Denise Katungu Kahamba is a mother of 4 children and the owner of Kalongo Pharmacy in Kinshasa which she runs on the principles of ‘business as mission’. Denise worships with Grace Baptist Church where she is the director of the in the Sunday school. She is a trained nurse, secondary school teacher as well as a communications practitioner.
“Joblessness is rampant in DRC, and getting a job was difficult. I agreed with my husband to do business and that is when we started off with a boutique. No sooner had we started it than we closed it and went for greener pasture in Congo Brazzaville,” says Denise from her flourishing pharmacy in the heart of Kinshasa.
“Congo Brazzaville was not good and so we came back to DRC, Kinshasa to once again try our luck in business.
“When I got married, my family gave us a lot of food gifts which I used to start my initial business. I added on mandazi, doughnuts, and boutique items which I continued to sell all the time. We sold most of our family items and managed to move to wholesale. In wholesale, we were doing sales for all the things used in bakery including floor, cooking fat among others,” she continues.
Meanwhile, Denise was busy every Sunday selling soft drinks and doughnuts to the congregation of Grace Baptist Church.
On the side-lines, she was also running a radio and television programme on prevention of illness and health under the Branham Church of DRC RTVA channel.
“I also learned management classes at the university and that is what I am using to run my business,” she states.
It is at this stage that they met with Rev. Jeff Sikabwe and went through the VISION Conference which helped her shape her business to serve as God’s mission. “The impact of the women training shaped my mind-set and worldview. It reinforced my purpose of living and especially engaging in business from what I had at the time,” says Denise. The combination of God's work and business was to Denise very intriguing. “From the training, I realized that I ought to do all things in all areas of life. If I am doing business, I also ought to serve in church and the community at large,” remembers Denise.
At that time, she had given up on business because her matrimonial house had burned and they lost all the capital and stock which she was using to run the boutique and fast foods business. “I resumed the mandazi business after sitting through the business as mission seminars organized by CMS-Africa; especially when there are events like the trainings where I made more monies to start business,” says Denise.
The Lord God provided for Denise enough capital as she waited on Him to start a pharmacy and that is where she now spends most of her time other than her family and church. She narrates her interplay with business and God’s work in a week: “Mondays I work and go back home to play my role as a mother. On Tuesdays, I’m a member of the Full Gospel Church and on Sundays I attend the Baptist Church where I serve as a Sunday school teacher.”
Denise adds that the pharmacy business has been helpful to her in so much as it has allowed her meet her own needs and those of her family. She has also provided help to members of her extended family from time to time. Through this business, she has started a group for women from her family that meets every month and who contribute $20 each. Every Month, they manage to raise at least $200 which they leave with the host of the month. “The women are encouraged to start up small businesses like selling of charcoal, cereals, telephone recharge card, soft drinks, among others,” says Denise.
Through such initiatives, Denise has helped women not to be a burden to their men especially those who are not employed.
The second application in demonstrating love for her neighbour is when Denise had a problem with her neighbours who used to quarrel over water all the time. “The tenants and landlord would always quarrel but I intervened and asked the tenants to come and fetch water from my plot,” she says and continues, “That attracted her and she started coming to our church with all her children, husband and all because of the act of love.”
As an act of love, Denise volunteered to be paying for waste collection for her community where a heap of rubbish was piling up by the day. “It costs me $10 a month for waste collection,” gladly reports Denise who is thrilled with the idea of loving your neighbour as you love yourself.
Denise has made more interventions in her community. She remembers mobilising all the businesswomen who are selling in her neighbourhood to clear the dumping site that was first becoming a health hazard into a transformed and clean place.
Business as Mission values at work in the pharmacy:
“I am devoted to following the Christian values and standards in my business and I strictly follow the code of ethics for the medical operations laid out by DRC Government. My business is my church.
There are many who come to me with sick children and I give them the drugs even when they have less funds or no funds at all,” says Denise.
There are many who come to the pharmacy needing abortions and Denise turns them away. “There are many who come desiring to test for pregnancy and as a Christian pharmacist, I refer them to the doctors. Furthermore, those who come without Doctor prescriptions, I do not sell drugs to,” clarifies Denise.
Denise’s prayer is to expand and open many more pharmacies across Kinshasa and remain to be a humble servant of God at all times through her lifetime.
By John Ndeta