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Ann Arbor student builds bridges

A story out of the University of Michigan. Another in the series, “Wesley: making disciples on campus.”

Michigan Area Communication

Lukonde Mulenga has a foot in two ministry cultures when it comes to The United Methodist Church. One foot is planted at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Michigan and the other in Zambia.

Mulenga grew up in the state of New York but she is tied to Zambia through her parents. She has visited Zambia many times, identifying as both Zambian and American. Her experience in Africa has, equipped Mulenga to help plan and lead an 11-day trip to Zimbabwe and Africa University for her Wesley Foundation Spring Break Trip in 2016.

“Lukonde is comfortable in offering leadership and building bridges in cross cultural and diverse settings,” said Robert Roth, Director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Michigan. “She is comfortable in both predominately white groups and African groups. That is not easy to do since we often segregate ourselves; she does a wonderful job building those bridges.”

Graduates receive an "alumni" mug at Wesley Sunday night at Ann Arbor 1st UMC. From left: Luana Tung, Shelby Mitchinson, Matt Grubish, Lukonde Mulenga, and Will Crawford. ~Facebook/Robert Roth
Graduates receive an “alumni” mug on April 10 in the Wesley Foundation Lounge in Ann Arbor. From left: Luana Tung, Shelby Mitchinson, Matt Grubish, Lukonde Mulenga, and Will Crawford. ~Facebook/Robert Roth

The purpose of the trip to Africa University was for students to learn about Africa, United Methodist ministries on the continent, and the college itself, as well as grow in faith through their spiritual experience abroad.

“This wasn’t a mission trip.” said Roth, “It was an opportunity to learn from other people and to build relationship between Africa University and U of M students.”

The trip benefitted Wesley at U of M, and also improved Mulenga’s leadership skills.

“She took the key role in developing this trip to Africa,” said Roth. “It was a lot of work, but also a lot of leadership, pulling together meetings and organizing. She was really able to grow as a result of planning the trip with that amount of responsibility.”

Mulenga has taken on other leadership opportunities while active at her Wesley Foundation. She became part of the Wesley staff as Campus Outreach and Service Coordinator where she worked with anything related to Wesley service projects, inviting in new students, and connecting with campus groups.

“In local churches,” Roth said, “ministry is often done ‘to’ young adults rather than ‘with’ them. Campus ministry allows for growth in leadership as it’s able to give students the resources and tools to design something like a trip [to Africa].”

Reflecting on the Africa trip, Mulenga noted: “It was great that I was able to combine my two worlds (being African and being American) and see the joyous result! It was great to see the students at AU and the students from Wesley interact and become friends.” Saying the experience warmed her heart, she continued, “I was happy that God used me to help build connections in our truly connectional Methodist church. In the future, I hope to build such connections in the field of Public Health.”

Happy Grad. Happy Dad. Lukonde and her father, Maidstone Mulenga, celebrate a milestone in her life. ~Facebook/Lukonde Mulenga
Happy Grad. Happy Dad. Lukonde and her father, Maidstone Mulenga, celebrate an important milestone in her life. ~Facebook/Lukonde Mulenga

Mulenga has recently graduated from U of M with a bachelor’s degree in Biopsychology Cognition and Neuroscience. She plans to pursue a master’s through the Public Health graduate program at U of M. Mulenga wants to use her education to follow her calling to provide services to mothers in the developing world.

When asked, “How has Wesley improved my faith experience?” Mulenga answered, “Being a part of the Wesley Foundation has made me realize that sometimes God answers prayer in the form of a support system called friends. Wesley let me get to know a lot of people who shared my faith beliefs. We ended up relying on each other during good times and bad.”

Last Updated on December 15, 2023

The Michigan Conference