FPM is excited to announce that, in partnership with The United Methodist Church's Illinois Great Rivers Conference and the North Katanga-Tanganyika-Tanzania Episcopal Area, our longtime board member, Rev. Lana Robyne, has been appointed as a full-time missiologist to the Tanganyika Conference effective July 1, 2020.
Once the Covid-19 travel restrictions have been lifted, Pastor Lana will move to Kalemie, DR Congo. Her primary task will be developing and directing mission evaluation and discernment initiatives focused on and with the Tanganyika Conference. She will be meeting with congregations to study and evaluate missional capacity and needs, praying, preaching, coaching, leading workshops, researching, fundraising, and coordinating mission education and projects. This initiative will work closely with the Tanganyika Conference’s Director of Connectional Ministries, Evangelism Department, Development Department, Kipendano (UMW), JPC (Youth and Young Adults), and scouting ministries. Her appointment will include significant time itinerating in the United States as well as DRC.
Pastor Lana was ordained an elder in 2001 and has been on loan to the Indiana Conference for the past 18 years. She has served as Co-Director of Wesley Foundation Campus Ministry at Purdue since 2002 and, for the last 14 years, also as Pastor of Spiritual Formation and Campus Ministry at First UMC in West Lafayette. In 2006, she was a visiting chaplain and lecturer at Africa University. Before that, she served small churches in Illinois.
Pastor Lana has two adult children, Isaiah and Ella. She has an M.Div. and Master of Theology from Christian Theological Seminary. This August, she will be receiving an MA in History from Purdue, where she researched colonial mission and human rights history in Congo.
We ask that you hold Pastor Lana in your prayers. This is a huge leap of faith for her, especially since this ministry does not come with a guaranteed salary. She is trusting that God will help her find creative ways to financially support her work. If you feel called to donate or organize a fundraiser for this ministry, please let us know. Tax deductible contributions earmarked "Lana" can be made through Friendly Planet Missiology.
2019 was fruitful year for FPM as even more dreams became realities. Below are some of things we accomplished thanks to your support.
FPM sponsored two friendship tours in 2019. On the Indiana tour, Pastors Lana, Joseph, Mumba, and Jackie as well as Papa Londwa traveled around the state visiting old friends, making new friends, and sharing with folks about the ministries of church leaders in the Tanganyika Conference and the challenges they face. (for more about this click here )
The second tour was a joint educational friendship-focused program of FPM and Purdue University’s Wesley Foundation. On this tour, young adults from the USA, Africa University students and graduates, as well as FPM leaders in Congo went on an epic road trip together. The voyage began at The UMC’s Africa U. in Zimbabwe, then down by bus to Victoria Falls, up by public busses through Zambia up to The UMC’s Mulungwishi University in Congo, and finally all the way up to Kamina by bicycle (more on their itinerary here). In addition to building new friendships, the tour functioned as a traveling missiology classroom. Participants read Biking Bob’s book (including excerpts from the not-yet-published sequel) and had challenging conversations about healthy ways to build friendships that cross socio-economic and cultural boundaries. One participant’s reflections can be found here.
Spreading Missiological Education
Taylor completed her DTh in Missiology, and her thesis, Decolonizing Mission Partnerships was selected by the American Society of Missiology to be published in its monograph series. The book is scheduled to come out in late 2020 and will become one of the core textbooks for FPM’s curriculum. As FPM’s lead coach, Taylor gave a number of keynotes, workshops, papers, and university guest lectures on the topic on rethinking understandings of mission as well as exploring and addressing the impact of racism on us all. Her teaching ministry took her to events on three continents. In addition, she taught the spring Course of Study on Mission at Wesley Theological Seminary, using a curriculum she has been developing for FPM.
Grants, Scholarships, and Construction Support
FPM continues to help connect important ministries in North Katanga and Tanganyika with folks with the financial means to support them. Some of the programs your contributions supported in 2019 were:
2020 is looking to be another great year. Our core leadership team has expanded and is more active than ever before, and together we are dreaming and discerning where the Spirit is leading us next.
Originally published in the Fall 2019 newsletter of the Baptist Student Foundation at Purdue University.
