Everything we do is done in collaboration with our Congolese leadership. This means that we never “import” answers to Congo’s challenges from the outside. Instead, the solutions to Congo’s challenges come from within–from local communities and leaders who know the longings of their people and who lead us in finding the resources to fulfill those longings. Although we are Congolese-led, we collaborate with friends and colleagues from the international community in the spirit of “tuko pamoja” — “we are together.”
Congo Initiative DRC
We are a non-governmental agency registered in Congo, governed by a General Assembly (board) and directed by the Executive Team.
David Kasali, PhD
Both David and his wife, Kaswera, were born and raised in Christian families in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Together, they have three boys, Baraka, Chris and Steve. David’s father received the Lord when the first missionary from the USA arrived in the East of Congo in the early 1900s. He learned to read and write, accepted the Lord, and served as pastor for over 60 years until he was promoted to glory in 1996.
David earned a Master’s degree in geography and education in Congo in 1980, then served as assistant manager in a private company for two years before the Lord called him to full time Christian ministry. In 1982, David left his job and served for two years as a teacher and chaplain in a high school. David and his family joined Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (NEGST) in 1984, where he graduated in 1987 with a Master in Divinity. After NEGST, David served as Coordinator of the department on Ethics, Society and Development of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa (AEA). During that time, he traveled extensively in the continent of Africa holding seminars with African pastors and theological educators to deal with issues that churches and societies face in Africa. In September 1989, David and his family joined Trinity International University (TIU) in Chicago, Illinois, where he graduated with a PhD in New Testament.
Kassie trained as a nurse in Congo. While in Nairobi, Kenya, she got her diploma in Christian Ministries and Bachelor’s degree in Bible and Theology and received her Master of Religious Studies at Trinity in 1993.
Upon their return to Africa, David served for two years as a faculty member and eight years as President of Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (NEGST), equipping pastors and Bible teachers for churches in Africa. During that time, Kassie served as a faculty member teaching in the Christian Ministries program. She enrolled in the PhD in Educational Studies at Trinity International University in 1998 and graduated in 2006.
While serving at NEGST, the Kasalis were torn by the war situation in their country, DRC, and felt called by the Lord to help rebuild lives, families and communities through holistic ministries with churches from various denominations. Together, they created Congo Initiative, which has both a Congolese and US board. Soon after leavingNEGST, the Kasalis moved to the States for three years of preparation and relationship-building in an effort to lay a solid foundation for the establishment of Congo Initiative as a non-profit organization.
The Kasalis used these years in the States to build partnerships with churches, institutions, and individuals who would come together to support the growing vision and goals of Congo Initiative. While in the States, the Kasalis were based in Brookfield, Wisconsin, where David served as part-time pastor at Elmbrook Church, one of Congo Initiative’s most significant church partners. David and Kassie also took short-term mission trips with US Christians to various ministries in Congo. Additionally, David served as an adjunct faculty member at Phoenix Seminary, in Phoenix, Arizona.
After three years of service and preparation in the States, the Kasalis relocated permanently to DRC in 2007 to formally inaugurate Congo Initiative’s Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo (UCBC – The Bilingual Christian University of Congo), which now has over 650 alumni! In 2019, Dr. David Kasali transitioned from his role as Rector to give his full attention and energy as President of CI. The Kasalis now make their home in Beni, North Kivu Province, DRC.
Kaswera Kasali, PhD
Kaswera (or Kassie, as she’s known) trained as a nurse in Congo. While in Nairobi, Kenya, she got her diploma in Christian Ministries and Bachelor’s degree in Bible and Theology and received her Master of Religious Studies at Trinity in 1993. Upon her and David’s return to East Africa, Kassie served as a faculty member teaching in the Christian Ministries program at NEGST. She enrolled in the PhD in Educational Studies program at Trinity International University in 1998 and graduated in 2006.
Kassie leads the Holistic Family Development programs in Beni which includes La Charité Primary School and Vocational Training and Counseling for Women.
Daniel Masumbuko heard about CI-UCBC from its founder Dr. Kasali after they fled from Ituri because of ethnic war in 2001, and immediately saw the value of the vision and the impact it would have in transforming the nation. Since then and guided by faith, he has worked with CI-UCBC. He also serves as elder in the Brethren Church in Beni and served as Finance Director for many years at the Evangelical Medical Clinic of Nyankunde.
