Walking into Dr. Médine Moussounga Keener’s class, you are welcomed by a grateful smile and an upbeat “Bonjour!” But unlike most other smiles here at Eastern University, hers is rooted in a long and perilous journey and is proof of God’s relentless grace. Caught in the midst of war, abandoned and fearing for her life, Médine held on to God’s love and eventually made her way into a devoted family and a job that she loves.
She was born and raised in a Christian family in Congo Brazzaville. After she completed her Ph.D. in France in 1993, she returned to the Congo to teach at the American embassy and at a university as an adjunct.
But in 1997 a civil war broke out there. Married for six months, Médine’s first husband abandoned her and her unborn child. Médine recalls the days when the soldiers came and invaded. She also remembers when one of her cousins was shot dead.
After her son David was born, they became refugees in the forest traveling from one small village to the next. She remembers thinking, “After a week, we will go back into our house.” But that week eventually became 18 months. She had no idea when food would next be available so she began to eat what they could find. “I ate rats,” she said as she spoke about often getting sick.
Her memories of the war will not soon fade, but she has another reminder of her experiences-a war journal she wrote during this time. People would ask her if she was a journalist and she said, “No, but if I don’t write I’ll go crazy.” In more recent years, she has taken time to look over the journal and talk to her husband about it. “It was a healing process to go through the journal,” she said.
Médine and her son eventually moved to the United States and in March 2002, Médine got married to Craig Keener, a writer and New Testament scholar. She started teaching at Eastern University and simply thanks God for the blessings she has. “I see God’s grace,” Médine said. “I don’t think I ever had a dream that my life would turn out this way.”
Although the war is officially over in Congo, the country has not completely healed. Médine said that life is difficult and there is no safety for her family and the people that live there.
When asked what the student body could do to help with the problems in Congo, she said, “I would like for people to pray, pray for Congo.” If someone feels called to play a more active role, she encourages them to do so.
Despite the troublesome times she has been through, Médine is happy to be a part a new life and of Eastern. “Hopefully I am making a small difference for Christ,” she said, “and also helping [the students] to speak French.”