Isesomo: God’s Servant In Congo

malcom richards
Isesomo: God’s Servant In Congo image

I want to thank Josh Maule for introducing us to a significant church leader from a country that most people wouldn’t visit on their holidays.

In this short book we are introduced to Bishop Adolphe Isesomo, second bishop in the Diocese of North Kivu in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). While the book is essentially a biography in the style of a “missionary biography”, Josh Maule neatly intertwines three different but interrelated histories. Isesomo’s story is told in the context of the development of the Anglican Church of Congo, especially the Diocese of North Kivu, but also the sad account of the country that was Zaire and is now the DRC.

The history of DRC is tragic, with more than its fair share of war and genocide. As Maule tells Isesomo’s story he connects us with this history – from the late 1800s when Congo was the personal possession of King Leopold II of Belgium, through to the catastrophe in Congo following the Rwanda genocide in the late 1990s when more than 4 million people lost their lives, and finally to the current situation where armed groups range over eastern parts of the country.

As well as explaining this history Maule serves readers well by pointing us readers to various must-read books on Congo that can be followed up by those who get hooked. He shows us that the history of DRC is also very relevant to Isesomo’s story: it not only shapes him as a person but also his growth as a minister of the gospel.

The development of the Anglican Church of Congo also shapes Isesomo’s life and ministry. The book explains this in fairly stark terms, frequently detailing the shortcomings of the church itself and also various church leaders Isesomo must deal with as he promotes Christ and the biblical gospel. The reader should be aware, however, that Maule, in condemning certain events and leaders and labelling some as “not converted” – or painting them in a very bad light – is relying mainly on a restricted number of sources and that these leaders have had no right of reply.

Nevertheless the story of the Anglican Church of Congo is an important one and well told.

Maule relays to us the story of Isesomo’s life in a warts-and-all manner. There are not many church leaders in Australia who would allow their biographer to include information from their pre-Christian days, including details of sexual conquests and drunken revelries. Good on Isesomo for his honesty and bravery!

From such beginnings we hear of his conversion and the subsequent way Christ gripped his life, giving him an unending passion to preach the gospel of Jesus and see others receive this gift of salvation. Maule does well to allow the reader to see the development of this godly man and very talented evangelist – taking us along on a remarkable journey as Isesomo is pushed by God into taking on more and more responsible positions in the church, and constantly taking huge risks so the most needy can hear the gospel.

This is a book worth reading. Bishop Isesomo has had an impact on many lives in Congo but also around the world, including here in Australia. Josh Maule is quite obviously one of them.  If nothing else this book should prompt you to pray for Congo and Christian ministry in that most difficult of countries. You might pray, too, that God continues to use Isesomo and raises up others like him.

The Rev Malcolm Richards is general secretary of CMS NSW & ACT and a former missionary in the DRC.