by Christie R. House
The beginnings of The United Methodist Church in the Central African Republic (CAR) can be traced back to 2001, when Lucien Dockpa, a native of the CAR, tuned into Radio Afrique Internationale, a French-language radio show produced by the General Board of Global Ministries in the United States. The program content was recorded in New York and broadcast out of Germany. The shows focused on God’s mission and the vision and objectives of The United Methodist Church across the world—and across Africa.
Robert Mpoyo, a former staff member of Global Ministries’ United Methodist Committee on Relief, occasionally worked with Radio Africa International, which was directed by Donna Nieman. “The radio show was widely followed by millions in Africa,” Mpoyo noted, “and because the signal was so strong, we received many responses from listeners as far away as South America, Mongolia, and Eastern Europe.” Within the context of the religious programming, social issues were also dealt with, such as sustainable agriculture and climate change. Raphael Mbadinga, one of the program’s hosts, interviewed many African leaders, technicians, and program managers in the studio on topics as varied as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other health concerns, along with water resources, sanitation, and irrigation.
Lucien Dockpa says that what moved him most about these broadcasts was the way in which The United Methodist Church understood the great commission of Jesus Christ—“that Christians should go everywhere in the world to proclaim the good news,” he explained. “But further,” he added, “the way you live your life is a testimony that a Methodist gives to his or her neighbor as the proof of mutual love from and for God. From this point,” he concluded, “I decided that such a church, which has never existed in my country, should be created.”