after she saw the body of Jesus resurrected from the tomb, went and gave the message to his 12 disciples. Muilu Marie Kiawanga had an enormous duty to propagate the good news of Jesus Christ from Nkamba the place where Simon Kimbangu started His ministry.
The role Muilu Marie Kiawanga played from 1921 to 27 April 1959, the year of her death, was major. When Kimbangu was arrested the Belgium government never realized that Muilu Marie was a threat to them. She continued the work her husband started, underground. While they were separated from 1921 until 1951 people from Belgium Congo, Congo Brazzaville and North of Angola kept coming in secret to consult Muilu Marie.
Her role was not only to receive people from different places but also to teach and inform them about the principle and method of Kimbanguism. For the Kimbanguists Muilu Marie Kiawanga is an icon. They see Muilu Marie in the same light as Simon Kimbangu.
From 1942 to 1951 the followers who were in jail with Simon Kimbangu and those outside in Nkamba developed their own unique alphabet in which they communicated. These scriptures could not be read by the soldiers of those days. Muilu Marie taught people hymns and prayers and baptized them in Nkamba. She initiated the Christian card system. She issued Christian cards to the first ten people she converted to Kimbanguism. She founded the International Kimbanguist Woman Association. Today the expansion of Kimbanguism is fundamentally attributed to her.
On 24 December 1960 after the Congo gained independence from Belgium, the ban on the Kimbanguist movement was lifted. In 1969 the Kimbanguist Church was the first independent Church ever to become a full member of the World Council of Churches. Today the Kimbanguist Church is home to 17 million Christians worldwide in DRC, Congo Brazzaville, Angola, Zambia, Burundi, Kenya, Belgium, France, USA, South Africa, etc. The Kimbanguist Church is also a member of the African Council of Churches and the South African Council of Churches.
After Simon Kimbangu’s death
Simon Kimbangu prepared his youngest son, Diangienda Kuntima Joseph to become the Spiritual Chief of the Kimbanguist Church. He led the Church from underground movement to Independence from 1960 to 1992, the year of his death. Diangienda Kuntima Joseph changed the name of the church from Kimbanguist Church to “THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST ON EARTH BY HIS SPECIAL ENVOY, SIMON KIMBANGU”. Under his leadership the Church grew to be the biggest Independent Church to date with a membership of 17 million people globally.
- Marie-Louise Martin, Kimbangu: An African Prophet and his Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1975
- Adrian Hastings, The Church in Africa: 1450-1950. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994, pp 508-13
- Gondola, Didier Ch: The history of Belgian Congo. Greenwood Press: Westport, Connecticut, 2002
- Joao Pedro Lumbu
- Presentation on “Conduct of the Kimbanguist Church” by Dr. Bena-Silu, at the World Council of Churches Summit in 1996