Hundreds mourn at triple Norwich funeral

CongoFuneral1By Mike Wiltshire

2009: As hundreds of mourners looked on, children came forward to lay flowers on the coffins of three Christian men at a triple funeral in Norwich today (July 29).

The three who died – all from the same Congolese family and described as “three wonderful men” - had come to Norwich as refugees from war-torn areas Africa, but they were killed when their car crashed into a tree on their way to a graduation ceremony in Manchester on July 17.  It happened on the AI between Worksop and Blyth, Nottinghamshire.

The driver, 41-year-old Isengelo Masudi, of Bates Green, Earlham, and his nephew Vanueli Kibungu, aged 25, of Leicester Street, Norwich, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Faustin Emidi Patachako, 47, of Doman Road, Lakenham, the older brother of Mr Kibungu, was sitting in the back of the car and suffered broken legs in the accident.
He was taken to Bassetlaw District General Hospital but died later while surgery was being performed. Two children aged 10 and 13, who were part of the men's extended family and were travelling in the back of the car, are now out of  hospital.

Mourners at the funeral service at the Methodist Church at Chapel Field Road, Norwich, heard that the men and their families had come to Norwich under the Gateway Protection Programme, which was set up in October 2006 as part of a government scheme protecting some of the world's most vulnerable people.
Norwich was one of the first places in the county to host the scheme for refugee families who were set up in camps in Zambia where they have been living after fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Masudi had been in Norwich for two and a half years, was a committed family man.  He is survived by his widow, Sharon, and three young children, two boys and one girl.
Masudi had trained as a pastor and a tailor in Congo and Zambia, before he arrived in the UK in December, 2006. He was studying accountancy, expecting to become an accounting technician this year.  Vanueli, his nephew, was described as “a bright, charming and intelligent young man.”

CongoFuneral2Three ministers led the triple funeral service, where Pastor Paddy Venner of Earlham Christian Centre – where Masudi ’s family are members – brought what he called “a message of hope, because out of bad situations, God so often makes something good.”  In a strongly evangelistic message, he said: “These brave men who had known the trauma of refugee camps. These came to Norwich seeking a new life, a better place – but now they are in heaven, an even better place.”

Masudi, a father of three, “was a great man, though small of stature, whose big smile hid the suffering he had known in Africa. He loved life, he loved his wife and family, and he loved God.  He, like all three of the men who died, was a hero.”

Many were moved to tears when Masudi’s widow told how her husband had led her to Christ – and, supported by friends, she sang a chorus, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Mother of seven, Beatrice, widow of Faustin, also spoke movingly of her deep faith in Christ, despite the tragedy.   Congolese Christians sang a worship song and many visitors tributes to the three men, including Rev Chris Collict of the Gateway Project; Pastor Israel Kumbi, who leads Congolese churches in Norwich and Peterborough; Sue Gee, Norfolk manager of the Gateway Protection Programme, and Chris Spooner, refugee council project manager.

Sue Gee told the congregation, many of whom had travelled from distant areas of the UK, that those who had died “were three wonderful men who came seeking a safe haven  – Masudi and Faustin were loving fathers and our hearts go out to their families.”
., 30/07/2009

Published: 30/07/2009