Linda James, Long-term Volunteer
How would you describe the mission of Congo Protestant University (Université Protestante au Congo)?
Founded in 1959 with three students in the School of Theology, the Congo Protestant University is among the pioneers in Congolese higher education. The students of the University are the future leaders of a society in desperate need of well-trained, stable and ethical leadership. The Congo Protestant University has taken on the privileged role of educating Congo’s next generation of leaders to prepare them as socially-responsible citizens who are conscious of the moral, political and economic impact of their decisions on the sustainable development of their country. The University, being a true educational leader, requires the ability to bring real change with meaningful impact for its students, its community and its country.
How do you fit into their mission?
As a French-speaking senior marketing and communications professional with 20+ years of broad-based marketing and communications experience and the niece of longtime Disciples missionaries in Congo, I felt that I was called to assist the university in their vision of developing a comprehensive communications and marketing strategy to increase the University’s ability to better harness its resources thereby enabling it to build capacity to support a vibrant and sustainable Christian university.
I also serve on the nonprofit board of the North American Liaison Bureau, whose purpose is to raise awareness and funds for the Congo Protestant University based in Kinshasa. We were excited to assist with the launch of a new website, increased social media efforts, establishment of an online donor database, updated marketing materials and the establishment of a grant writing program.
What led you to engage in this calling?
After my first journey to Congo that was highlighted by a 16-hour canoe trip into the interior where my aunt and uncle, Mabel and John Ross, had been missionaries for 30 years, my course in Congo was set. Immediately, I saw the vast number of growth opportunities available for this country and its people. The potential for growth in Congo is tremendous. Working in partnership with the Congo Protestant University, I feel that I can be part of that growth.
Is there a passage of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?
Matthew 17:20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
While I know that the Mustard Seed parable is widely cited, it holds special meaning for me as I continue in my work here in Congo. Keeping the faith even when the forward progress can be slower than I am used to, is so very important. Even the baby steps are making a difference and affecting change.
What are some of the challenges facing the people of the Democratic Republic of Congof?
The complexity and hardships of Congolese daily life such as power outages, lack of public services and transportation can result in progress being slower than anticipated. These basic hardships affect all aspects of progress.
What is a lesson you have learned from our partner that you feel should be shared with churches in the U.S.?
The presence of the U.S. churches with the people of Congo and at the University (five founding Protestant denominations) has been invaluable. It is their support both through prayer and financing that has established and maintained infrastructures at the University and in the country itself in times of the government’s inability to provide support either due to lack of financing or civil strife. The churches’ commitment has been incredibly important in continuing to elevate this society that would have otherwise fallen apart.