CHICAGO, IL (April 13, 2015) — Given the chronically negative news about violence in Africa, James Fischer understands why some people might have little hope that lives of Africans can improve. But the director of development for the Paul Carlson Partnership knows better.
When Fischer worked for a nongovernmental organization to help people who’d been forced from their homes by the Lord’s Resistance Army in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the LRA came within half a mile from where he was living. He remembers nights when people fleeing the militia ran past his bedroom window.
But Fischer, who lived in Congo, sees the future differently.
Fischer was one month old when his parents moved to Congo to do medical missionary work. They returned to the United States when he was nearly eight.
His father, Philip, was nine years old when he heard the story of Paul Carlson’s martyrdom. That ignited his desire to do mission work, which ultimately led him to serve as a medical missionary with Africa Inland Mission. James didn’t know that connection when he first applied for his position with PCP.
Fischer returned to sub-Saharan Africa as an adult and spent two years with the Peace Corps in Benin as a community health adviser, developing health education programs and nutritional advancement through income-generating gardens. After that, he moved to Congo. “Congo has always had a special meaning for me,” he says.
Fischer became the first director of economic development for PCP last September. He traveled to Congo in November to participate in the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary Dr. Paul Carlson’s death.
His attendance wasn’t just about honoring the past. While there, he also held conversations on building a future in the Équateur Province.
Fischer held 15 individual interviews and focus groups of 15 to 20 people to listen to what practices have improved the lives of the farmers. “There is a lot of entrepreneurship and interest in doing things in new ways,” he says.
The faith of the Congolese people only makes Fischer more determined. “It’s such a privilege to be a part of the work that our friends in Congo are doing,” he says. “When I see the obstacles that they face as they grow and develop, and that they push forward with such joy and grace, I’m amazed.”