We are joyous to announce that Biking Bob's final book, Pastors, Chiefs, and Warlords, is now available for purchase in hardcover, paperback, eBook, and Kindle formats! Order today from your local bookseller or online.
As many of you know, Bob was working on the manuscript of this book at the time of his unexpected death. Our dear friend Dr. Kate Koppy (lead editor on The Last Missionary) has used her storytelling expertise to further develop what he had written, filling in gaps with portions of Bob's handwritten journals as well as interviews with Rev. Joseph Mulongo, Rev. Jacky Mwayuma, and seminarian Shabana Banza. The final result is a powerfully-told story and a moving meditation.
If you, your congregation, or book club would like to host an online gathering with me, Kate, Joseph, Jacky, or Shabana, please don't hesitate to be in touch. For those living in/near Indiana, Joseph is available to physically travel to your event.
Pastors, Chiefs, and Warlords: The Ministry of being With
Written as of series of reflections, this book is a conversation-shifting exploration of how the church understands the role of missionaries and their work. On bicycle and riverboat journeys totaling more than 2,000 kilometers, Bob's team visits pastors, chiefs, and warlords in remote towns, including Rev. Jacky Mwayuma, who was appointed to serve a community that had been ravaged by the recent war. As readers are pulled deeper into this voyage, they are invited to wrestle with increasingly challenging questions about the mission of the church, the global economy, neocolonialism, savior complexes, racism, war, and justice. This book follows The Last Missionary, but it also stands on its own as a complete work.
Copies can be ordered via Wipf and Stock or your local bookseller. (Book launch: May 2022)
Praise for this book:
"I urge all members of Christ's body to engage in dialogue with Bob's personal accounts to deepen their understanding of God's mission, especially when called to serve in challenging areas such as the North Katanga area in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."
-MANDE MUYOMBO, resident bishop, North Katanga Area of the United Methodist Church, Democratic Republic of the Congo
"People like Bob Walters are the reason I remain a Christian. His thoughtfulness, his love for the powerless end poor, his enduring wisdom, are still very much present even after his passing. This book, like Bob, is a rich treasure."
-PHILIP GULLEY, author of If the Church Were Christian
"Bob Walters's singular understanding of the changing dynamics of Christian missions and the inherent self-sufficiency of local communities should be read and studied by missiologists and Christian leaders the world over. His use of reflective observations told through the narrative of his engagements with the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo carry the reader along on the 'adventure' while helping us see the missteps of the past and the potential for the future."
-J. RICHARD ELLIS, John Brown University, emeritus
"This post-humorous publication of Bob Walters gives a disturbing and yet
hope-giving picture of village life and the entanglement between mission, war, development, and dependency. It reveals careful observation, deep listening, and an honest (self) critique of coloniality and white racism. It shows a way beyond stereotypes about Africans, missionaries, and Christianity, stimulating a serious rethinking of mission, development, and church leadership."
-JNJ KRITZINGER, University of South Africa, emeritus
Another emotion-filled year has passed, and we begin 2022 with hope for the future.
Throughout the challenges created by the pandemic, FPM has strived to be faithful to our friends across the globe. We give thanks to everyone who has supported this effort by contributing their time, talents, and/or financial resources. Below are some of the tangible manifestations of these friendships.
This past year we celebrated the official full completion and dedication of Milltown church in Kabimba (Tanganyika Conference), made significant headway on the construction of the new church being built next to the nursing school in Mulongo (the community has named it Bob Walters Memorial), and began work on the foundations for a dormitory for women nursing students, who face extra challenges finding safe and affordable lodgings during their studies.
The FPM scholarship fund, while regrettably smaller this year, awarded a number of university scholarships to scouts, female nursing students, clergy, and orphaned youth. The program has been so successful at increasing the number of women nurses in the region that the growth in female applicants has far outpaced the number of scholarships currently available. Speaking of the nursing school, it received a government inspection in 2021 and was praised for being one of best organized and well-built schools in the entire province! You can learn more about the school’s history at this link.
