Dr. Pakisa K. Tshimika’s story of resiliency
Thousands (very likely an under-estimation) consider Dr. Pakisa Tshimika to be their close friend. I (Walter Sawatzky) am one of them. Pakisa’s welcoming smile and open spirit create immediate human bonds; so that, within five minutes of your first encounter with him you experience real connection and friendship! Pakisa credits his faith in God and his global support circle for the smile on his face. What a gift such encouragement is in times of crisis and loss! Nonetheless, the fire of suffering has also refined this life into a model of resilience and hope.
Pakisa, we are deeply honored to share your story with our joint communities around the world!
Pakisa was born in Kajiji, Democratic Republic of Congo near the border of Angola. His father, a pastor, was Angolan by birth and his mother, Mama Makeka, was Angolan by descent. Pakisa attended primary school in Kajiji, a mission station, where he was taught by Mennonite Brethren missionaries who also ran the hospital, clinic, and church. He completed his secondary education in Kikwit, and then, with the help of missionaries and others was able to study at Pacific College in Fresno, California in preparation for medical school. In the summer of 1976 Pakisa and some friends were involved in a car crash on their way to Canada to attend a classmate’s wedding. This event changed Pakisa’s life. Rather than attending medical school in France that fall and then returning to Congo to serve his countrymen as a surgeon, he spent months in the hospital recovering from a broken neck and relearning all those things many of us take for granted.
Since medical school was no longer an option, Pakisa chose another route: public health. In the mid- 1970’s, he attended Loma Linda University where he received his Master’s in Public Health then, in the late 1980’s, he returned to earn his Doctorate in Public Health from the same institution. Since that time, he has worked with both governmental and non-profit organizations which has given him the opportunity to travel around the world and meet people from all cultural backgrounds and walks of life. He has seen great joy and great grief. He has listened compassionately to other’s stories and taken time to share his own. Since the accident, Pakisa no longer has the ability to run, like the record-making soccer player he once was, but walks slowly, first with a cane and now with a walker. Ironically, this slow walk creates in others the desire to walk slowly alongside him and, in this way, take time to share their stories.
Although leading a seemingly charmed public life, Pakisa’s private life seems anything but charmed. He has lost seven of his nine siblings, both parents, and many of his friends and relatives, some to HIV/AIDS, some to violence, and some because basic health care was not available. As a result of the accident, his shoulder continues to give him great pain and his capacity to walk and stand is limited. People often wonder how Pakisa has been able to manage to move on in life with a smile in his face and yet he continues to live a life full of pain, suffering and losses. When asked, he will often tell you that it is because of loyal friends, family and his faith in a God who keeps His promises for those who have faith in Him. He would recount from time to time when he would go through another painful experience and his relief would come from friends from near and far away writing, calling, praying, and visiting in the hospital and in his home long past the immediate painful experience. He lives in a global village and many of the friends he has met along the way continue to become the “Face and Heart of God” to him. They help him not to feel alone or carry any emotional or physical pain by himself. There is always anther shoulder to cry on for him.
His life and loyalties are often divided between two very different countries and cultures. Mama Makeka House of Hope, founded in 2003 in honor of his mother, along with his wife, Linda, his three children, and friends and relatives around the world provide him with stability and support. Pakisa carries a profound vision, not only for a better Congo but for a compassionate and caring global community in which gifts are mutually welcomed and treasured, where the precious stories from all cultures and beliefs are heard… and where, like in Pakisa’s active life, there is always time for one more person’s immediate concerns.