Not every calling to ministry is obvious to the one who is being called. In fact, many ordained ministers will say that even if they were not resistant to their calls to ministry, they were oblivious to it. It may be difficult to discern what was happening in the case of Reverend Kiboko Kiboko.
Looking back over the years, Kiboko realizes that he planted churches in the Congo without even knowing he was doing it. He would organize people to meet in various homes. Some of these “gatherings” eventually grew to worship with 2,000-3,000 people.
When he came to the States to learn English at Wichita State University, he found himself working with youth.
I just couldn’t stand how the youth were being disrespectful toward their parents and so I got involved in whatever they were doing. And I said, “No, you’ve got to show some respect.” The turning point was when I walked in this church and my English was not quite ready yet. The pastor of that church looked at me and said, “God spoke to me and you are the person in charge of the youth group — Junior and Senior High.”
And I said through an interpreter, “He must be out of his mind, because I don’t speak English yet.”
He said, “Sorry. God Spoke to me.” And he left.
The next Sunday, Kiboko found himself in a room with lots of teenagers. He made a deal with them. If they taught him English, he would teach them French.
He brought two books of the Bible with him for this language exchange: John and the Song of Songs.
So, I spoke French to them and they spoke back in English. I knew they would really fall in love with that. And so, they loved the French. It was just great. And then I used that as a way to work with them and develop a relationship with their parents.
About six months later, their parents came to me and said “What did you do to our children? What’s going on? My kids can say sorry. They can walk in the kitchen and actually help me do dishes. They can say please. Oh please, in whatever you do, don’t forget to go to seminary to be a pastor.”
Kiboko and his family then moved from Wichita to Iowa where they were told they were not welcome.
We [were] sitting in the pews and the ushers walk [up] to us and say “45 minutes away from here is a Black congregation. We don’t worship with people like you.”
And so, we went home. And the next Sunday my wife said, “Well, let’s go to church.” And I said, “Did you get the address?”
“No. We are going to that church over there.”
“Did you hear what they said?”
She said, “I heard. We are going back there.”
So, we went back there.
The people in that congregation made the same statement. But Kiboko and his wife still worshipped there. His wife even said they were going to go back the following Sunday and join that church. And so, they joined that church.
And one Sunday the pastor got sick. He didn’t show up. And one of the ushers came to me and said, “When are we going to start the worship?”
I said, “Well I don’t know. Where is the pastor?”
“Oh, you didn’t know? The Pastor is in the hospital. You are in charge. He called us and told us you would lead the service.”
So, I led the service. That happened twice.
They said, “Well, you have to just go to seminary.”
And I said, “No, I don’t feel that calling.”
Kiboko was unable to deny his calling, but he had to have several more encounters before he finally recognized it. The first of these chance meetings took place while he was writing Bible studies for the Idianola church camps. A couple wanted to talk to “Pastor Kiboko.”
I said “No, I am not a pastor. My sister is a pastor, but she is in Denver, Colorado.”
They said, “No, we are not looking for a she. We are looking for he. You don’t know who we are. Five years ago, we were on the verge of getting a divorce, you brought us together.”
And then I said, “No, I don’t even know who you are.”
They said, “No, you don’t. We were going to get a divorce because our daughter had been involved with drugs. We were blaming each other and so you crossed paths with her and you changed her life. She went back to school and even finished. She is a nurse now. Because of you. We have one message for you. We need more pastors like you. Could you go to seminary?”
When he returned home, he encountered the women of the Mission Committee.
They said, “We are just upset because Pastor Jordy told us that you are not a pastor. Is that true?”
And I said, “Well, I am afraid yes. He is right. I am not a pastor.”
“Oh, what does it take to become a pastor?”
“Well one has to go to seminary.”
“Well, then, go to seminary.”
That same night, the pastor came to Kiboko’s home and told him that Kiboko had to go to seminary.
And the next day, I called Iliff and said, “Send me the application forms.” And the rest is history.
Serving as Superintendent of the East Central District of the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church, Kiboko has great vision for the church body.
My dream is to see church people before inviting anybody to their church, they should be able to invite them in their own homes for meals and start those relationships. Otherwise, it’s not transformational. It’s just a show piece. We are not in show business; we are about transforming lives.
And everywhere my sister [has] been as a pastor, the school systems will tell you, this school is what it is today because of that church over there. Was it easy? No. It was difficult to change the ethos of that church [and] to change the way that they have been doing business (just waiting for people to come to them). Just imagine us going to them. Imagine us going Monday through Friday in our schools systems [and] reading stories to children.