Thanks to an outpouring of financial support, our old boat, The Indiana, which was destroyed in a storm, was replaced in early 2021 with a new and much larger boat, which was immediately put to use transporting delegates to district and conference gatherings, hauling construction supplies to congregations in the Mwanza districts, and taking life-saving medicines to villages unreachable by truck during the cholera outbreak.
We also remain in regular communication with the youth at the UMC children’s home in Kamina. No longer children, these youth and young adults are attending community colleges and vocational schools, with an increasing number transitioning into independent living. FPM continues to help pay their exams fees and purchase laptops and other equipment, such as carpentry tools and sewing machines, for their studies. We are delighted to have FPM board member Rev. Daniel Mumba there in Kamina keeping tabs on them and celebrate that I (Taylor) as well as Kelly (who spent much of her childhood at the home) were both able to spend time reconnecting with the youth over the summer. It will be bittersweet when a few years from now the last of the youth will leave the nest and the structures at the home—which was created during the war—will be repurposed for other ministries.
Much has also happened in the FPM family these past twelve months. Below are some of the highlights.
Our program director Rev. Joseph Mulongo has had the daunting responsibility of overseeing the FPM funded initiatives whilst serving as the Director of Connectional Ministries for the North Katanga Episcopal Area and making tough decisions in his role on the UMC’s General Conference planning commission. If all goes to plan, he will be moving to Indiana later this month, hosted by and serving at the UMC’s Franklin Grace congregation while being a fulltime student at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. Once he gets settled, he would be happy to speak at gatherings about the work of church leaders in the North Katanga and Tanganyika Conferences.
Rev. Daniel Mumba, who has long been part of the FPM family, officially joined the board of directors and will be taking over a number of Joseph’s responsibilities. You’ll learn more about Mumba when you read Bob’s book, Pastors, Chiefs, and Warlords: The Ministry of Being With.
Our board member Rev. Lana Robyne took a leap of faith and spent most of the year volunteering in DR Congo, with Kalemie as her home base. She would be happy to speak via video chat (or, when possible, in person) with your congregation about what she has learned and the initiatives you can support. She would especially like to talk about the efforts being made to give clergy in the Tanganyika Conference access to additional training, since many have not had the opportunity to complete a full seminary program.
As for me, I had the wonderful surprise of being recruited to teach online at two different graduate schools in 2021. At the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, I have been filling in during Dr. Joon-Sik Park’s sabbatical, teaching their courses on mission and evangelism. At Bakke Graduate University, a school focused on equipping Christian leaders called to work in marginalized urban contexts, I am coaching graduate and doctoral students as they craft proposals for research that can spark transformation in their ministry settings. This has been in addition to serving as program coordinator of the Osijek Doctoral Colloquium, which is hosted by the Central and Eastern European Association of Mission Studies, and my support role on Bishop Mande’s administrative team. While none of these are officially FPM-branded activities, they are synergistic with our core goal of transforming understandings of mission and building a network of game-changing missiologists.
2021 ended with much-anticipated good news: the manuscript that our co-founder “Biking Bob” Walters had nearly completed at his unexpected passing—a sequel to The Last Missionary--has been selected for publication by Wipf and Stock and is heading to the copy editor and typesetter this month. A huge thanks goes to Dr. Kate Koppy for all her work in turning what Bob left behind into a moving meditation that we are certain you will find both challenging and encouraging.
What will 2022 bring? There are so many things we cannot predict, but one thing we are certain about is that being a good friend to those who feel forgotten and those who are healers, peacemakers, and dreamers is never a foolish investment of our time or money.
Much Love and Happy New Year,
Taylor and the entire Friendly Planet family
I am a volunteer missionary and United Methodist pastor appointed to the Tanganyika Conference in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This is a conference in the eastern part of the DRC that has faced great difficulties recovering from horrific war earlier in this century as well as ongoing conflicts, disease and poorly equipped medical centers, limited/interrupted access to schools, and food insecurity. Today is my one-year anniversary of being here! I've spent this past year building relationships and making plans with church leaders. I am writing to share some of our initiatives and ask for your prayers and financial support.
