See, I am doing a new thing!...I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

The Board of Directors of Congo Initiative-USA is a strategic body gathered around the common purpose of supporting and promoting the work of Congo Initiative-UCBC in eastern D.R. Congo, centered around the establishment and operation of the Christian Bilingual University of Congo in Beni, North Kivu province. The Board works in collaboration and close partnership with the General Assembly of Congo Initiative-UCBC in D.R. Congo.

David Bamlango
Attorney, DLA Piper (Chicago, IL)

David is a Congolese-born attorney practicing at the Chicago office of the law firm of DLA Piper LLP in the area of banking and finance law. His primary practice focuses on advising clients on complex domestic and international finance transactions. He previously worked as an equity analyst for an investment management firm, advocacy program director for an Illinois-based Christian not-for-profit organization, and foreign language teacher at a high school. David earned law degrees from the United States (Juris Doctor), France (Licence and Maitrise), and the D.R.C. (Graduat).

David approaches Congo Initiative with a personal sense of connection to the organization and its work in eastern Congo. He was born near the area where CI-UCBC is based and knows personally many of the direct beneficiaries of its work. Also, having worked for many years in the field of human rights in eastern D.R.C., he is keenly aware of the transformational work that needs to be undertaken in order to create new kind of leaders for the Congo.

David is a member of St. Paul's Church by-the-Lake in the Anglican diocese of Chicago where he has served mutiple terms as Warden and one term as Senior Warden. He also serves on the diocesan Commission on Global Ministry, which is tasked with devising the diocesan vision for global mission. He is married to Lea and they have a daughter, Cecile.

Peggy Bilsten
Humanitarian Ambassador for the State of Arizona

Peggy Bilsten has been advocating on behalf of many human rights issues, both locally and internationally, since she was appointed to the Phoenix City Council in 1994. After Peggy was appointed, she served the constituents of District 3 for 14 years before reaching the allotted term limit. While on the Phoenix City Council Peggy served on many different boards and committees, as well as serving as Vice Mayor twice.

Peggy has always been outspoken regarding community safety and all of the components that accompany it. These issues include working to establish the Graffiti Hotline in 1995, opening her districts’ first senior center (Shadow Mountain), serving on the Mayor’s Commission for Disabilities, and representing the citizens of Phoenix and the city council on rescue trips to the post tsunami regions in Indonesia, earthquake regions in China, and war torn regions in Central Africa including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.

Since the end of her time on the Phoenix City Council, Peggy has been focusing almost all of her attention on the issue of eradicating Child Rape for Profit. This is an issue that is very close to her heart as it deals with the abuse and violence of young women. She has facilitated the collaboration of agencies and groups from across the Phoenix area to work together to fight this injustice. These groups include vice departments, churches, universities, businesses, government offices, non profits as well as many concerned parents.

Howard Brown, Ph.D
Director of Grants, Youth Learning Institute at Clemson University

Howard's Resume
Howard grew up in Kenya, earned a Ph.D in African History at Indiana University, and worked with Paul Robinson in Kenya for 15 years as his Assistant and then Associate Director with the St. Lawrence University Kenya Program. He is now Director of Grants for the Youth Learning Institute at Clemson University and is involved in creating and funding experiential education programs for at-risk youth in South Carolina. Through grant initiatives the Youth Learning Institute partners with faith-based organizations, assisting them in capacity-building and training in youth development practices.

Ben Chappell
Attorney, Mediator, & Arbitrator at Bray, Chappell, & Patterson, Inc.

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 follow-on justice conferences through CI's Center for Professional Development & Vocational Training in July, 2010 and April, 2013.  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
Judge, Arizona Court of Appeals

John Gemmill 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 continues to serve.  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, DRC.  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 at UCBC in July, 2010 and April, 2013.  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 the DRC.  John and Linda are blessed with two wonderful daughters, a great son-in-law, and two amazing grandchildren.       

