Dec 03, 2021 | By Judith Osongo | KINDU, Congo (UM News)

Faithful United Methodists in the East Congo Conference welcomed home the first student from the conference to graduate from Africa University in Zimbabwe.

Pastor Raphaël Makanga Mikuwa received a scholarship in 2016 to attend the United Methodist university.

Hervé Tshoso Mboko, Kindu District youth president, expressed happiness with Mikuwa’s return.

“Our geographic location does not allow children to reach Africa University. Young people express the need to go there, but are often limited due to lack of means of transport,” he said. “Raphaël’s parents sacrificed to send their child to Africa University. We encourage other young people to follow the same model to transform our young episcopal area.”

The East Congo Episcopal Area was formed in 2012.

“We are happy to see the fruit today because Mikuwa is back,” said the Rev. Kibushi Ngandu, who chairs the conference board of ordained ministry.

Today, Mikuwa coordinates the English-language worship service at Amani United Methodist Church and serves as the English-speaking administrative secretary in the episcopal office. 

“English is a big challenge in our community,” Ngandu said. “It is a great joy for us to see our son come to our rescue.”

Conference lay leader Philippe Okonda said Mikuwa’s return is a proud moment for the community.

“Receiving a young person who has just finished studies is a joy for any parent,” he said. “We, as parents in the church, have this immense joy for the return of this young (person), devoted and committed to the work of the Lord.”

“We are very happy with the initiative of Papa Bishop (Gabriel Yemba Unda), whom we all love, on the promotion of youth in our episcopal area,” added Lushima Damas, conference youth coordinator. 

“Since the bishop launched this initiative to support youth leadership, we are seeing the change in ministry, with young people assuming many responsibilities in our episcopal area, annual conference, district and local church. Every young person seeks to do the best, to work effectively to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Unda said Mikuwa’s return motivates others to follow his example. 

“Training young people is the key to development of the church today and into the future,” he said. “The church needs energetic, engaged and transformed youth to support the work of God. The return of this youngster to his annual conference motivates many young girls and boys to go to school.”

Mentoring young people, Unda noted, is a priority for securing the church’s future.

“Knowledge of English is of utmost importance, which is why I like to send young people to Africa University to study and have open knowledge, as well as the mastery of the English language to face other realities of life,” he said.

“My role as father and mentor (is to) appeal to everyone during the annual conference to have several young people who express the desire to continue their studies at Africa University. 

“I am delighted,” Unda said, “to see the authorities of Africa University receive several young people from East Congo to await studies in the years to come. This is my wish.”

Osongo is the director of communications for the East Congo Episcopal Area. 

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