As volunteers for an international outreach committee of our church since 2011, we have come to know some key leaders, staff, and volunteers of Congo Initiative, both in the U.S. and in Beni, Congo, including the extended Kasali family, Cullen Rodgers-Gates, Kyle and Emily Hamilton, and members of the current Board of Directors. This is a truly amazing and transformative initiative in a troubled nation by people who truly love their neighbors. In the past few years, the Bilingual University of Congo has made amazing physical progress, adding solar energy, completing its community center (with four new classrooms for training over 300 more students), adding faculty for research, theology, and psychological counseling, and developing a new law degree program. Most importantly, Its graduates have become leaders and advocates for human rights, improved agriculture, communications, and community development, to name a few of their accomplishments. Check out www.congoinitiative.org's new website, then join us in supporting a truly transformative, proven outreach by outstanding Congolese citizens!
My heart still resides in Beni with the students & faculty of UCBC, with the ladies of The Women's Center, and with the students of The Language Institute! This place is the home that God gave to me & will forever be my Promised Land! Please help this worthy cause that is changing the world for the better!
Having lived in Beni, DRC back in the 80's and having prayed for the people there for many years, we are delighted that this university is a light shining bright in what can be a great darkness. Isn't that what God has called us to do? Bring light into the darkness and expose those things in our lives that need to be changed, that we might be transformed! This is exactly what UCBC (Congo Initiative) is doing. There is so much work to be done, to some it may appear impossible, but nothing is impossible with God! We are grateful to Him that we can join Him in supporting an organization that is so positive.
We love the mission and values of CI. We admire the organization's focus on bringing Christ's transformational life and love to the people of the Congo through higher education. It is a very much needed work and it is a joy to be able to partner with CI in their work through giving.
Congo Initiative has an inspiring vision for transformation of the nation of DR Congo through Christ-based transformation of its future leaders. By establishing UCBC -- a new university in Beni, in the Eastern part of DRC -- and developing other community-based programs in the city (programs for women and children, social justice, primary education, spiritual renewal, agricultural support, radio broadcasting, environmental care, etc.), Congo Initiative is doing hard and important work, and I am proud to support the ministry through time and giving. I have been inspired by the vision of the founder, Dr. David Kasali, and the committed work of the people that work for the ministry. I have also had a chance to visit the campus in person to see the fruits of the ministry's effort first-hand, and that was truly amazing.
I've been supporting Congo Initiative through their Kipepeo project since 2008. The reason I started was because I wanted to give something back after having been given, debt-free, an excellent education at Wheaton College. Knowing how much Wheaton impacted my life I was inspired by the idea of giving the same opportunity to students in Congo, even though I've never visited that country.
I've faithfully supported Congo Initiative from a distance (I live in Guatemala, Central America). However, what helped me to understand the project deeper was to read Dr David Kasali's biography. I received it in the mail and set it aside One day I just started leafing through, and I couldn't put it down! I read the whole thing and even cried through parts of it because of how real and beautiful God's working has been in the lives of the Kasalis. Thanks to Congo Initiative for being such an innovative, excellent and faith-filled group of people.
I support Congo Initiative as a Kipepeo partner, giving a small amount monthly to help students with their tuition. Having gone to a Christian Liberal Arts college in the US, I know how formative the college years are, and how important it is to have professors who integrate Christian character with good scholarship and social concern. As an American, I have been overwhelmingly blessed with educational opportunities, and one of the small ways I can "give back" is by helping those who, because they live in another country, have not been given the advantages I have. I want these Congolese young people to grow to a holistic understanding of God's goodness and grace for them and for their whole country. This is why I give to the Congo Initiative.
Republic of Congo... what a place!
I have taught in U.S. colleges, in Uganda, and in Congo.
The difference was huge.
My students at the University were gems to teach. They were so hungry for truth and for education that would help them to succeed for themselves, for their God, and for their country.
I would gladly teach them anywhere and anytime.
Sometimes I felt helpless in Congo. I was not helpless for myself... it was for the whole situation.
Dr. Kasali and others were there for me 24 hours a day and I never felt in danger or in any way unsupported. Looking back on it I have realized that everyone was sacrificing more than I did just to have me come over and teach.
