Texas Music & Arts Leaders Minister in DR Congo
By: Brad Rowland
From August 24 through September 3, members of the Texas Divisional Music and Arts Department traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to serve as special guests for an impactful gathering. For more than a week, approximately 500 delegates and staff from the Democratic Republic of Congo Territory came together for a comprehensive music institute, analogous to the USA Southern Territory’s TMI program.
The camp, locally referred to as ETAS, typically welcomes one special guest; the five-person group led by Matthew Broome, Texas divisional music and arts director, brought a change to that paradigm. Each day’s schedule at the camp was jam-packed, beginning with a “morning manna” program centered on devotions. The camp’s five bands and timbrel groups performed in a rotation each morning, and then major classes proceeded for upwards of five hours broken up by lunch.
“The schedule was intense, but the level of the campers allowed us to move quickly through very challenging pieces,” said Broome. “Their enthusiasm and joy energized our team, and each day seemed to fly by.”
In addition, ETAS featured a solo competition during the mid-week preview concert, and masterclasses were held each afternoon. These masterclasses were often led by the Texas leadership, including Alex Griswold bringing creative arts to the school for the first time. After an evening program, the camp’s faculty band rehearsed long into the night.
Near the conclusion of the week-plus institute, the assembly changed venues. For the majority of the week, the delegates and staff worked at a camp in the small village of Kavwaya, which includes a corps along with a Salvation Army run hospital, boarding school, and vocational training center. From there, the final concert occurred in Kinshasa. This meant an approximately four-hour journey for the entire delegation, and the final concert was held at the Kinshasa Central Corps, located on a large Salvation Army compound that includes William Booth University.
The performing groups inspired in the final concert, and, prior to that, the Texas staff ministered and worshiped at Ndjili 1 Corps on Sunday morning. This corps was once home to Ghodard Diavangama who now works as an assistant divisional music and arts director in Texas, and he was instrumental in the trip’s planning and execution.
“This trip for me was special because it was an opportunity to give back to the place that trained me in music and how to use it for the Kingdom,” Diavangama said. “I was, at a young age, given the opportunity to learn several instruments and conduct choirs, and that gave me the opportunity to move to the United States. Coming back to ETAS was a first-hand testimony to those we served of where the Lord can take us if we remain dedicated to His service.”
A lasting legacy from ETAS 2023 may also be the breaking down of barriers. From the Texas team, Sara Elliott and Nohemi Elias both led camper bands and also played cornet in the faculty band. In the DRC, there are very few women that play in advanced bands, and even fewer, if any, in band leadership. “A new generation of girls was inspired all week,” Broome said. “And we expect things may look different in the next few years!”
While the growing enrollment of ETAS has led to crowding and sometimes difficult conditions, the spirit of the gathering continues to inspire, even through a language barrier and other challenges.
“That was something that struck me in their culture,” Broome said. “We would be laughing and joking around, and then 30 seconds later, we would start singing a worship song that led into a time of prayer. Sometimes, I feel that I have to be in the right state of mind to approach God, but God is always there. We should always be ready to include Him in all that we do, and at ETAS, He was!”
By the time the Texas delegation prepared to return home and resume day-to-day responsibilities, it was clear that each member enjoyed a tremendous experience. The impact was not only musical and artistic but also spiritual and cultural, with lifelong friendships established in the process.