The story of Krystaal is an incredible one – a band of three brothers – Michel, Fabian and Aliston Lwamba – surviving murderous persecution in their homeland of Congo (formerly Zaire), separated during a flight for survival, and reunited halfway around the world in Canada.
Michel, the eldest of the Lwamba children, showed musical talent at an early age – he built himself a guitar at age 12 with bits and pieces of other toys, after his father refused to buy him one (he wanted his son to concentrate on his studies), and began singing his own songs. Eventually, he encouraged his younger brother Fabian to sing with him. As soon as he was old enough to sing, Aliston, the youngest of the three, joined the group. Even as young singers, they developed a great vocal style characterized by beautiful three-part harmonies and a contemporary sound – it was their dream to one day be full-time musicians and move to the West.
The Lwamba’s were born into a privileged family – their father was a high-ranking government official under the Mobutu regime. Although working for a government which eventually became an iron-fisted dictatorship, he instilled in his children a belief in the ideals of individual freedom and respect.
However, the Mobutu government was not interested in the ideals of freedom. Shortly after a student demonstration at one of the Congo’s major universities, where both Michel and Fabian were studying, Mobutu sent in his soldiers secretly under cover of darkness and murdered over 400 students in their sleep. Miraculously, Michel and Fabian survived. Being the children of a prominent political father, they were marked out for special scrutiny – during another pro-freedom demonstration, with both Michel and Fabian among the leaders, Mobutu sent in his special police to crush the demonstrators with force. Violence ensued and people were killed. Both Michel and Fabian fled for their lives, separated during the mayhem. Michel, knowing he was now a wanted man and that the dictator would be targeting his home and family, ran home to gather his thirteen-year old brother Aliston, his sister and his daughter, and fled, leaving everything and everyone behind.
Michel and his remaining family were eventually smuggled out of Congo, facing many harrowing trials along the way. Ultimately they arrived at a refugee camp in Kenya, where they lived for the next number of years in the most crushing and deplorable conditions of violence and disease, believing the rest of their entire family to be dead – brother Fabian, their parents, and Michel’s wife. It was under these terrible conditions that Michel accepted Christ as his Saviour. His love of song re-surfaced here, and he often composed his own songs to God, singing aloud and alone at night in the midst of the desolate camp, home to 250,000 refugees. People wondered why and how anyone could be singing in a place like this camp – some were annoyed and irritated, others were moved. This eventually led Michel to begin sharing the gospel and his faith, and God leading many to salvation.
As Michel was on the doorstep of a Nairobi, Kenya church one Sunday morning, about to enter, he had a sense in his heart that he should worship elsewhere that Sunday – at a church clear across town. Partway through the service he noticed a woman sitting on the other side of the church. When she rose to leave at the end of the service he could not believe his eyes – it was his wife, with his 3-year old son, who had been born since their separation. For years each believed the others to be dead. Try to imagine the joy – after having gone through hellish and frightening ordeals, to be miraculously reunited in Nairobi’s Parklands Baptist Church.
After surviving the camp for a number of years, Michel and his family – through the kindness of an official camp visitor – received an opportunity to leave the camp and be sent to another country to begin a new life – this was another miraculous event. Michel, humbled by God’s love and mercy, chose the country he had always wanted to live in – Canada. After a lengthy process and some round-about travelling, Michel arrived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the late 1990’s, with Aliston, his sister, and his family. They found a home at Emmanuel Baptist Church where God nurtured them and their faith through a loving and welcoming congregation – the Lwamba’s had found a new home.
Michel soon after sent a letter to a friend at his former refugee camp in Kenya, to let him know he was doing well – there were always new refugees coming into the camp, with a new contingent having arrived only a few months before Michel sent his letter. Michel’s friend, who had received this letter, was walking with it in his hand through the vast camp. As he was walking, he was stopped by someone who noticed the envelope he was carrying and wanted to look at it more closely. It was Fabian, who had recognized his brother’s unmistakable handwriting. Fabian had just recently arrived from another camp, and God had guided him to a small envelope hidden in this huge crowd of 250,000 people. The discovery that his brother, whom he had believed to be dead, was in fact alive, was indescribable. Fabian’s own journey for the past five years was no less harrowing than his brother’s. During that time, he too had accepted Christ as his Saviour. Ultimately, the brothers were all reunited in Saskatoon, and Canada has been their home since.
It became clear to Michel, Fabian and Aliston that they had a story to tell, and the call of God upon their heart to minister to others through music was unmistakable. The brothers chose the name Krystaal (derived from “Christ” in their native language) for their name and they have been pursuing God’s call on their lives ever since. With abundant musical talent, beautiful vocal stylings and original songs of faith and love, born out of experiences that most of us cannot even imagine, Krystaal released their latest CD Keep On Standing in Fall 2003. They continue to perform and minister in full-time ministry, wherever and whenever they can, telling people about the incredible God Whom they serve, and His love for us in Christ Jesus.