At CI-UCBC, Daniel serves as the Finance Director and Chaplain, and the Director of the Center for Church Renewal and Global Mission. In this last program, he and his colleagues run reconciliation and trauma healing seminars in post conflict zones such as Ituri and Uganda. They are covering the Oriental Province and the Kivus in the DRC and also serve in Uganda and Rwanda with their sister organizations. Many lives and relationships have been restored as result of their work. At UCBC, he serves as a member of the Management Committee and contributes to the daily management of the institution. He holds an MA in Finance and International Trade from Herriot Watt University in the United Kingdom, and currently studies in the DMin program at Africa International University in Nairobi, Kenya.
Daniel is married to Claudine Masika Ndjadi since October 2, 1983. They have six children, two boys and four girls. Their oldest two daughters are married and have children of their own.
*In 2012, Daniel was honored as one of the Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action finalists for 2012. The Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action award recognizes the work of faith-based, local leaders who give of themselves to pursue peace and facilitate reconciliation in their communities.
Jon has a background in financial process and controls consulting. Jon first became involved in Congo Initiative (CI) as an advisor to Neema and 5 years later decided to join CI full time. CI’s vision of being a transformational agent became very attractive to Jon through the Sharing the Land’s land management work that addressed tangible needs of the community. In his role as VP of Financial Management, Jon is responsible for budgeting process, financial management for the Congo Initiative’s programs as well as organizational resourcing. Jon also has been instrumental in developing organizational policies and establishing sound governance structures.
Jon Brinks holds a BS in Finance from Taylor University. Jon was previously a Certified Internal Auditor (inactive).
Honoré Bunduki, PhD
Since the very beginning of UCBC, Dr. Bunduki has served passionately as Academic Dean and more recently, Vice-Rector of UCBC. He earned his Ph.D. in Education from the University of South Africa (UNISA). Affirmed by colleagues, board leadership, and the wider community, Dr. Bunduki was appointed as the second rector of UCBC in December 2018. He demonstrates the expertise, skills, and leadership required to lead UCBC into this new season. While Dr. Kasali cast the vision for this unique university in eastern Congo, Dr. Bunduki played a crucial role in implementing its programs and structure. We are confident that UCBC will grow, prosper, and deepen its roots under Dr. Bunduki’s leadership, maintaining the vision embodied in the university’s motto: “Being transformed to transform.”
Paul Robinson, PhD
Paul Robinson was born in the Belgian Congo as a son of missionaries, whose life has been profoundly shaped by a life-long personal and professional engagement with Africa. As a boy, he became a refugee, fleeing from advancing Congolese rebel militias. Years later, while completing high school in Kenya, he buried his father in Congo’s soil. With an insatiable need to understand the continent that bequeathed to his deepest pain and greatest joy, he earned both a MA and PhD from Northwestern University as a Fulbright Scholar in African History. He and his wife Margie then returned to Africa with St. Lawrence University, where they raised three children, and where for three decades he developed and led what became a premier international academic program for St. Lawrence University. During that time, he also developed and led varied university initiatives in Africa and designed, consulted, and evaluated development programs that addressed critical issues relating to poverty and human need – including a major response to the HIV-AIDS crisis. In 1999, he joined the faculty of Wheaton College as Professor and Director of the college’s Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) Program, where he served until 2013. He has and/or continues to serve on the boards of missions, advocacy organizations, and international organizations, participates in international development initiatives, and lectures and consults globally. His passion, heart, and professional life have centered on a broad range of development concerns, but particularly on the formation of young people for ethical and moral leadership in a rapidly changing global context. Deeply resonating with the authentic Congolese vision of Congo Initiative (CI) for responding to Congo’s desperate need, he accepted Dr. David Kasali’s invitation to become a founding member of CI, and has joyfully and enthusiastically served CI since its inception in 2003 in multiple capacities as consultant, scholar, teacher, board member, board chair, CEO/President, and most recently, Senior Advisor. In 2013, he took an early retirement from Wheaton College as Professor Emeritus, in order to give his full energies to the transformative vision of CI.
Jonathan Shaw, PhD
Louis Sabuni, PhD
During his childhood, Louis Paluku Sabuni witnessed hardship and pain that deeply shaped his life and desire to stand with those with similar experiences of extreme poverty and social inequality. His life is a living example of the capacity to overcome blatant injustice enacted on families and societies. He attended good schools and transcended difficulties. Through his education and encouragement from his mother, he continued his studies in public health in Rwanda in 1993 (BSc), then in the UK in 1996 (MPH).
