URBANA — Father Zephyrin Nsimba came here from the Congo and likes what he sees.
A mission worker for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kinshasa, Nsimba came here to meet with and celebrate Mass with Congolese residents — he said there are many here — and help organize a massive clothing drive for his troubled nation.
The drive, organized by St. Mary and St. Patrick Catholic churches in Champaign-Urbana, had major help not only from Catholics, but also members of the Jewish and Presbyterians faiths, among others, said Tyra Quinones, the St. Patrick secretary.
She credits Father Joseph Hogan, organizer Ken Enright and Nsimba with spearheading the drive, which sent 137 boxes of used clothing and seven boxes of new tools from Urbana to Kinshasa via New York.
Posted last week, they have not yet arrived, she said.
The French-speaking priest said he was impressed by the good will of the people here.
"We met good, nice people within the community, who collected clothing for people who are far away," he said. "It is a sure sign of love, to help people you don't know."
He said the Republic of Congo, formerly a colony exploited by Belgium, has faced political and natural crises in recent years
"There have been some uprisings from the election situation. People want to know the truth about the results. If the government does show the results, they will lose trust," he said.
Also, because the country is in the Great Rift Valley, volcanic eruptions have caused mass movements of people, with many not able to pack their clothing first.
Most recently, the Nyamuragira volcano erupted in 2010 and again on Nov. 8.
"People lost houses; even part of the airport is under volcanic lava," Nsimba said.
"A lot of people need articles of clothing. We hope to have more help for them. There are good people like Ken Enright who accepted to really work for the Congolese people."
The father leaves Urbana on Thursday, Dec. 15. He has also visited Cincinnati and Colorado.