Clergy Training Initiative
Our biggest goal for this next year is to organize training opportunities for pastors serving the Tanganyika Conference. Most of these pastors are paid $10/month or less. This means they do not have enough money to send their kids to school, buy a phone, or travel. Very few have had the opportunity to go to seminary or complete a formal theological and pastoral training program. If they are able to raise the money or get a scholarship to go to seminary, they must relocate to another conference or even another country for their studies.
Each year, either before or after annual conference, there are a few days set aside for workshops and seminars for our pastors. This is not enough. The bishop, the leadership of Tanganyika Conference, and I have a dream to develop a program for more significant pastor training with deeper theological education. We will start this year with a month of classes which will hopefully quickly expand into a 3-year institution or even an accredited seminary and university one day.
The leaders of this conference are anxious to start developing a program with what they have. They have church buildings where classes can take place. There are many pastors excited for training. We have educated and experienced pastors willing to volunteer some time for teaching and training for a stipend the first year. The teachers would at least need some support for their travel, food, and teaching materials. In addition, we will need money for transport, lodging, and food for students. Ideally, we will be able to provide a Bible, notebooks, some books and print-outs, and pens to the students. We may not be able to fund year-round classes for three years at this point, but even a month of classes would be a huge improvement.
Initiatives to Support
As Thanksgiving and Advent approach, I invite you and your congregation to pray for and financially assist the Tanganyika Annual Conference via its partnership with Friendly Planet Missiology.
1) Clergy Training Initiative:
a. 10 instructors’ stipends: $200 each = $2,000
b. 30 students food and lodging stipend - $200 each = $6,000
c. 40 teachers/students class materials - $50 each = $2000
d. The goal for funding in 2022 is $10,000.
2) Friendly Planet Missiology Center in Kalemie, DRC.
This soon-to-open center will provide a ministry space to house women-led projects, art programs for children, technology training for youth, and Bible studies.
a. $400/month for rent
b. $100/month for utilities
c. $150/month for internet
d. $150/month for supplies and programming.
3) Mulongo Nursing School Scholarships for Women from Tanganyika
$300 for tuition/fees plus $250 living stipend per year per student
4) Farming initiative in Manono, DRC.
Farming will fight food insecurity, provide jobs, and help feed the delegates at our next Annual Conference to be held in Manono in June. Any proceeds from the harvest will be re-invested in farming and agriculture education.
Estimated cost: $1000 per season
5) Sponsor a Volunteer Missionary
$1000/month would help cover my travel and living expenses and make it possible for me to remain in Congo longterm.
How to support these ministries:
2) Stay in touch. You can reach me on WhatsApp. +1 765-586-0124
3) Donate with a check. This is old-fashioned but still the most cost-effective way to donate. Send it to FPM, attn. Teri Walters, 102 E Main St., Plainfield, IN.
4) Send a donation to FPM through a UMC congregation in the Indiana Conference. The congregation will get credit, although it may take longer to reach FPM's account.
5) Donate to FPM online through Venmo, Zelle, and PayPal. We find Venmo and Zelle are the most cost-effective and easiest for people who want to give on-line and give monthly.
6) Facebook fundraiser. Donations through Facebook are also tax-exempt and especially nice on special days like Giving Tuesday and birthday fundraisers.
We know money is especially tight these days, and people are exhausted from COVID. However, we have faith we can find enough generous donors to help us get started. We pray that you and your church or conference will be one of those donors and supporters.
In God’s grace,
Rev. Lana J. Robyne
Volunteer Missionary, Tanganyika Annual Conference in DRC
The global pandemic of 2020 impacted us all in ways small and large. Many of us lost loved ones and/or our own health. Even for those spared the direct hit of the virus, we found our long-planned trips and gatherings canceled, took financial hits, and were once again reminded of the world’s interconnectedness and the unjust inequalities in it.
Throughout this crisis, FPM leaders remained faithful to the friendships we have nurtured for well over a decade by doing what we have done from the beginning—prioritizing listening to and encouraging one another and being highly strategic about how we use our financial resources to maximize their impact.