He completed his PhD at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and completed one year post-doctoral training at University Laval, Quebec City in social qualitative research. For most of his life he has worked with the DRC health systems, humanitarianism and training of public health officers. He has chaired many indigenous NGO boards and assesses several health programmes for both INGOs and NGOs. Currently, he leads an international organization fighting against neglected tropical diseases, particularly leprosy. He did not hesitate to join the UCBC vision as the president of the General Assembly as it will empower future leaders of his country. He is a son of World War II veteran and married to Judith Kapiteni. They have 6 children, 3 boys and 3 girls.
Peter Kambale Amani has served as a pastor in a revival church in Oicha, a neighboring town to Beni, since 1985. His calling from childhood has been to minister to the voiceless and to be a voice for them. This led him to leave the mainstream church in his area and start a church that ministers to people who are rejected and/or stigmatized in their communities. Their church mission is founded on the principle of “Christ alone, Faith alone and Grace alone”.
The vision of CI-UCBC to transform young people to become agents of transformation in their respective communities has caught his heart and he joined CI-UCBC right from its inception in 2004. He was one of the members of CI-UCBC’s first board in 2007. Since then, he has served as president of the construction committee.
He was trained in the Kisangani Teacher Training College and earned his Bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in African Culture. He also takes seminars in theology and has read extensively in church leadership and administration. He considers it a real privilege to be a part of such a compelling vision which trains prospective leaders who are transformed and ready to bring transformation in their communities and churches.
Cathy Kathungu Furaha is a lawyer at the provincial court of North Kivu and her interest is to defend human rights, particularly women’s rights. The North Kivu province has suffered an array of atrocities, especially abuse against women, and speaking for the voiceless has always been her deepest desire. She has successively served as governing board member in women’s promotion associations and organizations including The Association of Women Lawyers and HEKIMA, a micro finance organization that supports women for their survival. She joined CI-UCBC’s General Assembly because their interest to promote women through education. In fact, when she learned that 44% of students at UCBC are female, she considered it a wise investment in women’s promotion and thought it a privilege to serve. A new member since 2013, scholarships for women and other activities that promote women’s voices motivate her to support the CI-UCBC vision.
She has aBachelor’s Degree in Law from the Free University of the Great Lake’s Region (ULPGL) in Goma and has worked in the profession for twenty years. Through CI-UCBC, she became a member of the Christian Lawyer’s Association of Congo. Since 1997, Cathy has been married to Dr. John Kanyamanda and is the mother of four children: two boys (Jason and Paul) and two girls (Dinah and Joy).
Rose Kirere has a particular passion for health studies and community development work. After completing her training at the Nyankunde Nursing School, she went to the Nyankunde Nursing College, where she got my BA in Community Health and then went to France where she got a ‘Licence’ Degree in Local Development and a Master’s Degree in Cooperation Project. Her background has widely prepared her to appreciate how development and community transformation works. It was a joy for her when she first came in touch with UCBC leadership back in 2008, and they offered the opportunity to teach a class in Biblical Principles of Development.
Today, she is among the General Assembly members of the organization. She believes in the tremendous work of training prospective leaders who are ethically and intellectually prepared to change their challenges into opportunities. Rose is married to Professor Kirere and they are blessed with seven children, two boys and five girls. Of those children, four are adopted.
Kisumba Kamungele is the Export Director at Ets. TSONGO KASEREKA, a Butembo-based family business that has been in operation for the last four decades. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University (Indiana, 1996) and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Université Laval (Québec, 2001). After his studies abroad, he returned home to work in the family business and for the past ten years has traded green coffee and cocoa beans, linking the Congolese small-scale farmers to the international market. In addition, he is involved in a variety of national and regional coffee initiatives aiming to revamp the Congolese coffee sector and African coffee industry. He is the president of the DRC Cocoa & Coffee Exporters’ Association (ASSECCAF), the DRC Country Chapter Vice-Chairman of the African Fine Coffee Association (AFCA), and the Executive Director of Café Africa DRC, a non-profit organization. He also earned a Masters degree in Coffee Economics & Science from the University of Trieste (Italy, 2016).
Kisumba shares hopes in contributing to the reconstruction of DRC by contributing his skills and international experience to CI-UCBC. Today he is a member of the CI-UCBC General Assembly and a visiting lecturer in the Engineering Department of the Applied Sciences Faculty. He is married to Julie Kavira since March 2002 and has a daughter named Suzanne Kanyere.
Obed Mukanirwa is a member of the CI-UCBC General Assembly since its beginning and continues to serve with the institution. He was a member of the construction committee, but now serves in Bunia, DRC as Samaritan’s Purse Mission’s Department Leader. There, he leads church planting in Congo and Uganda. He believes UCBC is an answer to many problems that the country and particularly the Kivus and Ituri District face. The vision of training transformed leaders to be the change thrills his heart.
