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Former child soldiers find hope in Congo

Until he met some United Methodists who were concerned about his well-being, Mpelembe Jean Luc, 17, was a child soldier in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who sought vengeance against his parents’ killers.

Now removed from the looting and killing, Luc credits the United Methodist Child Action Initiative with introducing him to Jesus Christ and changing his life.

The initiative is based with the Kasungami-Lubumbashi United Methodist congregations in the Southern Congo Episcopal Area and another ministry operated by the West Congo and Kasai annual conferences in the Central Congo Episcopal Area. Both received 2012 Peace with Justice Fund grants for their peacemaking efforts.

Funded by the churchwide Peace with Justice offering, the grants support ministries for young people offering Christ-centered opportunities for hope and healing in war-and-violence-scarred regions of the Congo.

Luc joined an armed group during an ethnic uprising to seek revenge against his parents’ killers. Violence across the DRC is rooted in unrest created by national and local elections, long-term ethnic rivalries and ongoing activities of armed rebel militias.

“I could not forgive or love anyone for what happened in my life,” Luc recalled. “I talked with pastors and counselors. I gave my life to Christ. Now I believe I must forgive them so I can free myself.

“My experience has given me the power to promote change, gain respect and serve.”

‘God does great things’

The young people’s ministry with which he works – at the Kasungami-Lubumbashi United Methodist congregations – received a $4,700 grant from the Peace with Justice Fund.

The director of that ministry said economic and political conditions across the region promote unrest and violence, with young people enduring most of the pressure.

“Young people don’t have access to education and legitimate employment,” said Isaiah Njimbu Chot. “They are likely to be exploited or used in illicit activities.”

With 2.3 million members and growing rapidly, The United Methodist Church is the second- largest Christian denomination in the DRC. It is the largest concentration of United Methodists outside of the United States.

“God does great things” when young people are exposed to the church, said the Rev. Albert Wungo Ndjate, director of Church and Society in the Central Congo Episcopal Area. “Young people who give themselves to prayer and education become fervent servants of the Lord Jesus.”

The two grants to United Methodists in the Congo were among 22 awarded to Peace with Justice ministries around the world in 2012. The grants are awarded in conjunction with the denomination’s Peace with Justice Sunday churchwide offering, which witnesses to God's demand for a faithful, just, disarmed and secure world.

Peace with Justice Sunday is one of six United Methodist special Sundays with offerings. Peace with Justice Sunday supports programs that advocate peace and justice at home and around the world.

— by Stephen Drachler is executive director of United Methodist Advocacy in Pennsylvania.

Please give generously. You can give anytime during the year. Make check payable to your local church and note “Peace With Justice" in the "note section"of your check or to give online, click here. ”Your gift offers The United Methodist Church a voice in advocating for peace and justice at home and around the world. Open the door to Justice. To get involved, you can contact the Peace with Justice Coordinator in your annual conference. Together, we can work together for a faithful and loving world for all and bring hope for our future.

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