January 2020, which feels like a lifetime away, started out with an infusion of fresh energy and ambitious goals as three new dynamic leaders joined FPM’s Board of Directors: Freddy Kitwa (in charge of coordinating FPM projects in the Tanganyika Conference), Kenny Smallhorn (FPM/Purdue bike tour alumnus), and Rev. Jacqueline Mwayuma (yes, the very same Mama Jackie who Bob Walters sets out to visit in The Last Missionary and finally reaches in the book’s sequel, which we promise really is nearly ready for publication).
In February, FPM secretary Rev. Lana Robyne was busy packing her bags preparing for her new life serving in a fulltime appointment in the United Methodist Church’s Tanganyika Conference. She had scheduled a brief stop in Slovenia to visit yours truly on her way down. When the airports suddenly closed, Lana became our extended pandemic houseguest, giving us over three months to deepen our friendship and reflect together on what mission God was calling her into in Tanganyika. Lana is now finally in Kalemie and is already in conversation with conference leaders and FPM members on the ground about how her gifts can best be used to strengthen ministries there.
In August, we celebrated the publication of Decolonizing Mission Partnerships in the American Society of Missiology’s monograph series. This doctoral thesis is the second published book on missiology that is the fruit of the work of FPM.
In October, we shared with our Facebook followers that our beloved riverboat, The Indiana, had been destroyed in a storm. Thanks to a generous outpouring of contributions, we were able to raise enough to begin to build a new and larger boat to continue this vital transportation ministry. We hope to have it registered and in use in early 2021.
As always, FPM has continued to provide merit-based and financial-need scholarships thanks to designated and undesignated gifts from friends like you. This year’s scholarship recipients included women studying at the nursing school in Mulongo and orphaned youth raised at the UMC’s home in Kamina. We also provided laptops to two clergy who had to take all their first semester courses at Africa University online due to the shutdown.
While pandemic movement restrictions temporarily halted construction efforts in DR Congo, much progress was made on a number of FPM supported new builds and renovations. A photo album created by Freddy shows the highlights of this work in Tanganyika , and Lana’s report on her recent visit to Kabimba provides an inspiring narrative of how a growing congregation in Tanganyika was able to build a larger and sturdier sanctuary thanks to the final bequeath of a dying congregation in Indiana.
As we say goodbye to 2020, we pray that the lessons we have learned from it will lead us into a better 2021 and beyond.
Wishing you good health and deep friendships,
Since pictures can speak louder than words, FPM board member and Tanganyika Conference liaison Freddy Kitwa has created a photo album of FPM supported construction projects in Tanganyika 2019-2020 (note: Funding for these projects came from multiple local and connectional sources. FPM's strives to step in with grants and other support when local leadership just needs one last boost to reach their goal)
In February 2019 FPM received an e-mail from Lary Cropper, pastor of Hancock Chapel/Milltown, a small two-point charge in rural Indiana. Lary described with love and sadness the hard decision they were making. Hancock Chapel, which had outhouses and no running water, had a wonderful spirit among the people, but they were entering the last chapter of their life here on earth. Milltown had been booming 75 years ago, but now they too were facing dwindling numbers in a community that was rapidly becoming a ghost town. The church was down to 23 members and less than 10 attending. Lary and Superintendent Gary Schaar were in conversation with the remaining members on deciding to have a final service later that year and sending a significant amount of their remaining financial assets--and paraments-- to DR Congo, where Milltown's legacy could live on through the support of a sister congregation there.
FPM asked the leaders of the Tanganyika Conference to strategically select one of their many congregations that was striving to build a sanctuary that could withstand the storms of the rainy season. Long story short, construction began in June 2019 on a new sanctuary for the UMC in Kabimba, and in December 2020 Rev. Lana Robyne personally delivered Milltown's paraments to Kabimba's congregation.
Here is a portion of Lana's report:
My host, Banze and Pastor Eric Kalumba, Director of Development for the Tanganyika Conference, planned to accompany me to Kabimba. On Tuesday right before Christmas we met to leave at 6 am. When Banze called to let them know we were on our way, they warned us that the road was too difficult even for the Land Cruiser. It looked like it would be a sunny day, so we decided to go on motorcycles. I could ride behind Banze, and we hired a second driver to transport Pastor Eric and transport my heavy Milltown bag. We headed out of town at 7:30 am after getting fuel and a few tune-ups on the motorcycles. It was indeed a terrible, hard, long road over a mountain.