He was trained as a pastor in a bible school in Aungba where he completed his studies in 1981. After that,he served as a high school chaplain in Oicha and was then appointed as teacher in a bible school by my denomination. He also studied at the mission’s school in Eldoret, Kenya and graduated in 1994. He is married to Helena Kathungu and they are blessed with seven children, but have experienced loss through the death of one.
Sadraka Soheranda, MD
Dr. Sadraka Kambale Soheranda lives in Oicha, thirty kilometers north of the City of Beni. He is a physician, working at Oïcha Hospital since 1983 and acting as the District medical Officer (Médecin Chef de Zone) for the Oïcha Health District (Zone de Santé). Since the beginning of CI-UCBC, he has been one of the members of the General Assembly. I also helps supervise UCBC finances.
After graduating as Medical Doctor from UNIKIN/Kinshasa in 1997, he joined the medical staff of the Centre Médical Evangélique – Nyankunde. He studied community health in developing countries and earned an MSc at the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene/University of London (1979-1980). Afterwards, he earned a series of Diplomas: Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (University of London); Christian Leadership from Haggai Institute (Singapore, 1992); Management of Health Structures (Department of Commerce – Washington, D.C., 2004); Management of Health projects (University of Pretoria –S.A.-, 2006), and a number of certificates.
God has allowed him to serve in the CECA 20 Health Service at Oïcha Hospital. He is very grateful for his wife Nara and their five adult children (Nicole, Rosette, Priscille, Philippe and Mathilde) who have been very supportive, even during some very harsh living conditions. He appreciates the words of the Apostle Paul, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 3:13)
Oddy Tukeba Tshoto serves at the General Law Court of Beni as secretary to the Prosecutor since 1998, and was president of the first CI-UCBC board in 2007. Transforming lives to bring change in Congo is the calling of CI-UCBC that has won her heart for the cause and vision. Moreover, UCBC is a Christian school and it promotes Christian values as an alternative for social and radical transformation.
Oddy, a secretary who serves at the law court, has seen how women are looked down on and abused. CI-UCBC’s initiative brings women back to their initial position, that of life bearers and agents of peace in communities. She is more than convinced that advocating for women’s rights through training women to speak for themselves through deeds and words, as CI-UCBC does is the best thing for community transformation.”
She is a member of the Great Lake’s Women’s Right Program and Supervisor of SOPROP Goma in Beni, a local NGO that fights abuse and violence against women. She also has a Bachelor’s Degree in French, with a Minor in Linguistics from the Bunia Teacher Training College.
Congo Initiative USA
The mission of CI-USA is to promote Christian higher education, leadership development, and community transformation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through personnel and financial support to CI-DRC. CI-USA is registered as a 501(c)3, tax-exempt organization.
Justin Hubbard first became involved with Congo Initiative in 2007, when he was invited to help implement UCBC. One year commitment turned into two, and then three. Each year he grew more and more passionate about the work of UCBC as he witnessed its impact in its first three years. In 2010, he returned to the U.S. to pursue a Master’s in Divinity and engage in theological reflection on topics such as ethics, race, identity formation, social and international policy.
He has remained committed to the important role education, particularly higher education, and non-profit organizations play in empowering individuals and supporting community development. Over the past two years, he worked with World View at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a public service program that offers professional development in global education for K-12 and community college educators. Through his professional experience in various non-profit organizations, he learned the important role communications play in an organization’s ability to articulate itself and implement its mission and vision. He is very excited to return to Congo Initiative and support the work as communications and development associate.
Justin holds a Bachelors of Individualized Studies from the University of Minnesota, a Masters in Divinity and a certificate in International Development Policy from Duke University.
Laura has worked in the nonprofit realm since graduating from Gordon College in 2007. She is particularly passionate about student development as well as grant research and writing. Her previous roles included serving as an Assistant Resident Director at Gordon College and a Volunteer and Service-Learning Coordinator at a community hospital. Laura first learned about Congo Initiative from board member, John David Bower and became more and more captivated with CI and its mission to educate and empower the next generation of Christ-centered transformational leaders for the flourishing of the DRC. She is grateful for the opportunity to serve as a Grants Assistant for CI and to learn from her sisters and brothers across the globe.
Laura lives north of Boston with her husband and their two little boys. She also enjoys serving on the leadership team of her local MOPS International group. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Youth Ministries and is currently working towards a Masters in Nonprofit Management at Northeastern University.