This trip involved traveling by bus and bicycle through Zimbabwe, Zambia, and into the Katanga region of DR Congo.
By Elizabeth Marie Sowinski
The Zulu word “Ubuntu” is used to describe the interconnectedness of mankind. It roughly translates “I am because we are.” Among many devoted Methodists whom we encountered in Africa, ubuntu is a way of life. They live and breathe to serve their communities, prioritizing them second only to their Creator. We can learn much from people like these, but I would like to emphasize three lessons.
First, Westerners can learn a lot from their attitude toward trials in life. In my short month in Africa, we encountered countless challenges to our mission. They ranged from minor irritations to major obstacles. Despite all these troubles, a way always presented itself. Call it faith, endurance, or divine intervention; things always worked out in one way or another. In this, we had to learn to trust in our African friends, leaders, and our God. Often, if not most of the time, our situation was out of our hands. We regularly encountered times where there was nothing that we as American students could do to fix our problems. We simply had to trust in the people that guided us and the God we serve. This led to countless changes in our plans and moments of anxiety as we had to entrust our cash, passports, or even our safety into the hands of a “friend of a friend,” whom we had only just met. Nevertheless, they always maintained their integrity and made sure that we were safely delivered to the next step of our journey. Despite their poverty, our brothers and sisters always made sure that our needs were provided for. Their outpouring of generosity was humbling. The churches that we visited have very little money and few resources, but we were never in want. Their hospitality and kindness are truly astounding.
The second lesson that we can learn from our African brothers and sisters is that home is people. Home is not a place. Home is not an object. Home is not a feeling. Home is people. People who accept you, love you, and want you. This is how I traveled many kilometers across a foreign land without leaving home even once. As we journeyed from place to place, we met many new people. Often, we would only had the opportunity to spend a day or two with them. Nevertheless, we were welcomed with open hearts and open arms, as a long-lost family member coming home. In a way, we were family, united under the Methodist cross and flames and, ultimately, under our Father and Savior. In each new location, we entered a communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ that truly made it our home.
The final lesson is by far the most frustrating, but also may be the most important. Most Christian leaders that we met on this trip are passionate, driven, and willing to do whatever it takes to save their communities. Furthermore, these people are already in place to make a difference as leaders in the church, local government, or even simply among their peers. As Westerners, we may have passion and an intense desire to “save” the innocent from the affliction that is poverty. To rescue children from hunger and disease. To end the suffering that comes from destitution. However, it is vital that we recognize that we quite literally cannot. We are not capable of fixing these problems for our friends. Westerners made this mess decades ago, and corrupt governments perpetuate it, but we Christians and servants on this side of the world do not have the ability to liberate our brothers and sisters from their trials, no matter how much we try. Rather, to truly help, we must humble ourselves, deny our hero complex that dominates so much of traditional missiology, and instead pour our efforts into supporting those who can make a difference in their own communities. In this way, and this way alone, can we help bring about deep systemic change. As much as we would like to step in and “fix” the situation, we are simply too far removed from the source of the problem. We are not in a proper place to affect lasting change, and any attempts to muscle in and do so will ultimately fail, if not cause even greater damage. There are several great dangers in that approach.
First, it establishes a system based in patronage that creates a dependency on wealthy Westerners. It handicaps local leadership by implicitly attempting to convince them that their efforts are not enough, that they cannot make a difference by themselves, and that they require the generosity of a rich white person to do effective work. That is a toxic mindset and can be extremely damaging in the long term. It is also the greatest downfall of traditional missiology. Second, when Westerners try to resolve uniquely African complications on their own, they inevitably impose their own Western culture on the victims of their “aid.” African culture is already rich, deep, and plentiful. They do not need our ideology trampling on their way of life. This can lead to several societal complications, including a chance of instilling into Africans the idea that they should attempt to mimic Western doctrine. Western culture does not necessarily mesh well into African culture, and while both are valid and important, Western dogma will not resolve African problems.