Meredith Joss
Retired public school teacher and administrator

Life for me is defined as before Africa and after Africa. Like many others, I was raised in a Christian home, attended a Christian college, married, got a job and had children. In my early forties, however, life changed. Our family spent a year in Kenya where my husband taught at Daystar University. Twenty years later, an altered perspective, a deeper and broader sense of God’s person and work, a rich love of another place still inform how we live and think and work. Rob and Meredith Joss both graduated from Wheaton College, Rob has taught at Gordon College for 35 years, maintains a forensic psychological practice, and is still employed at both. Meredith worked in public education for 25 years, as a teacher and an administrator, retiring last year to assume additional family responsibilities. They have three married children and three grandchildren, with three more on the way (two of them being adopted from Ethiopia.) Their home is home away from home for many from Africa and other parts of the world.


 David Kasali, Ph.D
Founder, Congo Initiative (ex-oficio)
Rector, Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo (UCBC)


Personal Biography
Ph.D. New Testament, Trinity International University (Deerfield, Illinois), 1993
M.Div., Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (Nairobi, Kenya) 1987
Masters in Geography and Education, Congo, 1980

Rev. Deborah Kielsmeier
Associate Pastor for Outreach and Membership, Christ Presbyterian Church (Edina, Minnesota)

Deborah's Resume
Deborah Kielsmeier joined Christ Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Edina, MN as the associate pastor for Outreach and Membership in 2002. Prior to this she ministered in a variety of churches and para-church organizations, both in the US and in Kenya. She holds a BS in Environmental Studies, a Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Divinity and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry at Fuller Seminary. Deb has a deep love of creative communication, teaching, preaching and sharing the Kingdom news. She has trained teachers and pastors in Service-Learning and particularly enjoys empowering others to lead and minister. Deb and her husband Jim live and garden in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Jim Kielsmeier, Ph.D
Founder, National Youth Leadership Council

Jim is the President and CEO of the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC), an organization he founded in 1983 through the University of Minnesota. NYLC has been at the center of community service and service-leaning programs and policy development since its inception. It annually convenes The National Service-Learning Conference, which included representatives from all 50 states and 19 other countries in 2007. NYLC also produces Growing to Greatness, an ongoing national study of the state of K-12 service-learning; runs model programs; and develops service-learning materials.

An adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota, Jim also founded the Center for Experiential Education and Service-Learning. He holds a doctorate in education from the University of Colorado, a master’s degree in international relations from American University in Washington, D.C., and a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College. He frequently speaks at national and international conferences on topics related to service-learning and positive youth development.

Meredith Long, Dr.PH
International Program Director, World Concern

Formerly with MAP International and World Relief, Meredith is currently Director of International Programs for World Concern. Meredith supervises programs in Asia, Africa, Haiti and Bolivia, and has oversight of WC’s HIV/AIDS programs. He previously worked at World Relief as vice president for Planning and Integration and director of International Health Programs. Meredith has worked with churches to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa since the early 1990s. His overseas program implementation experience includes 14 years in Kenya and Bangladesh. He is the author of Health, Healing and God's Kingdom, a book that examines the interplay between health and traditional religious beliefs. His specializations include public health, grant-writing, fundraising, program development and assessment. Meredith is also the co-author of The AIDS Crisis: What We Can Do, published in 2006.

Barrett McRay, Psy.D, LCP
Vice Chair
Associate Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry, Wheaton College (IL)

Barrett's Curriculum Vita
Barrett is Chair of the Department of Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College, and a licensed psychologist and Clinical Director for a multidisciplinary mental health practice. Barrett teaches historic pastoral care, counseling and ministry. He spent time as a young man in Palestine and Israel, and is deeply interested and committed to the spiritual and psychological healing of conflict, trauma, grief, and guilt. He has participated with us in pastoral seminars at Adi and Butembo (D.R. Congo).

Margaret Mwenda, Ph.D
Assistant Professor of Marketing, Davenport University (IA)

Dr. Mwenda holds a Bachelor of Education degree from Kenyatta University (Nairobi, Kenya); a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Governors State University (Illinois); and a doctorate in Educational Policy and Leadership Studies at The University of Iowa (Iowa).

While at the University of Iowa Dr. Mwenda has been the lead evaluator of a National Institute of Health (NIH) sponsored science intervention program for undergraduates, specifically focusing on designing evaluation plans and instruments, collecting and analyzing data and reporting findings.