I taught Christian Formation....a course about growing in Christ and working toward more holiness throughout one's life. The windows were behind my students,,, so as I taught them I saw other students making concrete blocks across the campus and nearby women and children gong to the spring to draw water. The pregnant woman with two small children helping her to carry water was the most poignant example of the depth of the tragedy that is Congo. I will never drink water, read scripture for the water of life, or shelter from the rain without remembering UCBC.
(It was like watching two worlds at once. The women and their little children drew water into large plastic containers because they were thirsty, and the students were just as thirsty for the water of life... while other students were making building materials that would keep rain off their heads.)
Beni is such a heartbreaking city with a light of great hope in it. I was blessed to be part of the teaching. I would recommend it to any Christian teacher who wants to volunteer somewhere in the world where it will make a profound difference on you to go there.
I recommend Dr. David Kasali, his staff, and the students to you. Teaching at UCBC or supporting the effort is prayer and money well spent.
My health will not allow me to go back. Will someone volunteer in my place?
Dr. W Michael McCrocklin
Congo is one of those places that both captures our imaginations and breaks our hearts. It feels like a place where the Light sometimes stands little chance against the dark. So rich in natural resources but so damaged for so long by colonialism and warring factions, Congo’s needs sometimes seem overwhelming.
Then along comes Congo Initiative—offering real hope in the shape of a new generation of leaders and offering people like us an opportunity to make a small but meaningful difference. Founder and Director David Kilgali was once a guest in our home, and he impressed us with his vision and integrity. In addition, a friend of ours believes so much in the work of Congo Initiative that she has given up her career here and moved from the U.S. to Congo to invest her life there. We get regular updates from her about the good, if challenging, work of Congo Initiative. Even without these personal connections, giving to Congo Initiative would have been an easy decision for us because we believe that one of the best ways to achieve lasting change in Congo is through accomplishing CI's mission of raising up new leaders.
We give because we see the huge potential for future transformation of the Congo through students who go to UCBC. My husband Josh has been to UCBC four times, from 2008 and 2009, and I joined Josh for one of the trips as well. He was fortunate to spend a number of months there and really get to know some of the students while helping promote agriculture and sustainable land use at UCBC. He worked with the students during their work programs: cutting grass with machetes, breaking the sod with hoes, and planting crops. The work program at UCBC is so important because educated people in the Congo are normally seen as people who direct others, and are not always willing to get their hands dirty. By stressing hard work as well as academics, UCBC is training a new class of Congolese university graduates who are ready to really do some transforming work as they graduate and go into communities with the values and education they picked up at UCBC.
I was still in school when we were visited, and Josh went back to school for my PhD when we returned. At this time when we are unable to be in Beni at UCBC, we still really believe in the work there and want to support it however we can. We know the building fund is important, but supporting the students is what we really connected with. Many of the students really struggle to get the school fees necessary to attend UCBC, often having to ask relatives for support, and the student's families often have to make huge sacrifices for the opportunity for their children to attend. By setting aside money each month, we are able to support the great work UCBC is doing whileJosh is finishing school. By being a Kipepeo partner, we hope to help Congo become a better place through a student we help support.
After hearing about CI's great work in Beni several years ago, I finally had the chance to visit in June 2012. While I was only in Beni for a few days, it was important to see and hear from the administration, faculty and students how they are practically realizing their mission, specifically of raising up new Christian leaders at UCBC to lead the transformation of Congo. One of the distinctives of CI is their emphasis on developing Congolese leadership, and I saw this modeled by the godly leadership of UCBC's administration. I was glad to see how international partners are included in supporting roles, and now I hope to find a way to return and contribute! I was also blessed by the incredible hospitality I received, and the eagerness of my hosts to make me feel welcome.
