Denis Mafuta: “If we live, it is thanks to God”
by Lisa Van Cleef, Captain –
In the time it took to cross the Atlantic Ocean, Captain Denis Mafuta was transported from a world of strife, poverty and misery to the bustling streets of New York. His layover in America’s most compressed city left him with one impression: remarkable crowds.
“My home town of Kinshasa is crowded, but New York is more so,” says Mafuta, who was traveling to the International Writers Conference in Alexandria, Va. “The United States is a big nation. You have mobility. You can easily eat. There are some parts of the world where that’s impossible.”
He speaks from experience. His own country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, is emerging from years of warfare, facing an AIDS crisis and still establishing basic services.
From an American perspective, life in the DRC is difficult to imagine. Transportation is scarce. Parents can’t feed their children or provide necessary school fees. Schools lack desks and supplies. Hospitals are without medications. There is no public assistance for the poor.
As a Salvation Army officer, Mafuta makes a decent wage. It supports him, his wife, Modestine, and their five children, ages nine to 18.
“If you lack, you lack,” he says. “Our government has no idea how to help people. The main problem in our country is that we don’t have political stability. If we can choose leaders who can lead, I think the situation will change. But now it is difficult.”
Still, Mafuta says every Congolese knows there is hope—not from the government, but from God, and through God’s Salvation Army. “Every Congolese knows that God is a Congolese,” he says. “If we live, it is thanks to God. We live in despair, but every day he gives us grace. We breathe. We have life.
“The Salvation Army is alive. We easily earn new souls. It’s easy in our country to earn someone for Jesus.”
Mafuta came to the Army in 1985. He and his wife entered training in 1989, and their first appointment was the Lemba Ngaba Corps in Kinshasa. Presently, Modestine is the corps officer of the Kahtambo Corps, Kinshasa and Mafuta is the territorial editor.
Each month, Mafuta publishes Echo d’espoir—the War Cry in French. He works without the aid of a camera, a vehicle and the things one might consider “necessary” to publish a magazine. From his office, Mafuta often walks 10 kilometers to cover events.
The territory includes the DRC and Angola, for a combined 3,600,000 square kilometers. There are five languages spoken across 10 divisions, two districts and two regions.
“It’s easy to find an officer who speaks more than four languages. You can get a Swahili appointment and then get another one in Tshilubu,” says Mafuta.
The opportunity to attend the Writers Conference came through the support of the USA West Territory.
“I’m very grateful for the sacrifice,” Mafuta says. “I could not be here if the Territory didn’t support me.”
The Western Territory’s Southwest Division is paired with DRC through the Partners in Mission program. Congo is a difficult country to get goods to because war and corruption have crippled the government and the mail system. For those wishing to help Mafuta and the work in DRC, the simplest way is through a monetary donation earmarked for DRC and sent to The Salvation Army World Missions, 180 E. Ocean Blvd.—11th Floor, Long Beach, CA 90802.