Leadership graduate student offering hope and healing to native Congo
February 12, 2013 | Bryce Wilks
These days, Trésor Yenyi spends his time in Evangel’s Klaude Kendrick Library completing the normal tasks of a graduate student. It’s a far cry from Yenyi’s youth, where he intimately experienced the fallout from war and poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But while Yenyi tends to his studies in the United States, DR Congo is never far from his mind.
What fellow students in the library would never suspect, is that in between writing papers and completing research projects, this graduate student is also running the day-to-day operations of a nonprofit organization on the other side of the world.
Yenyi, who is pursuing a Master of Organizational Leadership degree from Evangel, is founder and president of Mwangaza International, an organization that endeavors to rehabilitate the lives of the abused in DR Congo.
Mwangaza: Tower of light
During his undergraduate studies at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri, Yenyi began to grasp the incredible needs of his homeland and resolved to provide spiritual and humanitarian aid. Mwangaza, meaning “tower of light” was founded in response to his calling.
Many of those helped by Mwangaza have been affected by war and turmoil. They include refugees, rape victims, orphaned children, AIDS victims and child soldiers. A child-sponsorship program that includes art therapy impacts school-age children. Other creative outreaches include a choir comprised of orphans and a business where single mothers can make and sell authentic gift items to support their families.
Yenyi orchestrates compassion and development projects across DR Congo by utilizing technology, coordinating volunteers and communicating with key contacts such as his sister Rose, an attorney who is his “right hand man” on the ground. Yenyi also travels to join his Congolese team throughout summers and winter breaks when possible.
From DR Congo to Evangel University
The path to Evangel extends back many years for Yenyi, who found salvation at an Assemblies of God church called La Borne in the capital city of DR Congo, Kinshasa. After earning his bachelor’s degree, Yenyi researched Evangel, and settled on attending an Adult and Graduate Studies Open House in February 2012.
“When I came to Evangel for the open house, I sensed the spiritual environment was what I was looking for in a graduate school” Yenyi says. “I came to campus interested in the Counseling program, but Dr. (Jeff) Fulks listened to my career aspirations and directed me toward Organizational Leadership.”
Fulks says after hearing that Yenyi’s career involved fundraising, strategic planning and managing people, Organizational Leadership came to mind as the right fit.
“The people Trésor helps certainly need counseling, and his background there will be helpful. However, since he deals with daily leadership decisions, the MOL program provides core training that will make him and his organization successful in all aspects,” Fulks says.
Once admitted to the program, Yenyi encountered others who shared his common values and mission.
“The Graduate Admissions counselor Micah (Hildreth) went above and beyond to help me work through the details as an international student” Yenyi says. “He went to the Registrar’s office with me and even helped navigate Financial Aid.”
Then, during a tornado threat in Joplin last fall, Yenyi had an unexpected exchange with graduate professor Dr. Linda Wellborn.
“I e-mailed Dr. Wellborn on short notice to tell her I would not be there due to the warning” Yenyi says. “Immediately, she wrote back saying she would be praying for my safety. The next week in class, the entire group prayed and thanked God for delivering me from danger.”
With each class and semester, Yenyi gains a deeper understanding of how to be a better steward of the resources God has placed under his supervision. Most of his projects are focused on Mwangaza in order to practically apply lessons and “look in the mirror” as a leader.
“The blessing of the program to me is the introspection,” Yenyi says. “The learning experience is deep because I have to process the information in the classroom, and then think about how to apply it with the logistical and cultural difficulties of DR Congo.”
Mwangaza, still based in Joplin, achieved key recognitions over the past few years to foster future growth. First, it was granted domestic 501 (c)(3) status, making donations tax exempt. Then the Congolese government approved Mwangaza as a Non-Government Organization (NGO), giving official permission to provide humanitarian relief and receive government funding.
Mwangaza and Yenyi have a hopeful vision for the future of DR Congo, which is currently among the world’s poorest and most volatile countries. Yenyi’s first book, Journey to the Heart of Darkness, chronicled stories of heart break from his travels. Now, he wants to see redemption and healing through the efforts of his organization.
“I am thrilled to be at Evangel, where God has placed me and to focus my efforts on building His kingdom” Yenyi says. “I want each person we help to know Jesus and experience His grace. As long as that is our focus, we will do whatever it takes to help.”