By Kanda Claudine

To begin with, this story unfolds in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, specifically in the nation’s largest city. It’s the third-largest conurbation in Africa, following only Cairo and Lagos. Furthermore, it claims the distinction of being the world’s largest French-speaking urban center, surpassing Paris in the 2010s. Let me provide you with a comprehensive understanding of my narrative.

We find ourselves in a town with an extended rainy season spanning 8 to 9 months. This locale bears a rich cultural heritage, notably marked by its distinctive music genre known as Rumba. It’s also profoundly shaped by various religious influences, encompassing the Catholic Church, Muslim Mosques, the Kimbanguism Church, and Revival Churches. Kinshasa serves as the political capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Additionally, a wide array of sports disciplines such as Football, Basketball, Karate, and Judo, among others, thrive in this vibrant city. Linguistically, two primary languages coexist here: Lingala, our native tongue, and French, the official language.

Our acquaintance traces back to our youth, when we were part of a choir team at around 17 years old. This friendship persisted as we grew alongside other young talents. Music was our shared passion. During that time, Ike pursued his interest in keyboard playing, while Muyaso and I aspired to be vocalists. We dedicated ourselves to the same youth choir for several years, gaining not only musical skills but also engaging in studies related to the Bible, social community life, and sustainable development.

Eventually, the Senior Pastor of our church, Apostle Joshua, recognized our potential as a team of young performers. Impressed by our dedication and skills, he proposed that we become the dedicated worship and praise team for the third service every Sunday. This marked the turning point when our team intensified its efforts, with everyone striving daily to excel in their roles, whether as singers, keyboard players, bass guitarists, solo guitarists, or drummers. This collective commitment elevated us to an exceptional praise and worship team. As we evolved, Mike and Muyaso, in particular, forged a close bond.

I still vividly recall our inaugural performance that earned us acclaim within the church community. We were elated by the reception, the astonishment of our vocal prowess, and the remarkable musical talent on display. It was a day we couldn’t sleep, as we stayed awake discussing our performance into the wee hours of the night. The music resonated with our audience, and the young ladies who sang alongside us were likened to angels, at least in my eyes. They had indeed excelled that day.

Around 2007, Mike harbored greater ambitions and decided to embark on his solo career, thus departing from the team. When he sought to record his debut album, he reached out to his close friend Muyaso, who was also a close friend of mine, for support. Muyaso, widely regarded as the premier keyboard player in our church community and likely the entire town, readily agreed to accompany Mike to the studio. However, they encountered several obstacles. In our country, recording songs necessitates the rental of generators for each track due to frequent power cuts by the electricity provider. This incurred substantial expenses, as did hiring studio musicians and backup vocalists unless we handled the choruses ourselves.

Consequently, the journey was fraught with challenges, and we, as a team, were expected to be present in the studio to mitigate difficulties, particularly in the early stages.

Thankfully, perseverance paid off, and Mike’s chosen team eventually completed the album after a year of arduous work. However, finding a producer for the album took time. In the end, they secured a producer who agreed to produce and release the album containing six songs. The songs gained immense popularity in the city, with one track becoming the country’s favorite. This success served as a source of inspiration for the rest of us, and we even entertained the idea of launching a project featuring seven songs. Regrettably, we kept postponing it, repeatedly setting it aside for the next month, citing our unreadiness. Consequently, nothing came to fruition, and this project was ultimately abandoned.

For me, these experiences were essential in shaping my understanding and maturity as a budding artist at the age of 18. I realized that I was on a path towards a music career.

Our most accomplished keyboard player, Muyaso, decided to take matters into his own hands by pursuing his own album, rather than waiting for others. He made this decision because our team’s inability to adhere to release schedules created discord and frustration. To avoid further delays and difficulties, Muyaso collaborated with individuals outside our church community. Unfortunately, some team members doubted his singing ability and even ridiculed his aspirations. Undeterred, he pressed on, unwavering in his belief in the endeavor.