So then, what can we do to help our Christian brothers and sisters who suffer in poverty? The answer is that we support them as they resolve their own situation. This can manifest in many ways, and it can be difficult to distinguish between supporting local leadership and endorsing patronage. Further, it is challenging to relinquish control and trust our African friends and colleagues to develop their own ideas and use their own methods, despite their lack of resources. Personally, I feel a sense of helplessness when I am unable to bring aid to a loved one. This tempts me to feel hopeless about their destitute condition. However, this I know: the need is great, but the passion and devotion of many Christian leaders is greater. These people are in place to help; we are not. They are in a position where they can do far more good than we could even hope to accomplish. Western culture emphasizes individualism and independence. Because of this, we often feel the need to fix things on our own. We will assist another person because of our own desire to feel good about ourselves. Looking deeper, you can see that this is rooted in a sense of pride, intertwined with hopes of heroism and moral superiority. This is not servanthood. In order to see widespread, systemic change, we must lay aside our ego, humble ourselves, shut up, and listen. Stop the advice, stop the missions, stop imposing, and listen. The people of Africa have spent their entire lives dealing with the crises that we have only just begun to see. They know the inside, outside, upside, and downside of their situations, and only they know what needs to be done. If we can lower ourselves and uplift the locals, if we can support their ideas and projects, and if we finally acknowledge that we are not the heroes but rather a part of a team and family, I believe that together, the body of Christ will be unstoppable in our calling to love and serve one another in unity, hope, and peace.
TO TRULY HELP, WE MUST HUMBLE OURSELVES, DENY OUR HERO COMPLEX THAT DOMINATES SO MUCH OF TRADITIONAL MISSIOLOGY, AND INSTEAD POUR OUR EFFORTS INTO SUPPORTING THOSE WHO CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THEIR OWN COMMUNITIES.
Encounter Africa 2019
sponsored by Wesley Foundation United Methodist Campus Ministry at Purdue, the Found (American Baptists) of Purdue, and Friendly Planet Missiology (FPM)
They made it to Kamina!
I had a nice long face-time with Glen tonight. Everyone is doing very well and glad to have reached Kamina. Hopefully we'll see some pictures of them soon, but in the meantime, enjoy some from my visit to Kamina with Taylor and Teri last year.
It took them two days to get to Kamina from Bukama on the Congo River. They had a tough couple of days bicycling, getting stuck in the deep, loose sands of the road. They struggled for about 30 km today before they had to pack up the bicycles to drive most of the rest of the way with their 3 sag vehicles. Even then, it was a long, difficult drive. They hoped to get back on the bikes for the last few kilometers with the Boy Scouts riding out to meet them and escort them into town. However, they ended up having to drive the whole way.
I spent time in Kamina last year with my son Isaiah, Taylor and Teri Walters. I have included a link here for those who want to see general pictures of this city or Annual Conference.
The group is staying in a nice guest house in Kamina built by retired Bishop Ntambo. It has electricity (generator), wifi, and satellite tv. They are glad to have made it to their final stop today (Friday).
This is where they will rest for several days before most of them fly back to Lubumbashi and home. Kenny will be staying to volunteer at the orphanage in Kamina. He'll get to experience Annual Conference there.
Maps of Thursday and Friday Route
Purpose of an "Encounter" Trip:
To encounter or meet new people and build relationships with our siblings in Christ in Africa, to listen to their stories and learn from them, to work with them on projects that enhance their lives, to know as fully as possible the African context so that each in our own way we can be a force for positive change. Students will explore their vocational call from God and learn in their field of academic focus as they make connections with people in Africa in their field.
Want more information?
Contact Pastor Lana Robyne email@example.com
Revised Africa 2019 Itinerary
5/27 Depart Chicago 9:30 pm,didn't go as planned
5/28 Depart DC Dulles: 11:00am didn't go as planned
5/29 Kelden and Ave arrive Harare: -- Meet Diana and other med students, stay at AU alum Esther's home. Others fly in and stay in Addis Ababa and Johannesburg.
5/30 Fly into Harare. Regroup.
5/31 Bus to Mutare and Africa University (AU), Mae stay at Mutare Teacher’s College (MTC). ran out of time for Hilltop UMC Ishe Anesu After School Ministry.
