Heading Back to Congo to Teach Others

Post a Comment » Written on February 22nd, 2006     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

CHICAGO, IL (February 22, 2006) – While operating his own business, Timothy Mambo was nearly murdered by government soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were stealing items from his store.

But the most difficult days may be ahead when he returns home to help his impoverished people start their own enterprises.

Timothy Mambo In December, Mambo became the first Congolese to earn a Master’s in Business Administration degree at North Park University. Mambo returns to his native country at the end of this month and plans to use his new-found knowledge to help Congolese start micro-businesses and develop a non-profit organization that will develop the necessary business infrastructure.

Challenges facing Mambo when he returns include the lack of business knowledge among poor Congolese and a nearly non-existent infrastructure. The biggest immediate challenge, however, may be his own education, Mambo says.

People tend to distrust Congolese who traveled to the United States and returned. “They think that everyone in America is rich,” Mambo says, and therefore have nothing in common. It is one thing for a Westerner to bring their knowledge, but it is another for one of their own to do the same.

“It will be tough for him,” says Bob Thornbloom, a former Evangelical Covenant Church missionary in the Congo who continues to work with mission projects there. He has known Mambo since he was young.

Mambo was raised at the Covenant mission in Karawa where his father, a minister, sent him to be raised. Thornbloom says such arrangements are common so that children can get a better education.

People Mambo knew from the Congo encouraged him to travel to Colorado Springs, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree. In 1988, Mambo, who speaks five languages, returned to Congo after completing the four-year degree in three years. He returned to become the director of development for the Congo Evangelical Covenant Church (CEUM).

Most Congolese had not learned how to develop their own businesses other than through a barter system, Mambo says. Many obstacles prevent businesses from becoming profitable, even if the owners understood how to operate on a cash system that would allow them to save and expand, he adds.

Mambo had not considered returning to the United States, but a supply trip within his own country changed that. In 2003, he was making the arduous trip to pick up a container of goods the Covenant had sent. Although he had grown up in poverty, he saw it afresh. “While on my way, God opened my eyes to see it more clearly,” he says. “I started crying really loud.”

People looked at him crying and didn’t understand. “They didn’t see what I saw,” Mambo says. “I got down on my knees and I asked God what can I do to help.” A series of what Mambo says were divine circumstances led him to North Park to get his advanced degree. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I got to North Park,” he says. But while taking his first class, which explored the role of community non-profits, “I got so excited,” he says.

Mambo says he hopes to start a non-profit organization that will help fund construction of wells and schools and further the development of health care. He also wants to build new roads and bridges that will enable people to get their goods to a larger market. Currently, the conditions keep the villagers effectively cut off from those markets.

“Some people, including children, they will walk 200 miles (to sell goods),” Mambo says. “They’ll sell them in an hour for $5 or $10.”

Goods to sell will be made through the development of micro-enterprise businesses. Loans are made to up to 40 people for different businesses and each person is responsible for making sure the others are able to pay back their loan, Mambo says.

Because the people have never saved money, they will learn how to put some of their profits into the bank, which will allow for future business expansion. Mambo says he will teach business principles based on God’s word.

The most important is to be a pipe through which God’s blessings can flow. “When you are born again, living water flows through you,” Mambo says. “When you take it for yourself, then you are blocking the blessing.”

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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