I visited Beni for one month (June 2012) and taught two courses at UCBC, in the Faculty of Theology. I was richly blessed by the experience, and hope to continue working with Congo Initiative. First of all, as others have pointed out in their reviews, this is an organization with a bold vision and a radical dependence on God. Secondly, it represents a true partnership of individuals and groups from the global south and north, with Congolese staff at the forefront. This was the impression I had when I first heard of Congo Initiative, and this impression was confirmed by my actual visit. As an African myself (though not Congolese), I was inspired to see how CI is finding a new way, challenging standard NGO models, and demonstrating innovative servant leadership by Africans. Because of UCBC's aim to transform the Congolese educational system, I was encouraged and given tools to help me implement creative approaches to teaching that enabled students to be empowered agents in their own education. The staff and students are very warm and welcoming, and I had a good balance of guidance/support and room for independence. The university is in the midst of developing a strategic plan, so some of the issues that they will need to address in the coming years, as they grow and expand and refine the implementation of their vision, are already well-known to the staff. One of the challenges they face is that everyone has too much to do, due to financial limitations which do not permit expansion of staff and facilities. Beyond the university, CI has a number of centers which are just as active, in their own way, as the university. While this is wonderful, and they are doing amazing work, I sensed that the decentralized format combined with the need for greater central coordination meant that some resources in personnel and diversity of gifts and talents are not always fully utilized. Coordination of communication is also an issue, although I think part of that for me was the fact that I am an outsider and still learning how the mechanisms for communication (among staff, between administration and staff, to the students) functions here. I hope that they will be able to provide more of a participatory role for the students themselves, so that they feel greater ownership about the policies and activities of the university. The service-learning project (e.g., in the class on DRC Realities) provided an excellent example of the effectiveness of student participation. Also, in my class, the students presented a chapel service to demonstrate and disseminate what they had learned about reconciliation and conflict (and, simultaneously, about theologies of music and worship). They did an excellent job, and introduced creative innovations which have the potential to impact the status quo at the university and in the communities in which they live and work. One other issue is the bilingual piece. On the one hand, I think it is an excellent goal to educate students to be able to participate in the anglophone and francophone worlds, which is critical for the development of DRC. On the other hand, UCBC has not yet gotten where it needs and wants to be in terms of bilingual education. I taught my courses in English, and had a translator, which made things easy for me (I speak some French, but am very far from fluent). However, I noticed that some of the students whose English skills were not as strong as their colleagues struggled somewhat with the English portions of the course, even when a translator was present. The university is new, and I am not sure if the bilingual piece is something that just needs more time to develop, or if more effective mechanisms need to be put into place to ensure that all students achieve proficiency in English. Also, if funding could be expanded, it is important that more Congolese and other African faculty can be employed on an ongoing basis, with visiting faculty in a supplementary role, and all faculty be provided with training and support to enhance their pedagogical effectiveness and improve the implementation of UCBC's innovative vision for Congolese education. This is already being done, but could be done even more extensively and regularly. I understand they are working on improving their faculty development. Mary Henton has done a great job facilitating this, and I learned a lot about the UCBC models of pedagogy from her. All this having been said, it is clear that the road to meaningful and sustainable transformation in the DRC is a long one, and I greatly admire the work the Congo Initiative is already doing. I pray that God will enable them to continue on this path, growing and learning as they go, and I hope to accompany them on that journey, in whatever ways I can.
Since Congo Initiative was in its early stages, I've been compelled by the authentic partnership and deep compassion at its core. Congo Initiative relies on existing visionary leaders to call forth and empower a new generation of creative, passionate leaders who will work for renewal in Congo and all of East and Central Africa. My own university experience formed my mind and spirit to do the work I love today, and I am honored to be able to make that possible for young leaders like myself in Congo. The Kipepeo Partners program makes that connection possible.
I visited UCBC in March 2012. I was able to teach a class to theology students and lead a few basketball clinics. The leadership is solid, passionate, and full of vision for the future. God is using this university to change the face of Congo.
As a monthly donor, I have found that Congo Initiative is a professional and transparent organization. CI clearly communicates with me as a donor and have shown me the direct impact of my donations. Without a doubt, I will continue to support this organization and the great work they are doing on the ground in Eastern Congo.
I just returned from a brief visit to UCBC, CI's university, and cannot speak highly enough of the work that they are doing. The passion of staff and students is extraordinary and the opportunities they have to change this country for the better are great. I will be counting the days until I return for a longer time. This organization is what international partnership and sustainable development looks like!