6/1 Tour AU farm, climb to the cross, basketball, choir practice.
6/2 Worship in the AU Chapel, visit Fairfield Children's Home, hike up Mt. Chiremba, go to choir practice.
6/3-6/5 stay and help out at AU campus, Old Mutare Mission Station, Hartzell School, practice with choir, do laundry.
6/5 Depart after chapel - Day back at Mutare Teachers’ College and/or Hilltop UMC
6/6 Depart AU by private bus (Batoko Safaris) -- Travel to Great Zimbabwe (greatest archeological site south of the pyramids)
6/7 Travel to Bulawayo or Matopos Hills (Matobo National Park)
6/8 Travel to Hwange National Park (sunset and sunrise game drives)
6/9 Travel to Victoria Falls (two nights: tour falls, Bomo, elephant back safari, bungee/zip line options, sunset cruise)
6/11 Depart to Lusaka, Zambia (by public bus).. Night in Lusaka getting harassed by a police officer.
6/12 Travel to Kitwe: Stay at New Life Center
6/13 Depart Kitwe by taxi to Kasumbalesa, on to Lubumbashi, DRC by Friendly Planet Missiology (FPM) vehicle
6/14 Day in Lubumbashi (buy provisions for bicycle tour and visit Methodist Bishop's Offices)
6/15 prepare and wait.
6/16 Travel to Mulungwishi University), Friendship Bicycle Tour begins w/ith joint US/Congolese team visiting and listening deeply with many congregations on the way.
6/17 the group will leave Mulungwishi and drive to Lubudi.
6/18 Lubudi to Luena = ride 75 kilometers. Ride includes a descent and about 6 kilometers of a little sand.
6/20 Luena to Kabondo = ride 100 kilometers. about 8 kilometers of a mountain climb.
6/21 Kabondo to Kamina = 100 kilometers with about 7 kilometers of loose sand.
6/22 Day in Kamina. Donate the Bicycles.
6/23 Day in Kamina.
6/24 Day in Kamina.
6/25 Fly back to Lubumbashi from end of the tour
6/26 Depart for USA
6/27 Return to USA
From Purdue +:
From University of Illinois (UIUC):
From Alabama Birmingham-Southern College:
Africa University Students and Grads traveling with us:
Joining Us in DRC/Congo:
WEBSITE | EMAIL
Purdue Wesley Foundation is a campus ministry for, by, and with students. We spread United Methodist values and practice of open-minds, open-hearts, open-doors, but ALL are welcome!
Wesley Foundation at Purdue | 435 W. State St., West Lafayette, IN 47906
The 2019 Indiana friendship tour is well underway! Despite 3 visa denials, 1 woman and 3 men from the North Katanga and Tanganyika Conferences were able to come be on this friendship-building adventure. They are all amazing people. Pastor Joseph Mulongo, Pastor Daniel Mumba, and Pastor Jackie Ngoy Mwayuma are all pastors and former DS's. All three of them are featured in our late co-founder's memoir The Last Missionary. Papa Londwa is the newest addition to the FPM team and serves the Lay Leader of the Tanganyika Conference.
We are visiting a wide variety of churches and mission centers today and over the next week. Yesterday we visited the Midwest Distribution Center and Lincoln sites in Springfield IL, had supper and worship at our beloved Urbana Wesley Church and Foundation, and got back to West Lafayette around midnight to sleep. We got to know the three students from UIUC are coming on our trip to DRC this summer!
Today we had lunch and amazing conversations with some of Jeff Newton's staff at Kokomo Urban Outreach, African-Americans who were meeting and talking deeply with Africans for the first time. They were excited about telling their "huddle" of kids about this tonight. We also had a tour and did a small service project to help with the food KUO sends home with kids each weekend. Now we are in Zanesville where we had supper, and Joseph and the entourage shared a program and answered questions.
Our friends have a presentation to share about the churches, missions, and struggles in Tanganyika Conference if you have a projector and screen. They want everyone to know how important the work of the United Methodist church is there and what hope it is bringing the Congolese.
We are all pretty exhausted from the 2019 General Conference, but we feel it is as important as ever to share stories, learn, build family and strengthen friendship and connections through Christ and his body.