Sometime after the senior pastor began collaborating with me in the youth church program, it created some distance between me and the team. I became occupied with another role, specifically working with the youth community and overseeing all youth activities. During this period, Mike started to shine in both the Church community and the town. He was known for his exceptional singing talent, and he was frequently invited to perform in various churches, special prayer programs, seminars, worship events, and concerts. People even began purchasing his albums, and we took immense pride in his success, often boasting about him in town.

On the flip side, there was Muyaso, who had invested two years in the studio recording songs for his debut album, with support mainly from his family. When Muyaso released his first album, which featured eight remarkable songs, it didn’t gain much attention in our community due to a lack of promotional support, primarily because he didn’t have a producer. When I inquired about the album in the community, people acknowledged the quality of the songs but suggested that he needed to work harder.

During this period, my responsibilities had expanded as the leader of the youth department, where I taught young people about social and Christian life, Bible scriptures, and encouraged their participation in activities like sports, supporting individuals with disabilities, and sustainable development. I was making considerable progress in working with the youth in the community.

Muyaso and Mike developed a close friendship, and their relationship was highly spoken of in the Church community and beyond. They supported each other in their respective careers, promoting each other’s events on social media, blogs, and attending them in person. It was widely recognized in our area that they were best friends.

Two years later, they independently embarked on their second albums. Mike, having succeeded with his first album, had a producer eagerly waiting for his next release. Mike invited Muyaso to assist in the studio as he was a skilled keyboard player and played a significant role in the recording of songs.

Muyaso also began working on his second album with the team that had helped him with the first. People were curious about who was producing Muyaso’s album, especially considering the challenges faced during his first release. It turned out that the producer for Mike’s album was connected to Muyaso; they had been classmates at college in previous years. This producer showed interest in working on Muyaso’s album.

While I was engrossed in youth activities, I received a call informing me that Mike had released his second album. A few hours later, Mike’s staff member delivered a copy of the album as a gift. I felt elated to listen to it, considering the years of hard work we had put into our music. The album was exceptional, with outstanding melodies, a well-balanced sound mix, and spiritually resonant lyrics. People in town and some parts of the region were impressed by the album, and the Christian community took pride in Mike’s achievements.

Eight months later, Muyaso released his second album, which quickly garnered attention. While I had expected to receive a copy as a gift, it took longer than anticipated, so I purchased it myself. For me, it was the best album of the year in our community. Everyone in town admired the album, and I was immensely proud of both Mike and Muyaso, who had started as members of our church team.

Unbeknownst to us, it was Mike’s producer who had approached Muyaso. They discussed collaborating on his second album and signed a contract, which rapidly propelled the project forward. I only learned of this when the senior pastor of our church summoned me to his office and explained the situation. He revealed that the same producer who had been working with Mike for three years had terminated his contract with Mike and partnered with Muyaso. They were also considering joint projects, such as hosting a young talent show on the producer’s TV channel and other collaborative endeavors.

This development raised questions about the change in allegiance by the producer, which left me wondering how the same person who had worked with Mike could shift his focus to Muyaso and even terminate his contract. However, finding answers to these questions remained elusive.

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On the other hand, Muyaso began avoiding us and keeping his distance, and I couldn’t fathom why. “During his absence from our group, Mike sought a meeting with his former producer to discuss their contract. However, tensions only escalated between them. This was a major letdown for Mike, especially coming from his best friend, Muyaso. Fuming with anger, he refrained from reaching out to Muyaso.

One day, I received the disheartening news through a fellow church member and Mike’s colleague, Claude. Sorrow welled up in my eyes, and I was overwhelmed with disappointment. I knew this situation had the potential to lead us into significant trouble. Desperate to find a resolution, I turned to our senior pastor, Joshua. I implored him to mediate between Mike and Muyaso, given his role as our spiritual father and his capacity to understand and mend the growing discord. However, he was reluctant to hear what I had to say. He believed that we were all brushing off the issue between Muyaso and Mike concerning his producer.

I vividly recall visiting the pastor’s office on that fateful day, only to find him already present. After a few minutes, Mike arrived, though Muyaso came late, his mood evidently sour. My motivation for being there was my commitment to our shared faith and the deep love I had for my two friends and brothers in Christ.