I am an executive/electrical engineer at a large engineering firm in the States. I had the privilege to participate with Engineering Ministries International in helping CI develop a master plan for their campus in Beni, DRC. I was extremely impressed with the great work they are doing in that war torn country. They are definitely taking education to a much higher level than is currently available. They are truly making a difference. Right now, in addition to their academic building, they have a partially complete community center. Once this center is complete it will greatly increase their service to the local community.
Congo Initiative 03/17/2012
Bob, thank you for this review. But even more, thank you for the time and energy and attention you gave during your work here with the eMi team. It was wonderful to meet and work with you all. We (CI and UCBC) are so thankful for your work on our behalf. The dedication and professionalism you all demonstrated was a great example for our students; and the teaching you provided along the way a gift from which many benefitted.
For my husband and I, it is so exciting to be a small part of rebuilding a nation—almost unbelievable. I remember first hearing about the vision for UCBC in the beginning. It was thrilling and overwhelming. I couldn’t help but shake my head—it seemed impossible, undoubtedly a “God-sized” task. But then, as a friend put it, “God eats impossible for breakfast.” That the Lord is in the business of redemption and restoration everywhere is true. I have heard of and wept for the sorrow and ruin in the DRC, but here is a new thing filled with hope, filled with joy, filled with life!
As soon as I found out about the work of Congo Initiative, I started giving to their programs monthly, and praying for them. While I have never been to the D.R. Congo, it means so much to me that Congo Initiative is working to build up strong and courageous women and men who will lead the D.R. Congo's future generations. I am inspired that Congo Initiative is promoting justice and nation-building on their campus...a campus where women are being respected, valued, and equipped for leadership! And, I am grateful that Congo Initiative is caring for disadvantaged women, and teaching them important skills. I wish I had even more to give. Being a Kipepeo Partner is the least I can do to help.
Masters candidate in International Human Rights Law
My husband, Kirby Frank, and I committed to a trip to DR Congo to visit our daughter, Chelsie Frank, who has worked here for 4 years. Our trip was a “sensory overload” of sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. I almost did not go on the trip after reading a little about the country, its poverty, violence among tribes and faction groups, its political corruption, and health issues—almost letting fear get in the way of a great learning and growing experience. I’m glad Spirit led me past this fear…
Sights: Beautiful green scenery, with blue, sun-filled sky; dust everywhere from unpaved roads, women carrying laundry, or water, or SOMETHING on their heads, while carrying a small child on their backs, small children (8-12 years or so) carrying water, pushing bikes with bananas to the market, garbage everywhere on the main roads, men and women sitting along the side of the road, selling their fruits/vegetables, and also in the huge marketplace, earning about $20.00 a month, not seeing very many elderly persons (average lifespan male is 40 years old, female 55 years old); seeing the clinic/hospital with minimal means of caring for people but dedicated, compassionate health workers doing their respective jobs with joy, church worshippers singing loudly and joyfully with hope and faith, UCBC leadership challenging students to look beyond what they know to a vision of hope and change, UCBC students taking them up on that challenge and learning and growing in leadership, service to their communities, and knowledge in their particular major field, with dreams and goals to make their country a stronger, better place; meeting NGO (non-government organizations) workers with commitment and care working with the Congolese people, the “tree supports” of buildings, mud huts, thatched roofs,
Sounds: Motorcycles (the main mode of transportation); music, radio,
Smells: Charcoal fires, great food, dust,
It was recommended that we not take pictures in DRCongo, except inside UCBC, or at Chelsie’s home. So, I don’t have pictures to share, only in my mind where they are seered forever in my memory.
There are also locked gates, overnight guards, and a “cautious” attitude about walking the streets at night. This was reality that I didn’t get used to in my short stay there, but upon further reflection in the USA we have apartment/condo entry systems (locked gates?) and a 911 system, and police/fire system in place to monitor and “watch over us” (guard?) and I don’t walk the streets after dark in too many places, unless I am with someone) so, it isn’t so different. Also, these things took a back seat to the very warm and hospitable welcome we received from EVERYONE we were introduced to, and the call to relationship that each person invited us into.