Rev. Lana Robyne, FPM Board Member
Do you live in or near Indiana and yearn for the chance to meet some of the Congolese church leaders you've read and heard so much about over the years? Now is your chance. Several FPM members from the North Katanga and Tanganyika Conferences are delegates to the UMC's General Conference in St Louis later this month, so we've jumped on this chance to organize visits with United Methodist congregations around Indiana while they are state-side. The following is a list of times and places where they will be. All events are open to the public. Contact Rev. Lana Robyne <firstname.lastname@example.org> for more details.
Kokomo KOU: February 28 noon
Zanesville UMC: February 28 6pm
Logansport First UMC: March 1 11:00am (luncheon: reservations appreciated)
Purdue Wesley Foundation: March 2 Noon
Lafayette Christ and W. L. First and St. Andrew UMC: March 3
Brownsburg Calvary UMC: March 4 8:30am breakfast
Columbus First UMC: March 4 noon
Indy Area :
University of Indianapolis: March 4 4:30pm
Indianapolis Faith UMC: March 5 morning
Meridian Street UMC: March 5 6pm
Carmel UMC: March 6 11am
Plainfield UMC: March 6 6pm
A Friendship-Building/Deep Listening Mission Journey
Sponsored by Wesley Foundation at Purdue & Friendly Planet Missiology
May 28 – June 27, 2019
Zimbabwe, Zambia, & DRC (Congo)
Purpose of the Journey: to deepen relationships with our friends in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and DR Congo and seek mutual understanding of one another’s context. Worshiping, praying, working on projects, traveling and sharing adventures together help us to grow closer to God and each other as an international body of Christ.
Who: This trip is designed primarily with and for college students to build relationships with African students and young adults (active adults who work well with students are welcome to apply).
How Much: $4,400. Money for the round-trip plane ticket and travel insurance of $2000 is due by February 15, 2019. Another $1000 is due April 1 to make other travel arrangements. The rest is due May 15. A portion of the money will pay the way for Africa students, scouts, and pastors, to join with us on our journey.
The Trip: Flying into Harare, Zimbabwe, we drive 3 hours away to Africa University (AU) in Old Mutare near the border with Mozambique. We partner with students and staff in a variety of service projects and student activities at AU. To nurture friendships between students and better get to know each others’ experiences, we stay in residence halls, eat, worship, and travel with students. Participants may also learn about, visit, and engage with several Old Mutare ministries: Fairfield Children’s Home, Hartzell School, and the Old Mutare mission clinic.
After a week around AU, we explore Zimbabwe by mini-bus with several AU students – visiting Great Zimbabwe (ancient ruins), Hwange National Park (wildlife), and Victoria Falls (one of the wonders of the world). We then take public buses through Zambia, staying at a mission station or two for a couple nights to learn about churches and their missions in Zambia.
The last half of our journey will take place in the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (in the far southern part of the country). We stay in Lubumbashi (second largest city of Congo), interacting with AU graduates and Friendly Planet Missiology friends, churches and their missions. After a few days, we team up with some FPM brothers and sisters to bicycle into the heart of rural Katanga, stopping along the way to listen deeply to stories, worship and pray, eat and stay with people of local United Methodist Churches. Once we arrive at our final destination, our bicycles will be given to a variety of church workers to further their ministries. We hope to have time left to take an excursion by boat before returning to Lubumbashi by small aircraft or land-rover.
Preparation and Follow-Up: There will be five required preparation meetings during the Spring Semester to learn about the countries, learn about impacts of different missiologies, and plan fund-raising opportunities. Virtual attendance of those not at Purdue is possible. Learning basic greetings is essential. Other background reading of history and language prep in French, Swahili, and/or Shona is encouraged. We will provide you with a journal to keep during the trip and have a final debriefing meeting after the trip. You are encouraged to speak to churches, events, and donors after your return.
