One More Time: Feature on Elmer and Sherry Komant
Wed, August 08, 2012 - Elmer & Sherry Komant Burundi
They are breaking ground in a new place in Bujumbura, Burundi!
By Murray Cornelius
But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it (Numbers 14:24).
Caleb is described as a man with a “different spirit.” In another context, that might be taken as an insult. But in the biblical story of the Exodus, it is a compliment of the highest order. It speaks of courage and faith, of confidence and a “go for it” attitude—despite the potential danger and challenges.
Elmer and Sherry have just concluded 13 years of remarkable ministry in the country of Rwanda. They pioneered and planted a church that is now a “city on a hill,” a light to a nation that used to be a place of pain and suffering. They could deservedly choose to rest and enjoy the fruit of their labours. But like Caleb, they are people of a “different spirit:” so, one more time, they are preparing to go to a new city in a new country to establish another lighthouse amidst the darkness.
While Rwanda is a household name, Burundi is a country we don’t hear much about. These two countries are neighbours with a very similar history, marked by decades of enmity between different people groups. While Rwanda has prospered during the last ten years, Burundi has been left behind and is still gripped with racial tension, poverty and widespread corruption. But God has not forgotten this nation!
He has called Elmer and Sherry to leave their ministry in Rwanda and move to Burundi to plant another urban Great Commission church in the pattern they have established and proven over 32 years of missionary service in Africa. Let me take a moment to celebrate the life of this remarkable couple.
In Chapter One of their service to Africa, they established the spiritual DNA in the life of Northmead Assembly of God in Lusaka, Zambia. This church is still a centre for significant holistic ministry and has been led by strong leaders since Elmer and Sherry left in 1987. When the foundations are built well, the ministry lasts. The journey was not without challenges. In the years the Komants lived and worked in Zambia, the nation was facing its most serious economic and security issues. It was a difficult and dangerous place to minister. In addition, Elmer was diagnosed with a brain tumour and was rushed back to Canada. Without the miraculous intervention of God, he might not have survived. But the Komants did more than survive; they thrived, and the ministry blossomed and bore much good fruit.
Chapter Two reflected a decade of ministry in Mombasa, Kenya, when another landmark church was planted that continues today to grow and bring transformation to many. Mombasa is primarily a Muslim city, and the Komants faced significant opposition and challenges there. Today, a vibrant congregation of thousands meets on multiple sites. The noted feature of the celebration centre of this urban church is the four crosses that face the four corners of the earth, proclaiming the greatness of God and the splendour of our Saviour.
In 1997, Elmer and Sherry once again listened to the Spirit of God. What began as a gentle nudge in their hearts became a clarion call and driving passion. They left the growing, prospering Mombasa Pentecostal Church and went to Kigali, Rwanda. The nation was still in mourning, broken by the 100 days of hell on earth that we call genocide. Over one million people were killed in a few short months. Starting from scratch, having never previously visited the country, Elmer and Sherry established a church called Christian Life Assembly (CLA) that today is the leading urban assembly in the nation offering a holistic, vibrant place to belong for hundreds of Rwandese. On site are a school, a health and wellness centre, three satellite assemblies, and a host of mercy ministries offered to the community. Chapter Three was perhaps the most difficult, but also the most rewarding. On June 3, 2012, they passed the torch of senior pastoral leadership to Andrew and Prisca Mukinisha.
Andrew Mukinisha (left) is the new senior pastor.
In the last 18 years, Rwanda has seen its population nearly double as exiles have come home and the nation has prospered. The evangelical/Pentecostal church has become prominent in a significant portion of the country, with some reporting its penetration to be as high as nearly 30 per cent of the nation. At its heart is CLA, this vibrant, nation transforming urban congregation that loves God and is full of reconciled and forgiven people.
What does it take to be a pioneer church planter at the ends of the earth? What are the marks of a “different spirit”? Here are few brief observations:
* Teamwork. Elmer and Sherry have not worked alone, but have been supported by Patrick Muchiri, Andrew and Prisca Mukinisha, Marty and Margit Mittelstaedt, Dwight and Linda Goltz, and their own family, Racheal and Jeff.
* Absolute dependence on the Holy Spirit to bring in the harvest.
* Endurance and perseverance to break through the resistance that will certainly come from the evil one.
* A commitment to excellence in the services provided because urban churches need to stand out and be a place where leaders of society can also find life and hope in Jesus.
* A great love for people, for the Lord will bring the broken and the discouraged.
* Tenacity in the disciple-making responsibility so that the church will have strong leaders who are faithful followers of Jesus.
Planting urban churches to serve as the backbone of a larger ministry to a nation has been an integral part of the PAOC’s missions strategy over the years. Following the pattern of the Apostle Paul, we focus on the leading cities in a nation and build strong churches that offer a credible witness to the transforming power of God.
Let’s do it again!
A very exciting development in the planning phase for this new church is the commitment of help made by other African city churches. Four urban churches are going to collaborate in providing financial and human resources (Christian Life Assembly, Kigali; Watoto Church, Kampala; Nairobi Pentecostal Church, now known as Christ Is the Answer Ministries (CITAM); Mombasa Pentecostal Church). Teams of young people, musicians, actors, evangelists, and many other gifted people have been committed to this dream. Bujumbura will be touched by its surrounding nations.
Pray for Elmer and Sherry as, one more time, they break ground in a new place and put Bujumbura, Burundi, on the PAOC International Missions map. Like Caleb, they are saying:
I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country … (Joshua 14:11-12).
Murray Cornelius is the assistant superintendent for International Missions with The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. This article appears in the August/September 2012 issue of testimony, a monthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Click here if you'd like to support the Komants' ministry.
Snapshots from the transitioning service.
© 2012 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada
Photos © The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada