IMA World Health/Kara Eberle

K

enneth Kovacs goes beyond the walls of his Maryland church to help others. Way beyond.

The pastor of Catonsville Presbyterian Church has traveled all over the world, including multiple trips to Africa with IMA World Health.

Pastor Kenneth Kovacs

Pastor Kenneth Kovacs

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kovacs has visited Goma, Bukavu and Mwanza, and it is difficult for him to put into words the poverty and challenges he witnessed during the trips.

“There is no way to describe the need over there,” he said. “The only way to really fathom it is to just go there and see it.”

He explains further on a blog he writes about his work:

“The unspeakable suffering and loss that they have experienced is beyond our capacity to imagine. As a result it’s a place where reality is a little unhinged.”

Kovacs was inspired to visit Africa by Don Padgett, a member of his congregation who had done extensive work in the DRC as an employee of IMA. Padgett was Assistant Vice President of Pharmaceutical Services and worked with IMA for about 15 years before retiring in 2007.

Padgett remembers his first trip with Kovacs in July 2004. “The poverty struck him very deeply,” he said.

When they visited a hospital, they saw an emergency surgery done at night with only flashlights to shine on the procedure. Their first project was to set up a generator and get the lights on. The generator was eventually attached to a water source that was dug by the Presbyterian church, Padgett said. At the end of the trip, the team had worked together to provide electricity to the entire hospital.

Over time, Catonsville Presbyterian’s Mission Committee became more active in projects in the DRC, including the assembly of Safe Motherhood Kits.

“Ken has been very very instrumental in promoting IMA projects that seem to fit very well with the mission of Catonsville Presbyterian,” Padgett said.

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In 2011, Kovacs also witnessed work done by the Ushindi Project and talked to counselors who work with survivors of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV).

“Women have no voice,” Kovacs said. “The men treat the women as property, so rape and sexual violence is … an emotional and physical tool to get women to submit.”

On the church’s aptly named website “Beyond These Walls,” Kovacs admits he didn’t know much about SGBV before his travels, but he’s grateful for the “blessing” of the knowledge.

“It has caused me to be better informed, better educated around this issue, and better equipped to do something about it there,” he wrote.

Kovacs now works with the WeWillSpeakOut.US initiative led by IMA and contributed to a sermon guide for faith leaders on educating congregations and communities on SGBV.

He continues to work toward a better future for men, women and children all over the world — both beyond the walls of his church and within.

“It’s so easy for Americans to look inward,” Kovacs said. “It’s important for congregations to be tied to the world.”

About Ken

Kovacs is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), presently serving the Catonsville Presbyterian Church, Catonsville, Maryland.He has been a pastor since October 1999 and is a graduate of Rutgers College, Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland (UK). He also studied at Yale Divinity School, Yale University. According to his staff bio on the Catonsville Presbyterian Church website, he enjoys reading, writing, traveling, playing fetch with his cat, Angus, and all things Scottish, including haggis.