A Nashville pastor who fled war in the Congo to find a better life in America was shot dead outside his apartment last Thursday and left like “trash in the yard” until a concerned neighbor called the police for help.
A statement from the Nashville Metro Police Department which is investigating the murder said the body of Pastor Lubunga Lumenge, 30, was found by a passerby just before 7 a.m. in the grass just outside his apartment in the parking lot of Residences at Stonebrook Apartments.
Residents at the complex report hearing a single gunshot at approximately 4 a.m.
Semetta Simmons told News Channel 5 she discovered Lumenge’s body just steps from someone's patio door "just lying there and people were just walking past him like he was just trash in the yard."
That’s when she said she was moved to call the police for help. Simmons, who lost a child to gun violence in Nashville, said she is just praying that the pastor’s family can find peace.
"My prayers are with them. Just keep your head up, and I’m so sorry that they had to experience this at the beginning of the year," she said.
Friends and members of the Christian community in Nashville who knew Lumenge, who was a teacher in Tanzania where he first settled before coming to the U.S. after he fled the Democratic Republic of Congo, said he was a very active member of the Swahili Christian community.
His death, according to Mto Biko who met Lumenge in church, is “really devastating.”
“It’s really shocking,” he told WKRN outside the pastor’s apartment. “I was really devastated feeling like, is this real or am I just dreaming.”
Though he did not list a specific name for the church, Biko said Lumenge was an essential part of his faith community where he led a prayer team.
“He was a good person because he was someone who was really attached to the community and someone who was really willing to help other people and someone who was really concerned with other people’s problems or difficulties,” Biko said.
“He’s originally from the Congo, but we all grew up in Tanzania after we fled the war in the Congo. He used to be a teacher back in Tanzania, and then, when he moved to the U.S., from what I know, in Dallas, he then started serving God in a church there in Dallas,” he continued.
“In our community, it’s really shocking. We understand if somebody dies from sickness, we understand,” he added. “If somebody is shot, which is not part of our culture, we really, really feel bad and then devastated.”
Staffers at two major Nashville churches where Lumenge worshiped with his Swahili community remained tight-lipped about his passing when contacted by The Christian Post on Monday.
David Johnson, an associate pastor at Grace Church of the Nazarene, said, “Lubunga used to be a part of our church but they moved to a different location” after a strain in the relationship between the Swahili ministry and Grace Church of the Nazarene which Johnson said he was not in a position to immediately discuss.
He did acknowledge, however, that he was aware of Lumenge’s death.
“I found out about it just a couple of days ago. One of the other guys from the congregation contacted me and let me know about it,” Johnson said.
When asked how he felt about Lumenge’s death, he replied, “of course I was concerned about it and sad about it.” He further described Lumenge as “very active” in the Swahili ministry.
Lil Cook, a ministry assistant at Woodmont Baptist Church that also operates a Swahili ministry, said Lumenge would come to events at the church where his brother-in-law, Useni Iweya, is a custodian but he had his own church which she did not name.
“He would come to events here but he was pastor at his own church,” Cook said. “We don’t really know anything about it (murder). We were all just very sad for the family.”
Investigators are now urging anyone with information on Lumenge’s killing to call Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463.
While he continues to pray for justice for his friend, Biko said he was confident that Lumenge “must be gone to heaven.”