Pastor Joshua deemed it prudent to have them both sit down, considering their palpable anger and hostile demeanor. He urged them to reconcile as true Christians and children of God. He reassured them that the future held greater promise than the present tribulations. Pastor Joshua reiterated, “Your most bitter adversary today might become your salvation tomorrow.” At that point, we failed to grasp the significance of his words. Muyaso remained steadfast in his belief that he was in the right, while Mike remained hesitant to forgive him. In the end, Pastor Joshua instructed us to leave his office, and we complied.

Upon returning home, I couldn’t shake the impact of the pastor’s words: “Your most bitter enemy today could be your savior tomorrow.” I carried that phrase with me from that day onward.

As days passed, it became increasingly apparent that there was a conflict between Mike and Muyaso, which played out during public interactions. People easily picked up on the tension between them when they inquired about each other. I made several attempts to approach Muyaso and emphasize the need for a conversation, but his obstinacy prevailed. Mike, equally unapproachable, harbored anger towards all of us for seemingly downplaying the situation with his producer.

By the grace of God, Muyaso eventually took the initiative to come clean to Mike and seek his forgiveness. He made repeated efforts to reach out and make amends, but Mike was reluctant to answer his calls. Then, one day, a rift within a group of envious individuals, who were initially plotting against Mike’s second album’s success in the region, led one of them to break away. He decided to confide in Muyaso and reveal their sinister intentions. I received this revelation from a fellow churchgoer, and it left me in shock.

In a state of disbelief, I asked the messenger to leave, and shortly thereafter, Muyaso called me. As I picked up the phone, he expressed his intention to meet. When we convened at his place, he disclosed the disturbing information he had received from the defector. Without hesitation, I told him that we couldn’t allow any harm to befall Mike. We needed to consult our senior pastor, Joshua, and devise a plan.

Muyaso readily agreed to my suggestion, and we promptly scheduled an appointment with Pastor Joshua. Three days later, we sat in his office, joined by a police officer named Jeff. Following an exchange of information, Pastor Joshua assured us that he would engage the police in a comprehensive investigation and get back to us. He established contact between the officer and the informant who had revealed the plot to Muyaso.

Approximately two weeks later, Pastor Joshua called both Muyaso and me to his office. We found Jeff, the police officer, and our pastor awaiting our arrival. After we were seated, Pastor Joshua delivered the news that the police had identified those individuals planning to harm Mike due to their jealousy over his success in the area. Pastor Joshua reassured us, saying, “The producer wasn’t the problem; nothing can thwart God’s plan. When God blesses you, no one can hinder His purpose, not even a producer.” He underscored the futility of continuing enmity, now that we knew that no one was at fault for the producer’s departure.

Pastor Joshua dialed Mike’s number, and he picked up the call. After sharing the officer’s testimony, he handed the phone to the officer to discuss the ongoing investigation. To my amazement, Mike remained silent, attentively listening, and eventually expressed his agreement with the pastor’s words. From that day forward, our relationship with Mike began to transform. The very next day, Mike initiated a call with Muyaso, extending the hand of friendship and reconciliation. I was the second person he contacted, and we arranged to meet. Our reunion was a joyous occasion, marked by a pleasant surprise: Muyaso’s presence.

Our meeting rekindled our happiness, and we reminisced about our shared past, particularly the days we spent tirelessly practicing music and pursuing excellence as members of the church’s praise and worship team. We continued to do so, participating in youth events, concerts, and various church and community activities, proud of our dreams for a brighter future.

The day after our gathering at our cherished meeting spot by Kipopo Lac, Golf Square in Lubumbashi town, Mike expressed a heartfelt sentiment. He emphasized the profound lessons he had learned from the events that unfolded in his career, particularly the role Muyaso played in his life, which he had initially perceived as destructive. With unwavering sincerity, Mike forgave Muyaso and released any animosity, filling his heart with love. I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Thank you, Lord,” and we sealed our newfound unity with a heartfelt embrace and a brief prayer.

Our experience served as a powerful reminder that even our most formidable adversaries can unexpectedly become our saviors. I’ve since realized that in our conflicts with others, it’s essential not to be too harsh or unforgiving, as the future remains in God’s hands, and we never know when certain individuals may come to our aid.”

28 October, 2023