Bill Shewan serves Congo Initiative as our Senior Ambassador. In this position, Bill plays two vital roles for the organization. First, he is an advisor to the CI board and executive leadership. Second, Bill cultivates relationships with donors and seeks to develop networks of support for the organization.In his ministry with CI, Bill is able to draw upon his extensive experience as a nonprofit executive. Bill worked for Youth for Christ for 44 years. Early in his career he served as Associate National Training Director for YFC/USA for three years, then nine years as YFC Executive Director in Marion, IN, and two years as Associate Director for Ft. Wayne, IN YFC. Bill then served for 18 years as a coach and mentor to various YFC Boards and Executive Directors in his capacity as National Field Director for the Great Lakes Region of YFC/USA (40 local offices in 5 states). For 10 of those years he organized and hosted national training for incoming Executive Directors from around the country. In 2011, Bill launched YFC’s Legacy and Gift Planning Ministry in local YFC chapters across the nation. Most recently, Bill served as national ambassador for YFC/USA, building relationships with ministry partners, mostly in the Midwest.
Bill holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (Valparaiso University) and a Master of Arts in Religious Education (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). He is an ordained minister and lives in Indianapolis, IN. Bill and his wife, Michelle, have two adult children, including Jessica, who is serving as Administrator and International Staff Coordinator for CI’s Center for Development and Partnership in Beni, DRC.
Kelley Riffenburgh joined Congo Initiative in 2018, shortly after receiving her Master of Science in Education (M.S.Ed) in Intercultural Communication from the University of Pennsylvania. While enrolled in her master’s program, Kelley found great fulfillment interning at a refugee resettlement agency in Philadelphia and tutoring two Congolese teenagers who had recently arrived in the United States as unaccompanied refugee minors. She is excited to serve as CI-USA’s Administrative Coordinator and is grateful to have the opportunity for continued involvement with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Along with her M.S.Ed, Kelley holds a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from Haverford College, with concentrations in Africana Studies and Peace, Justice, and Human Rights. Kelley is a three-time recipient of Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships for Swahili and African Studies, and has focused much of her academic work on education and multilingualism, especially in East African contexts. In addition to her role at CI, Kelley also works as a Research Assistant at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
CI-USA Board of Directors
Tim Shaw, DMin
Tim Shaw is currently serving as an associate pastor for the First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu. Prior to moving to Hawaii in 2013, he served for 28 years in a variety of capacities on the staff of the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, CA, including youth pastor, pastor for adult discipleship and finally as the interim Senior Pastor. He has a Bachelors degree in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Santa Barbara, a Masters of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. In June 2014, Tim joined Paul Tshihamba and three others from Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, MN, as well as an elder from the church he currently serves, for his sixth trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. After this recent trip to the DRC, which included a visit to Beni, he came away with the deep conviction that if the Congo is to experience the kind of transformation that the country longs for, the Congo is going to need ethical, trained, passionate, visionary, Christ- centered leaders. It was precisely those kinds of young leaders that he met on the UCBC campus. He is confident that UCBC can provide the leaders for Congo that could finally begin to heal and transform the nation. In the fall of 2014, he joined the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of Congo Initiative. He considers it a great honor to be a small part of helping UCBC train and equip a new generation of leaders who will be agents of change.
Meredith Joss lives in Massachusetts, where she was involved in the local education system for many years. She was the coordinator of a gifted education program for eight years and then became the assistant principal of a middle school, where she served for eleven years before retiring to care for her elderly parents. She attended Wheaton College (IL) and graduated with a degree in psychology. While living in Nairobi, Kenya, in the academic year, 1989-90, she took fifteen hours of graduate work at Daystar University focusing on African issues, including Journalism in Africa, Urbanization in Africa, Anthropology, and Small Group Communication in the African Context. She also took graduate work here in the US in public school administration. She has been married to her husband Rob for 46 years and they have three adult children and eight grandchildren. They mark everything in their lives as BK and AK–before Kenya and after Kenya. Her involvement with people from that part of the world has continued over these twenty-four years. Most recently, they have welcomed a Congolese woman and her children into their home for almost two years. They stand committed to be part of change in DRC, as well as, help refugees here. She also served as chair of her church’s missions committee for 15 years.
David Bebb, JD
David Bebb is an attorney in Silicon Valley, specializing in technology licensing. David attended Wheaton College in Illinois as an undergraduate, where he studied under Paul Robinson and became friends with Cullen Rodgers-Gates when Paul and Cullen worked for the college’s Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) program. Before joining the Board, David traveled to UCBC in 2013 with several U.S. attorneys including Ben Chappell and John Gemmill to participate in an international conference for lawyers hosted by UCBC. For six months during college, David lived less than 200 miles from UCBC across the border in Uganda, consulting for small rural businesses and staying with a local family as part of the HNGR program. David is excited to join Congo Initiative as a way to continue supporting development and educational opportunities in the region.