Leaders: Trip leaders include many African friends including Rev. Joseph Mulongo, Director of Connectional Ministries North Katanga Conference UMC, and Rev. Dr. J. Glen Robyne, Co-Director and Campus Pastor at Wesley Foundation at Purdue. Glen has co-led four trips to this part of Africa, including bicycling with FPM in 2016, and lived at Africa University for five-months in 2006. Pastor Lana Robyne, a board member of FPM, has also co-led multiple trips to these areas. She will help with the five meetings, preparations, coordination, and assistance from the United States.
More detailed information is available upon request to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year FPM began its process of metamorphosis. When we first started this adventure nearly ten years ago, we envisioned being part skunkworks and part advocacy-resource center for healthier mission models. In other words, we wanted to wanted to persuade folks to rethink their approaches to mission, and we wanted to walk our talk by putting our ideas into practice on a larger scale than we as individuals had done before. There was a problem in those early days, however. Our assertions challenged conventional wisdom about mission projects, and our work at the time looked like just some crazy people taking long risky bike rides. Who was going to financially support or even listen to us?
Thankfully, you believed in us. Over the years, those bike tours resulted in deep and lasting boundary-crossing friendships, which then resulted in fruitful collaborations on numerous locally-led projects and programs. Many lives have been changed and even saved by FPM-financed initiatives—especially since each year the El Dorado Nursing School produces another wave of nurses and midwives, and our graduated scholarship recipients are serving in rural communities all along the Congo River in the North Katanga and Tanganyika Conferences. In July, we celebrated the grand opening of another collaborative project: the new women’s vocational training center in Mulongo, which to Teri’s surprise was named in her honor.
Now that we’ve proven the effectiveness of our missiology, it is time to re-embrace our vision of being a mission education resource center. Taylor, who just submitted her ThD thesis, Decolonizing Mission Partnerships, has a number of speaking and teaching gigs lined up this spring. Her calendar already includes teaching the Course of Study section on mission at Wesley Seminary, guest-speaking at Boston University’s Intro to Mission course, leading a workshop at The UMC’s North East Jurisdiction’s Mission Academy, and serving as a panelist at Global Ministries’ Bicentennial Conference. The manuscript to Biking Bob’s second book is currently being edited by Dr. Kate Koppy, and we plan to offer it and eventually other books for purchase in the coming years. For those who desire an immersive learning experience, Rev. Glen Robyne (Purdue U.) and Rev. Joseph Mulongo will be leading an FPM trip in summer 2019. The itinerary includes a tour of Africa U. in Zimbabwe, a visit to Victoria Falls, and a bike ride in North Katanga up to Mulongo, DR Congo. Spots are still available.
Ramping up our focus on mission education does not mean we are abandoning our collaborations and strategic fundraising assistance for FPM leaders in Congo. In fact, we are in the process of officially expanding FPM initiatives into the Tanganyika Conference, with Freddy Kitwa (based in Kalemie) as our newest official team leader. We are counting on our friends like you to help us finance this work.
As always, much of what results from your contributions to FPM cannot be quantified, but plenty of things can. Below are some of the ways we used your gifts in 2018:
Providing Full-Tuition Scholarships:
Supporting Children and Youth:
From our homes to yours, we wish you peace and joy this Christmas.
Your friends at FPM
(Taylor, Joseph, Lana, Freddy, Teri, Willy, Bishop Mande, and all the team)
by Rev. Lana Robyne, FPM Board Member
I felt incredibly blessed to join the delegation of eight clergywomen from North Katanga and Tanganyika to the African Methodist Clergywomen Leadership Development Conference* at Africa University in Zimbabwe. These clergy-sisters made sure I didn’t get lost, hungry, left behind, or separated from them at borders or bus transfers. We spent two nights on busses sharing food we’d brought and bought along the way. They helped make sure I didn’t leave behind any of my bags that I kept forgetting or misplacing. They took charge and insisted I get medical treatment when I twisted my ankle and scratched it on the bus door stepping off a bus in Lusaka, Zambia. They helped me hobble to the apothecary for medicine and made sure I kept it wrapped and elevated. One dear sister generously loaned me her pairs of sandals to replace my shoes as my ankle swelled. They made me think of all the sermons we had just heard from on abundant giving. This team of clergywomen never hesitated to freely share with each other from what few resources they had.
