Since the beginning of the Comboni Lay Missionary Program a lot of people have come and gone. Did you ever wonder what happened to them after they completed their assignment?
Doug Kieffer, a member of the original group that served in Uganda beginning in 1993, answered our questions during a brief weekend visit to Cincinnati.
Doug left his native Illinois in 1993 as a young engineer and went to the mission of Kassala, Uganda where he taught math to high school students, raised a couple of goats, tutored a couple of brighter students in calculus, and bridged the gap between his Midwest upbringing and the idiosyncrasies of an old Italian missionary who fancied himself to be a dentist.
After returning to the United States, Doug decided that perhaps he could help make a better world if he coupled his engineering background to a degree in agronomy. So it was back to school once again.
While in graduate school, Doug met Jojo Wa, a young student from Kenya who was struggling to reconcile her Kikuyu background with campus life in the Midwest. Thanks to his lay missionary experience as a bridge builder between Africa and the United States, Doug was well equipped to help the situation along.
Doug and Jojo Wa have been happily married for a number of years and have two wonderful boys, William who is 10-years old and Matthew who is 8-years old. The boys are lively and bright, with a liking for soccer, popcorn and the Disney Channel. As they skipped happily down the long corridors of our building at the Cincinnati Mission Center, the two boys were delighted to find lots of pictures of a hero of theirs: St. Daniel Comboni. Indeed, the roots of a missionary vocation produce lasting results!
What permanent influence did his lay missionary experience have in Doug’s life? “Well, as I approach 50, I can say that the experience has yielded many positive results. After all, it even helped me to find my wife,” he says with a grin. “Seriously, it opened my mind and my heart to the richness of humanity. It made me realize that the world is full of regular folks who try their best to lead honest lives, raise a family, pray to God and live in peace. It gave me a better understanding of the human nature, of world events outside the limited horizons of my own background.”
The hope remains that many more generous lay people will follow Doug Kieffer’s path.
If you are interested in learning more about the Comboni Lay Missionary program visit http://www.laymission-comboni.org/ or call 708-588-1602.