Ben Chappell, JD
Ben Chappell is an attorney, living and practicing law in San Antonio, Texas for the past 35 years. He has been married to his wife JoAnn for 42 years, and has three children and seven grandchildren who are collectively a huge part of his joy and passion in life. His Christian journey is life long, and he has served in all phases of his local church ministries through the years, always including some role in teaching children’s classes. In his professional life, he is a board-certified family law attorney, and shareholder in the firm of Bray, Chappell & Patterson, Inc. in San Antonio. In 2006, he completed a 30 year ancillary career as an Air Force Reserve Judge Advocate and has since that date been intentionally investing the gift of “returned time” to missions work. A week of service in Chile in 2006 ended up connecting him with Dr. David Kasali and Congo Initiative. Ben has served on the board of the San Antonio Christian Legal Society since the mid-1990s, and following visits by Dr. Kasali to San Antonio and the Christian Legal Society (CLS) chapter there, Ben and another San Antonio attorney participated in the initial Justice Conference at UCBC in 2008. Following the 2008 conference, the San Antonio CLS chapter voted to pursue a journey of establishing sister chapter connections to groups of Christian lawyers in the eastern DRC region, leading to justice conferences in 2010, 2013, 2015, and 2017. The lawyer teams have expanded to include representatives from Advocates International, International Justice Mission, and the law school faculties of Regent University and Uganda Christian University.
Ben comes to the CI board with a passion to support CI’s ongoing justice initiatives, and with a long-term commitment to see the rule of law and human rights issues in Eastern DRC transformed by the grace and power of God.
John Gemmill, JD
John grew up in rural Arizona on a cattle feedlot and farm. He graduated from the University of Arizona College of Agriculture, served in the Navy, and returned to the University of Arizona to study law. After law school graduation, John practiced law in Phoenix, focusing on personal injury, wrongful death, product liability, insurance, and commercial disputes. In 2001 John was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals, where he served until he retired on June 30, 2016. John and his wife, Linda, are active members of Moon Valley Bible Church in Phoenix. John has served as a member of the Board of Elders, including several years as chairman. In 2008 John was introduced by email and telephone to attorney Ben Chappell of San Antonio, who had attended the initial justice conference of local lawyers and judges at UCBC in Beni, Congo. When the time came to begin planning for the 2010 justice conference for Christian lawyers and judges in Eastern Congo, Ben invited John to join the effort. John assisted in planning and participated in the justice conferences in 2010, 2013, 2015, and 2017. John is inspired by the vision cast by Dr. David Kasali for Congo Initiative and UCBC and also by the light in the eyes of the students at UCBC and the commitment of local lawyers and judges to pursue a rule of law and greater justice for people in Congo. John and Linda are blessed with two wonderful daughters, two great sons-in-law, and three amazing grandchildren.
Kasereka Kasomo, PhD
Kasereka was born in Oicha/Beni, DRC and grew up in Congo. His secondary and university studies took him in different parts of DRC. While pursing his studies in Engineering and Chemistry, for political reasons the government closed down the university. It remained closed for many months, allowing him to join Campus Crusade for Christ, as a trainee, then trainer and vice-director of the Goma Great Commission Training Center. This center served the church in Eastern DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and Western Uganda. He later went on to study in Kenya where he earned a bachelor of theology (BTH). After serving as Itinerant Evangelist for CECA-20 Highs Schools for two years, Kasereka went to study at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, where he earned a MA in Intercultural Studies, with an emphasis on Cultural Anthropology. Kasereka completed his PhD in Cultural Studies at Claremont Graduate University. His dissertation title was “Creation and Maintenance of Culture of Violence in Eastern Congo.” Kasereka argued that the extreme violence in Eastern Congo is manufactured to allow an easy exploitation and looting of Congolese natural resources. To borrow from Toussig, the war in Eastern can be understood as a “commoditization of violence.”
Kasereka is the Senior Pastor of the “African Christian Community Church of Southern California” (ACCCSC) that he, his wife and family, and several other friends planted from 2001. ACCCSC is part of the Evangelical Free Church of America, and reaches out to the immigrants from French speaking countries and different communities in the heart of Los Angeles and its vicinities.
