Matumaini Furaha and Bahekelwa Imatha (“Mimi” and “Baim”) came to the United States as the result of a traumatic experience that, as Bahekelwa says, helped him “relate to children [and others] who have undergone loss … or who were exposed to traumatic events.”
In 1990 the University of Lubumbashi, DRC, which Bahekelwa was attending, was closed because of student protests. The protests led to physical attacks of students against other students, resulting in in outside commando units moving into the dorms and instituting password entrance so only chosen students were allowed safe passage.
Because Bahekelwa testified before parliament to events he had witnessed on campus, he was fearful for his life and felt unable to return to the university to continue his education. Jeff Hoover, a missionary to Eastern Congo from First United Methodist Church in Decorah, Iowa, and a friend of the couple, arranged for Matumaini and Bahekelwa to leave Congo and settle in Decorah, where Bahekelwa was able to finish his bachelor’s degree at Luther College. The couple moved to Greensboro when Bahekelwa was accepted into graduate school at North Carolina A&T State University.
After settling in Greensboro, Matumaini and Bahekelwa became members at Greensboro’s West Market Street United Methodist Church and the Open Door Sunday School Class. Gradually over time, they shared with members of that class the trauma taking place in their homeland, their desire to help friends and family in Eastern Congo and their vision for PTPL. Sally Winslow and Becky Hollowell seized the opportunity to talk with Baim about how people could best help Matumaini and Bahekelwa in their mission. At an initial meeting, a group of interested people decided to help by raising money to send to Congo. They also saw an opportunity to involve others in the work.
The first step that was taken was to qualify PTPL as a 501(c)(3) organization under the Internal Revenue Code. That was accomplished and today all donations to PTPL are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Bahekelwa is currently pursuing a degree in Theology part-time at Union Presbyterian Seminary at the Charlotte campus. By day, he works for UPS in security. Matumaini is currently working as a nurse’s aide at Moses Cone Hospital and teaching French to a devoted group of students.