When Matthieu Lembelembe graduated high school in Bukavu, DRC, he planned to pursue medical studies. But, seeing the situation in his country and the consequences of decades of war, he became determined to contribute to the rebuilding of his country in the very literal sense. Now a graduate of architecture, Lemblembe is now overseeing the construction of the University Chapel and Community Center (UCCC).
“I like making new things, making it happen. I plan to use my skills not just for my sake but for the sake of my country. That is my motivation, helping wherever I can and doing my best for the community in which I live in,” Lembelembe said.
“Architecture is all about transformation, making things that don’t exist come to life and it’s the same thing that is happening at UCBC.”
As an employee of Engineering Ministries International (EMI), he received a “call” and moved to Beni to help oversee the design and construction of the UCCC. He has found a home in Beni and amidst the Congo Initiative community, being drawn and encouraged by the vision of transformation for his home country.
“Everyone you ask here will tell you they are encouraged by the vision of UCBC. It’s about transformation and is responding to the current need of the country. We need leaders, people who are transformed to change the situation that we are going through. So it’s a good vision I connect with and that makes me feel like part of the community because I appreciate transformation. Architecture is all about transformation, making things that don’t exist come to life and it’s the same thing that is happening at UCBC. ”
Lembelembe enjoys seeing things rise up in places you do not expect and creating spaces that bring joy to people. A young professional, he desires to one day create his own architect and construction company that serves local housing and common people, particularly those with low-income.
“Here it’s like there’s a history behind the chapel and community center. There was pain, people cried, and now there is hope.”
“One thing I like about this place is the joy that comes out from people every time they look at the building, every time they pass by, they are like happy, excited, which makes it different from other projects I’ve done. For other projects I’ve worked on, you don’t get the same sense of emotion or attachment. But, here it’s like there’s a history behind the community center, like it was painful, people cried and now there is hope,” he explained.
As the construction administrator of the UCCC, Lembelembe has witnessed the reactions of the community and grown to understand what this building will mean for students and the people of Beni. “I came to discover how valuable it is, that it’s not just a building. It’s like we’re designing spaces and it’s different from just designing a building. So the space is like a platform for transformation which is unique around this place,” he said.
This space and platform for transformation has drawn people together and Lembelembe has found himself becoming a part of something bigger, and playing a role he may not have expected. Through his work, he has developed close relationships with Kwetu Partners’ construction workers.
“I learned through EMI, we don’t only make buildings but we also build relationships with the people around us. We see ourselves serving God in the community. We connect with the construction crew and spend time in organized discipleship groups, building a strong relationship and creating the opportunity to share our lives together.”