Kasereka’s heart is still in the DRC. In 2008, he helped start “Sons of Congo” (SOC) a ministry that reaches out to men in violence ravaged areas of Eastern Congo. Since he was in charge of creating a curriculum and writing lessons for SOC, Kasereka has travelled so many times to Congo for the last 8 years. While in DRC, he gets to visit CI work in Beni, and he is always marveled by what CI is accomplishing in DRC. It is a privilege for him to be part of the CI-US Board.
Margaret Mwenda, PhD
Margaret Mwenda is an immigrant from Kenya living and working in the United States. She was born and raised in Kenya and went through the Kenya educational system and received her undergraduate degree in education. She immigrated to the USA in 1992 to pursue a Master’s degree and returned to Kenya in 1996 to serve at the Africa Nazarene University – a private Christian university, whose mission was to provide an education that developed students intellectually, spiritually, and morally. In 2003, together with her family, she moved to the USA where she pursued a PhD in Educational Policy and Leadership. She now lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in Michigan, where she teaches in the College of Business at Davenport University. For her, being invited to serve as a board member of the Congo Initiative -USA was a natural extension of what she aspires – to serve students directly or indirectly. Having been given much by her family and the institutions that she has worked for and attended, she wants to share with others all that she has learned and been blessed with. Someday, when her children are all grown and settled into their lives, she plans on continuing to serve as an educator in Kenya and on the African continent.
Ruth Reynard, PhD
My interest in Congo Initiative, UCBC, is really about my life. I was born into a missionary family. My parents were life-long missionaries in the DR Congo. M father, Bob McAllister, was a tradesman and evangelist and my mother, Alma McAllister, was a midwife and evangelist. Their “field” of service was the Ituri Forest area of the Congo and that is where I, and my two brothers, were born. My brothers were born in Oicha where David and Noé Kasali were also born. I was born at Bongondza. Dr. Sharp attended my delivery along with a missionary midwife. Dr. Sharp and his wife and three children were later murdered by the Simbas in 1964, along with other missionaries in that area and many, many, Congolese Christians. My heart is still in the Ituri area. I am, therefore, really passionate about the purpose and vision of UCBC. I truly believe in the mission of the university and believe that many new leaders are and will continue to graduate, equipped to serve the Lord and serve Congo into the future. I believe fully, as Dr. Kasali says, that, “God is doing a new thing in the Congo.” My desire is to help UCBC in that collective vision and see God’s purpose for the future of the Congo emerge.
My education and professional background is in educational theory, curriculum and faculty development, and instructional design and program delivery. I have worked with CI-Congo on several projects including a new Master’s degree program, faculty training projects, and Women’s Voices. In 2017, I visited Congo Initiative in Beni and look forward to exploring further collaboration on program development and implementation.
I am honored to be on the US Board and excited to further the work of CI by contributing my passion for Congo and professional skills.
Lisa Sinclair, DMin
I love Congo Initiative. I served on the US board from 2008-2011. This is an organization that stands in the face of war, poverty, injustice, and trauma and believes in the power of God and His community to bring about transformation on a personal, national, and international level!
My personal contribution to the board derives from a confluence of factors. My work as a missionary in Mali, West Africa, and continued travel throughout Africa in ministry, has given me a love for and commitment to Africa, as well as God’s work in and through that extraordinary continent. Second, my husband and I have been involved in urban ministry in the U.S., and active in areas of racial reconciliation and refugee resettlement. I am committed to the Church universal and the Church diverse. Third, I am academically prepared to minister in areas of mental and physical health, and am very excited by the high value of biblical shalom in the Congo. Fourth, as a member care provider, I am interested in the whole health of the organization’s leaders and teams. Finally, my own personal life experiences have given me a longing to support others in the area of personal and community healing and restoration.
Paul Tshihamba spent 20 years as a pastor of missional engagement for two prominent US churches, Christ Presbyterian Church, Edina, Minnesota, and First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California. A long-time friend of CI, Paul served previously on its board of directors for eight years, the last five as its chair, and served as the Vice President of Church Engagement for two years. He rejoined the board in April 2019. A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, his ministry for the last two decades has had a distinctly global focus, while being deeply rooted in a local congregational context. Paul is now the owner and creative director of Imago Dei Media, a Durham, NC-based visual media company.