The UCBC, funded by Congo Initiative, is an incredible place. The students we spoke to really have “caught the message” of the mission, and are hopeful and dedicated to making positive change in DRCongo with their leadership skills and passion for their chosen field. The staff there are faith-filled, hard-working, inspirational, dedicated—mostly Congolese professors who witness what hard work, education, faith, forgiveness and resiliency can bring…
There are gardens that help support the university’s food supply, goats, and chickens, too—there is a radio station, library, small computer lab with limited internet service, classrooms of 12-15 students, except for a few larger “auditorium classroom” lectures, 500 students and staff that fill up the space with learning and hope.
The stories of the service learning projects that many classes have participated in were inspirational and courageous. One group reached out to the deaf student school, where they participated in mentoring and teaching and helped raise some money by making soap, af ter learning the teaching aren’t paid, and tuition is waived for parents who don’t have means to pay. They became aware of how these students are alientated from others. And learned that “Disability doesn’t mean Inability.” Another group went to the local movie theaters to challenge the owners to offer more than the violent, immoral types of movies that are mostly offered. Another group built benches on the campus for students to sit on under shade. The concept of service learning appeared to be a new one for the students, and I can already see Spirit working as a “domino effect” and this will spread far and wide over the next years as the students, then the Congolese people, are empowered to effect positive change with a dream, a little effort, a little faith and thus a stronger, better community! Kudos to Chelsie Frank for her vision and leadership in putting this program together, along with the other USBC professors and staff.
After taking in all these moments, I found myself leaving DRCongo with a change in perspective: I came feeling despair and fear; believing that what the Congolese people have been through, and continue to have challenges about, was too overwhelming, too entrenched to be much different. I left feeling a great faith and hope as I witnessed the staff and students commit to a vision faith in a God who loves and cares for them, a vision of integrity, honesty, hard work, and a vision of change for a better DRCongo. I asked David Kasali, the UCBC President, if he was afraid of doing what he was doing--for himself or his family-- because change is always threatening to people of influence and power. His reply, “I am more afraid of NOT doing what I do—out country’s future depends on it.” Spoken just like our OT prophets, and of Jesus himself—and why the Scriptures have more passages with the message “Be Not Afraid” more than any other subject matter. I left feeling humbled that I could even sit among these people, grateful for the opportunity as it leaves me feeling empowered and renewed to be open to God’s challenges in my own life, and hopeful for our world and the DRCongo that “peace and goodwill among men (and women), is possible if we but trust and “work for the kingdom here on earth.”
I am Francine NABINTU, I have graduated from UCBC in communications. Actually, I am one of the rare Congolese women who are skilled in multimedia and journalism. I got my state diploma in 2000 and did not have any vision for my future life, except getting married and take care of my husband and children as any authentic African girl could think. But, coming to UCBC had changed my vision, perception and hope about myself and my country.
I was challenged by an American multimedia professor, Anne Medley, who came to teach us at UCBC thanks to some donors. She showed us pity stories of Congo that had been told by foreign journalists. The most heard stories of Congo are: war, corruption, rape, bad management or anything of such kind. She asked us why we can’t tell our own stories to change the image of our country. Since than I am getting more and more interested in writing stories, www.francongostories.blogspot.com; editing audio, video, photos about my community and my country.
Thanks to UCBC I now have a vision for my country: “to speak for those who suffer in silence”. Since women have suffered a lot in my country, I have joined the office of Gender Advisor at HEAL Africa. I am dealing with Gender issues within the organization and networking with many women associations. I am applying my communication skills for advocacy and mobilization to change the perception of woman’s place in the society.
I thank Congo Initiative for the seed of hope that they have sown in me and in the life of many Congolese women and men. I do not have enough words to thank anyone who contributes to support ever so little UCBC. May the lord continue to touch and bless you as the fruit of your work will benefit a whole nation.
Congo Initiative 12/09/2011
Thank you, Francine, for your review. We are proud to call you a "UCBC Graduate." You were an example of integrity, dedication, hard-work, service and leadership during your time at UCBC. May God continue to bless you and sustain you and your family.