When we arrived at AU after several days and nights, my sisters fully claimed me and counted me as one of their delegation. They continued to include me in everything they did. I claimed them too. Even though I had many old friends to catch up with from other conferences and students at AU, I was here first as a member of this delegation.
It was quite a thrill to join in singing in several languages with over 300 clergywomen from all over the continent of Africa. On several occasions, clergy of our five Congolese episcopal areas spontaneously joined together in dancing and singing praise as people gathered in the chapel. We joined together with South Congo/Zambia to lead music for worship one day, and they insisted I join even though I was afraid I would not know the songs. I was glad they did, because I did know a couple of the songs, and enjoyed harmonizing even when I didn’t know the words. We also enjoyed joining with clergywomen from other Congolese conferences for a special banquet and dancing put on for us by the united Congolese students at AU. One special evening, each of the conference delegations processed together as they presented gifts and blessings to honor our first African woman bishop, the association’s outgoing president, Bishop Nhanala Joaquina from Mozambique.
This conference was intensively informative with much to re-translate, digest and process. We heard powerful messages by Bishop Sharma D. Lewis from Virginia Conference. After one presentation by the COSROW representative, Dawn Wiggins Hare, we debriefed the COSROW report, confirming that the survey she asked everyone to fill out was about the sexual misconduct, discrimination, and abuse of women and girls, not about homosexuality. We tried to set aside time at the end of the evenings just for “us” North Katangans in one of our rooms to process Bible studies, talks, devotions, and key-note sermons, but a few nights we simply had to get some sleep. Poor Rev. Umba was kept up even later meeting with the other presidents of each conference. As we met and listened to other women’s life stories and prayers, it was clear many clergywomen around Africa have faced many similar struggles to North Katangans, and some have survived much worse discrimination and abuses. It was emotionally exhausting, but also affirming to be united in Christ.
While the most complicated and confusing part of the conference was voting for the next quadrennium’s executive leaders for the African Clergywomen Association, it was also an important opportunity to come together to review and approve the group’s expectations of their conference and executive leaders. Some of the arguments and votes revealed how much colonialism continues to divide African women by languages, nations, and ethnic groups today, challenging the whole point of bringing African together to bond and support one another as sisters.
Communications and translation certainly was a daunting challenge between clergywomen and between language groups. It also showed us how some clergywomen also seek to gain power over others, pushing down or disparaging others, blocking the advance of other clergywomen, and controlling access to information, travel opportunities, and financial resources for conferences like this. Women are unfortunately also equal to men in being tempted to misuse their position and power just as self-serving, corrupt clergymen do. Neither are all men corrupt and self-serving.
I think the world of my North Katangan clergy-sisters. We bonded together as family. Several took turns translating for me. We grew close staying together in the residence halls, eating meals, sitting in worship together at AU. I appreciated how they fully included me as a member of our group while others regarded me as an outsider and visitor. During voting I had to step away from my group, and then I was asked to help count votes as an objective visitor.
We did not sing or dance as we dragged ourselves out of bed very early the last morning. People were ushered onto busses as soon as they came out, so we did not even get to hug each other farewell. I stayed behind for a few days at AU before flying home from Harare. It was surreal to watch them leave without me, and I wonder if they felt like they had lost one member all the way home. We had become the nine women from North Katanga, not just eight and a guest. I myself went through the next few days feeling like I had misplaced eight sisters.
My biggest regret is that we did not have more opportunity on the busses or more free time during the conference to share our stories and reflections. However, I have faith I will be back to North Katanga and Tanganyika to meet them again. In the meantime, I pray that they have plenty of opportunities to share their insights and learnings from the conference with everyone, male as well as female, young as well as old, poor as well as rich.
Even though sexual misconduct, domestic violence, and rape still plague women and girls in the United States, Americans can hardly imagine what women here face just to survive and provide for their families. I have also met many good, secure men who are proud and supportive of the accomplishments, education, spiritual gifts, and talents of their wives, daughters, and mothers.
* held July 10-14 organized and sponsored by the Association of African Clergywomen, the General Board of Higher Education, Central Conference Theological Education Fund, and COSROW.