Paul’s formal education includes a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Science degree from Presbyterian College in South Carolina. The son of an academic historian and a visual artist, he has a deep love and commitment to understanding the contextual and experiential aspects of missional engagement. His great passion in ministry has been, and continues to be, to connect the American church to the world through opportunities for global engagement. In addition to serving on Congo Initiative’s US board, he has also served as a member of the board of Global Strategies (a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that empowers communities in the most neglected areas of the world to improve the lives of women and children through innovative approaches to healthcare); The National Youth Leadership Council; and Daystar US. He is married to his life partner, Andrea, with whom he shares the deep privilege of being parents to four children: Joshua, Jacob, Charis, and Miriam.
Congo Initiative UK
Board of Directors
Bill McAllister, PhD
Bill McAllister was born in Congo as the son of missionary parents and lived there off and on until graduating from Rift Valley Academy in 1970. His family witnessed much violence in Congo at independence and also during the rebellion of 1964. Returning to Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1970 they found themselves at the height of the IRA bombing campaign where they witnessed more violence. It was at this moment he realized that the human condition of sin was universal. We all need forgiveness from God. On this conviction, he dedicated his life to missionary work. He completed his undergraduate studies at the Queens University of Belfast and a Ph.D. at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.
Returning to Congo, he lectured and became the Director of the Bunia Theological Seminary and then left to become Africa Director for Compassion Canada. Returning to the UK, he worked as CEO for Christoffel Blindenmission UK. He is now the acting CEO of Congo Initiative UK.
His wife Norma, is a retirement care-home manager and they have 4 children; 3 live with their partners in Cambridge, England, while 1 lives with her partner in Dubai. They have 3 grandchildren and counting…
Olufemi Akinlabi, MD
Dr. Olufemi Akinlabi was raised in Lagos, Nigeria. His dad was Muslim while his mother was Christian. Though he attended mission primary and secondary schools, he was raised Muslim. He grew up seeing his mother attend church (African Church Mission). He qualified as a medical doctor in Nigeria in 1990. After periods of compulsory post-qualification postings and years of working in Nigeria, he left for Lesotho in 1999. While there, he was employed in a Christian Mission hospital, Maluti Adventist Hospital in Mapoteng. It was in Mapoteng that he met Jesus Christ and gave his life to the Living God.
He came to Ireland in 2003 to join his family and also continue work in his field of study. His family lives in Cavan and are members of the local church, Cavan Baptist Church. He has served in the Church as a Deacon and as Church Secretary, and was recently elected into Eldership. Olufemi is married to Olufunke since 1993 and their marriage has been blessed with two girls who are in college in Dublin and a boy in secondary school.
Eric Clarke is currently the Christian Blind Mission Country Manager for Northern Ireland. His first professional qualification was in Environmental Health, becoming a Member of the Institute of Environmental Health and Member of the Royal Society of Health.
Following God’s call to use his musical gift, he joined the staff of the Movement for World Evangelisation as soloist. Following ten years in this work, he studied Financial Services and worked in the profession for 15 years, developing his own financial consultancy practice.
He joined the Council of Belfast Bible College, which he chaired for three years. He also joined the Board of Christian Ministries, an umbrella organisation overseeing the ministry of three former colleagues–John Blanchard, Peter Anderson, and Derek Cleave. He has been the Chair for twenty years. From 2001-2012, he was on the Board of Prison Fellowship (NI) and acted as Hon. Treasurer.
In 2008, he became a Trustee of the Christian Fellowship Trust, a small but significant organisation in helping as ‘start-up’ supporters of new initiatives for the Kingdom of God. Following retirement from Financial Services, he joined Christian Blind Mission in 2008 and will be retiring in March 2016. God has doubly blessed him with a second wife, Helen. My first wife, Sally, passed away 27 yrs ago. They celebrated 25 years of marriage in May 2015. She has been a wonderful support and encouragement to all his ministry.
Richard is a graduate of Queens University Belfast (2009) where he studied Agriculture Technology (BSc Hons). He desires to see sustainable, efficient agriculture supporting families and communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Richard is also active in his local church and led the development of the youth club that now serves 130+ teenagers on a weekly basis. He has also been a member of the worship and prayer team for 10 years. He is married to Rachel and has 3 girls, Darcey(5), Rayna(5) and Phoebe (2).
Margaret has been involved in Christian work since becoming a Christian at the age of 14. She worked for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland.
Margaret then followed a call to move to London and spent over 19 years working in the Palace of Westminster with members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. She served as Secretary of the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship for a number of years and also the National Prayer Breakfast Committee.
During that time she attended All Souls, Langham Palace. In addition, Margaret served on the Committee of Just Give Me Jesus in London. She was also a member of the Board of Crossing London.
Two years ago Margaret returned to Northern Ireland and agreed to join the Board of Directors of Congo Initiative UK and Ireland.