Wembo, Nyama

Congolese Chief And Supporter Of Methodist Mission

Head of a village of the same name in the Belgian Congo, noted as a warrior and enemy of Europeans in his early days, Wembo Nyama received Bishop Walter Lambuth and his party in his village in 1912. Impressed by Lambuth as a man of his word, the chief embraced Christianity and promoted its growth in his territory and beyond. As a limit of his Christian commitment, however, he refused to divorce any of his two dozen wives, noting that it would be unfair to the women to send any away while keeping only one. The fact that the missionaries tolerated this circumstance is evidence that they sometimes adapted to local situations which deviated from ordinary Christian practice. He could not join the church, but several of his wives did. Wembo Nyama became to Southern Methodists the symbol of the exotic character who was the classic object of missions. The chief died in 1940, with the mission still healthy in his territory.

Taken from Robert W. Sledge, “Five Dollars and Myself”: The History of Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1845-1939. (New York: General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 2005), p. 329.

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