Charles Mwungura never planned to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Growing up as the son of a pastor in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he saw his family struggle to get by. Church members who had little could give little. Mwungura (pronounced “mon gura”) was only 5 when his father died, and he vowed to someday get a good job to support his family.
Twenty years later, after earning degrees in finance and marketing, working with nonprofits and doing missionary work among Muslims in Nairobi, Mwungura is now pastor of Southeast Christian Church’s Multination Community Campus that meets in the Chapel at the Blankenbaker Campus.
It’s still a surprise that God’s plan for his life is unfolding in Louisville.
As he preaches and looks over the congregation of some 200 from many nations, Mwungura is overwhelmed with God’s patience and kindness to bring him to this place.
“All of us are catching the wind and taking risks,” he said. “I can serve as a bridge to reach out to this community.”
Mwungura’s coming to Louisville is the answer to Southeast staff member Victor Mikebanyi’s prayer for a pastor to lead the church that began in his home.
“Over a period of nine years, I saw Charles grow in the qualities required for the leader of SE Multination,” he said. “I was looking for a mature Christian committed to prayer, a good teacher of the Word, a strong leader with inter-cultural experiences, someone missions-minded because the main focus of Multination is going to the least-reached people.”
God is using Mwungura’s story. He understands loss and hardship of refugees. He’s been there. He understands challenges of pastors and church leaders. His family lived through that. He understands challenges of sharing the Gospel through his work with Muslims. He speaks seven languages, so he can communicate with those who come through the door at SE Multination.
Determination helped Mwungura earn a degree in finance and marketing, teach high school, then take a job with the Global Fund, a nonprofit in Rwanda where he was born and his father had been a pastor. The fund supports health programs in 100 countries. This job gave him the chance to support his family.
It was good, even important work, but Mwungura still heard God’s quiet voice to be a pastor.
At that time, Mikebanyi was working with Somali refugees in Nairobi, Kenya. He heard about Mwungura and asked him to help with ministry to Rwandan orphans of genocide. In just 100 days, about 800,000 people were slaughtered by extremists. Neighbors killed neighbors. There was no safety at church or at home. Rwandans found it hard to find God in the middle of unspeakable violence and loss.
“At that point, I no longer wanted to make a living. I wanted to work in the assignment God called me to,” he said.
In Eastleigh, a large Somali community in Nairobi, Mwungura worked with Rwandans and 24 former Muslim families in the underground church. They often met in secret in a rented room and came to worship one at a time. Since it was not safe to own a Bible, Mwungura kept one in a secure location so they could read whenever possible.
“Evangelism among Somalis is slow and difficult,” Mwungura said. “They have a bad image of Christians. The only way to destroy strongholds is by love, how you live, walk, behave and give. It happens one at a time.”
Mwungura got to know Mohammad, a shop owner in Eastleigh. He was a strong, successful Muslim. After they’d known each other a while and built a bridge of trust, Mohammad asked why Mwungura was different. In whispers so no one in the next shop with thin walls could hear, Mwungura explained that he was a Christian.
“Are all Christians like you?” Mohammad asked. “Can you take me through the process of being like you?”
“Not like me,” Mwungura said. “Like Jesus.”
Today, Mohammad worships Jesus in secret. The two friends stay in touch.
Mwungura and his wife, Esperance, loved life and ministry in Nairobi with their four sons. They did not want to leave—until God called them to SE Multination.
Dennis Brooks, community campus strategist in Southeast’s Missions Ministry, said working with Mwungura has enriched his life.
“Charles is a humble, caring, thoughtful, gentle lover of Jesus, his family and his congregation,” Brooks said. “The best way I can describe Charles is this: He doesn’t talk much about the fact that he has been apart from his wife and four sons, who are still in Kenya awaiting immigration paperwork processing, because he would rather focus on your needs and how he can best serve you. That’s Charles—a genuine servant leader.”