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Passion for Congo drives Summer Service participant
Kathy Heinrichs Wiest
August 20, 2008
REEDLEY, Calif. – Doug Kulungu aspires to political leadership in the African country of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Doug’s Summer Service program job through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is providing opportunities for him to speak out on his country’s behalf.
A junior at Fresno Pacific University, majoring in business, Kulungu came to the United States to study and prepare for a life of political service in his country.
MCC has been working in Congo for many years. "I have heard about MCC since before I was born," he jokes. Kulungu's father, Pascal Kulungu, worked for many years with MCC, most recently as a peace-training consultant.
Kulungu praises the work MCC has done in Congo to support the church and care for victims of violence and poverty. He points out that Mennonites should have a particular concern for Congo because it has one of the largest populations of Mennonites in the world.
Kulungu's assignment is exposing him to the Canadian and U.S. side of MCC and connecting him with people in the West Coast who want to learn more about their Congolese sisters and brothers.
"Doug is passionate about the people of his country," comments West Coast MCC Resource Generation Coordinator Jerry Linscheid, "and that comes through clearly when he speaks about their situation in the Congo."
Kulungu is energized by the opportunities afforded by freedom of speech in the United States As a participant in Summer Service, he has spoken to MCC gatherings and church gatherings and was given an audience in a U.S. congressional office.
"I want to change the social life, bring jobs and equality, and bring hope to the kids," he says. War, rape and the kidnapping of children to serve in the army are some of the afflictions that weigh on Kulungu's mind when he thinks of his homeland.
In Congo, he was involved in student protest movements, he says, but the risks of reprisals by the government were always a threat. "Here I can express myself."
He is also getting some practical experience related to his business major as an intern with the financial administrator at Community Youth Ministries, a nonprofit organization in Reedley. He is helping develop accounting systems and improving profits for the organization’s small restaurant that provides job training for teen parents.
Kulungu values these opportunities, but feels that his spiritual grounding is just as important as his academic and practical preparation for leadership. "Most of the leaders in Congo call themselves Christians," he said, "but they don’t act as Christians."
As a Summer Service worker, Kulungu is getting a chance to put his faith into action by establishing habits of compassion and service in Reedley. He hopes someday he will be able to do the same in political leadership in Congo.