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No Retreat, No Surrender

Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5:17-18).
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I’m Bro. Ramazani Emena, married to Sis. Sangani, and father of eight children. We are from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and have lived in Tanzania, Mozambique, and South Africa. We are currently living among brethren and sisters in the Lombard Ecclesia in western Chicago.

I’m a polyglot of five languages—I can speak Swahili, Lingala, French, Kibembe, and English. Today I am also writing on behalf of my fellow brethren and sisters from Mexico, Iran, and Cameroon who also attend the Chicago Ecclesia.

Our message is found in the Bible in two places. The first is: “Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:17-18).1All Scriptural citations are taken from the New International Version.

The second is: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt 7:7-8). 

we should have faith (hope) in everything

Because no one knows when, how, where, or through whom he shall have prayers answered, that is why one Sunday, I exhorted in the Chicago ecclesia about: “No Retreat, No Surrender.” That means we should have faith (hope) in everything of God and that we can be helpful in your life (including in the Kingdom of God) and for the future of your family, both spiritually and physically. 

The Emena’s home in Pretoria, South Africa in 2013

While living in my home country of the DRC and attending the high school in South Kivu, named Institute Mwenge wa Taifa Baraka, I had a question: “How can I go out of the country?” and “How can I become a famous man?”

But the war in DRC started in 1997, and we fled and found ourselves in Tanzania. Then I decided this was the opportunity for me to fulfill my dream. As we say in French: “quelque fois le malheur est bon.” In English, this means: “Sometimes misfortune is good!” Brothers and sisters, all I was doing in the Lugufu refugee camp was focused on thinking about getting out and going somewhere overseas. 

I decided to travel down to South Africa (Pretoria) with my whole family. Many Congolese from our region had settled there, despite being unwelcome by the local people. Despite many serious challenges, I patiently prayed, and through this manner, I was able to learn about the Truth. Later I was baptized by Bro. Lucas Scheepers in 2012 in South Africa.

My wife, Sangani, was baptized in 2013, just before we left Pretoria. Some people who have visited South Africa may know Bro. Lucas, Sis. Leona and Bro. Padiri, just to name a few. These are some of the people we had fellowship with while living in Pretoria. 

After waiting for years, our request to gain refugee rights was heard. However, our application was rejected the first time. But I did not give up. In my heart, I was telling myself, “No Retreat, No Surrender.”

I restarted the appeal to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), and fortunately, God answered my family’s prayers. He helped us overcome so many hurdles while living among daily dangers in South Africa.

Bro. Lucas couldn’t believe that we could go to the US since we had no money, no passports, and no relatives in the US! Even when we were about to leave with United Nations (UN) refugee status, we had a big problem at the airport with my eldest son, Livre. His name was incorrect in his documents and did not match his airplane tickets. One ticket agent would not allow Livre to fly with the family due to this, but after some quick prayer and a miracle, another man overrode the ticketing error and allowed us to leave. 

By the grace of God, we flew to New York City and then to Fort Worth, Texas, in the US in 2013. We were initially “placed” in a large apartment of four bedrooms for our family of ten, though without air conditioning. We just didn’t know how to turn the air conditioner on!

Catholic Charities helped us with English training, job training, and cultural rules in the US. People at our apartment complex often complained about our family because our children were jumping up and down and making noise. We were threatened that the police would be called and had some racial prejudice.  

Some of our older children began making friends we disapproved of, and we tried to find Christadelphians in our area. We were frustrated that our children would not have a Sunday School to attend since we had only recently been baptized and been active in the Pretoria ecclesia.

We were told it was a four-hour drive to a Christadelphian meeting, so we were unable to attend any meeting. We began to have a small church service at home with our family, but the apartment complex told us we were not allowed to have any church service in those apartments! 

Ramazani Emena (top, red shirt) and others in Pretoria, So. Africa, 2013

Eventually, Bro. Brad Bennett called and helped us take a train to Great Lakes Bible School with all our possessions. That ride was over twenty-four hours with our children, who were three to fifteen years old. When we finally arrived at the Bible School in Wisconsin, we were so happy to meet quite a few brothers and sisters we had previously met in Pretoria in the past few years.

I am happy with my decision to follow the Truth

These people had visited our church, and some had helped to repair parts of our home. Brethren from the Chicago area made us feel welcome by driving us to a new phase in life after Bible School, with total relocation for a home and a new job. We also met another Congolese family led by Sis. Bridgett, who we knew from Pretoria. They were attending the Lombard Ecclesia as well. 

I am happy with my decision to follow the Truth, and in my heart, I will never forget the tough decisions I had to make. Despite the outcome, I always knew God had a plan, so I kept looking forward. There was no turning back. In my mind, I had been living the phrase “No Retreat, No Surrender.”  

We are all born in different circumstances and with different motives. I had set my sights on finding a better place to live with my family, and I trusted in the LORD to help guide me toward this goal. With many setbacks, I thought I would break and give up. But I kept my faith in God. 

My brothers and sisters are all searching and trying to attain something. It can be simple or complex, and it is difficult to do things without God. That being said, a person needs to put effort and focus on their goals and plans because, as the Bible says, “faith without deeds is useless.” (Jas 2:20).

We can use fellow brothers and sisters for support and advice because in this manner we are helping each other. In my own life, I would not have arrived at the Truth without getting and taking advice from my brothers and sisters. Nobody is knowledgeable in everything except God, so we can only help and learn from each other. I am happy that nothing can separate me and my family from the love of Jesus. 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:35-39). 

Ramazani Emena,
Lombard Ecclesia, IL

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