Prior to joining The University of Iowa, Dr. Mwenda was a lecturer, a chair of the business department, and the academic programs coordinator at Africa Nazarene University, Nairobi, Kenya from 1998 to 2003. As a lecturer she taught marketing courses and has continued to expand her teaching to include statistical research methods at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. While at Africa Nazarene University, Dr. Mwenda coordinated curriculum development for new programs including the Master of Business Administration evening program, Dry Land Agriculture, Education, and Mass Communication. These programs have since been accredited and implemented.

Dr. Mwenda’s research interests include: post secondary equity and access for marginalized groups including racial minorities and women; university leadership and administration; and evaluation of higher education programs. Currently, Dr. Mwenda resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband and two daughters.

Dick Robinson
Ex-Officio Member
Director, RiverWind Global

Dick lives with his wife Ruth on six wooded acres in Genesee, Wisconsin, where he enjoys a change of pace by mowing grass and cutting brush. Born to missionary parents in the Congo, he was educated at boarding schools, then joined the U.S. Marines and served a tour of duty in Asia and Vietnam. Dick has an M.A. in Philosophy of Religion from Trinity Seminary (Deerfield, Illinois.). He began ministry at Elmbrook Church, Brookfield, Wisconsin in 1979 and served for many years there as Senior Associate Pastor with executive responsibilities for World Harvest Ministries. Dick travels and ministers in leadership development in Africa, Asia and Latin America. He enjoys reading, photography, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and mountain climbing, having summited 24 peaks between 12,000-19,000 ft. to date.

Paul Robinson, Ph.D
President & CEO, Congo Initiative Inc. (ex-oficio)

Paul was raised the son of missionary parents in DRC, and has been involved with Congo Initiative since it was first envisioned in 2002. He earned his B.A. from DePauw University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in African History at Northwestern University. During the 1980's and 1990's Paul spent 20 years in Kenya in cross-cultural university education as the Director of the St. Lawrence University Kenya Program, and 2 years with MAP International involved with HIV/AIDS intervention. From 1999 to 2013, Paul served as Director of the Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) Program and Professor of History at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. Paul is married to Margie, and they have three grown children. Paul's vision is to come alongside CI's Congolese leadership, accompanying them in their journey of seeking wholeness and renewal for their country.

Rev. Douglas Slaughter
Senior Pastor, Second Baptist Church (Aiken, SC)

Doug earned his Masters of Divinity (M.Div) degree from the Morehouse School of Religion (Atlanta, GA) in Old and New Testament Studies. His ministry career began in New York, where he served as a pastor of Christian Education as well as an active leader in affordable housing programs and the founding of two charter schools. Doug later moved from New York to Aiken, South Carolina, where he has been serving as the senior pastor of Second Baptist Church. During his tenure at Second Baptist, Doug started a Christian preparatory school, serving children from two years of age through the fifth grade. He is also the founder and board chair of the SBC Community Development Corporation. Doug is currently writing his dissertation for a doctoral degree in Organizational Management and Leadership from The University of Phoenix. Doug’s most rewarding responsibility is to be a father to three grown children: Douglas, Isake and Robert.

Rev. Paul Tshihamba
Associate Pastor of Missions, Christ Presbyterian Church (Edina, MN)

Paul Tshihamba serves as associate pastor of missions at Christ Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) of Edina, Minnesota. A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Paul received the majority of his formal education in the United States. Prior to joining the staff at CPC, Paul served as missions pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California.

In his current and previous roles, Paul's great passion has been to link the communities he has served to the world through opportunities for global and local engagement. For the last ten years that has included direct, tangible involvement with communities devastated by conflict and by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Through a strong partnership with World Vision, CPC has been a national leader in caring for AIDS ravaged communities, such as Rakai, Uganda. More recently, CPC has leveraged its connections to positively impact a community in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Paul has also led his congregation into a pivotal partnership in the Middle East with Questscope, a non profit organization based in Amman, Jordan, committed to empowering at risk youth and women.

Paul holds a Master of Divinity from Fuller Seminary. He sits on the board of Global Strategies for HIV Prevention. He is also a member of the board of the National Youth Leadership Council, and of Daystar University-US.

Paul resides in St Louis Park, MN, with his wife Andrea and their four children.