A new road is in the works between Kalemie and Kabimba. Currently, though, it runs out of pavement before leaving Kalemie. For several kilometers past Kalemie, the fairly wide, graded, sandy road goes just past a brand new football (soccer) stadium. It runs between beautiful luscious green fields of well-irrigated rice, cassava, and corn with the help of NGOs. After about 30-40 minutes, the road starts climbing steeply up a mountain. The high mountainous road narrows into alternately sandy or rocky paths, winding high above an island-speckled bay for 7 kilometers. Occasionally mountain streams tumble across, leaving slick deep mud and puddles.
Just when I thought I couldn’t stay astride any longer, we came around a bend where we were met by a crowd of United Methodists ready to welcome to us. We had arrived at the outskirts of Kabimba after almost three hours of grueling travel. I struggled to dismount the motorcycle as gracefully as I could with very stiff, cramped, shaky legs and sore back. But overall, I was grinning and incredibly elated to see these brothers and sisters in Christ! . . .
The current sanctuary and parsonage teeter on a steep, rocky hill overlooking the city. The path up was very treacherous, especially with my shaky legs. When I stumbled, everyone tried to help me, making it even harder. I cannot imagine how people reach church or leave when it is raining and wet. Worship services can last around three hours here, in which time a bright, clear morning can turn quite rainy.
We entered their current building and worshiped together until noon. Multiple choirs of children, youth, men, and women sang beautiful songs. Finally, the D.S. stood to tell the story of me coming to be missionary in their conference. Then I told them about Milltown UMC in Indiana . . . I told about Milltown finally taking down the cross and the paraments to send to the Congo. I pulled out the well-travelled bag from my backpack . . . Congregants gasped and ululated with joy as I pulled out the beautiful shiny altar cross. Then one by one, I pulled out the paraments. I wasn’t sure how much they observe the colors and symbols of the church season, but with so many young children there, I took the opportunity to explain the significance of each. . .
Then DS invited me up to the parsonage perched above the church. She explained that it was being built while she was at General Conference in 2019, and during those weeks she was gone it was destroyed three times by rains. It is a simple three room house in which they live with the youngest and oldest of their children while the others are in boarding school. I asked about housing for the other pastor, superintendent of the United Methodist schools. She said he and his family live with them in their house. He and his wife have six children.
We made our way carefully down the steep path and walked through town to the new church building. It is on a wide, flat, grassy expanse in front of the United Methodist schools. It is about three or four times larger, twice as tall, bright with many glass windows, a cross shape in the concrete floor, a raised altar area, and two offices in back. Much has been accomplished with the money Milltown UMC gave them. It is not open yet though. There are neat piles of rock and sand inside awaiting the next steps. They have yet to buy tiles for the floor. They want to buy new plastic chairs. They plan to finish the front veranda and put up a bell-tower/steeple. They estimate they need an additional $5,000 to finish these.
Beyond completing the building, I asked what visions they have for the church. The lay leader wants to invest in a boat to help them more easily transport people and goods between Kalemie and Kabimba and raise money for the church. The Kipendano UMW president, Fatuma, said the women want to build a guest house next to it. The youth want to cultivate some of the land and sell sodas to raise money for their ministries. They want to buy new modern musical instruments for a praise band. We concluded with a prayer and another song. Their music billowed high in the rafters and echoed on the tin roof. I look forward to the official opening of this church and the cross and altar cloths coming to their final blessing place! It will be a glorious day.
Before we dismissed, there was one last presentation. They dragged forward a very belligerent, bucking young billy goat, yes, into the new sanctuary. I thought this might be symbolic too, but, no, they actually gave it to me and wanted me to take him home. Pastor Eric suggested I pay our motorcycle driver extra to carry it back, and he agreed . . .
We left again at 1:45 and reached home [Kalemie] around 4:45 pm. I had to stop for more stretch breaks on the way back. We were all exhausted, sore, and very relieved to finally get home, including and most especially the goat. Overall, though, I am very happy that we made the journey, and that the cross and cloths are finally in their new home.
To read Lana's full story of the journey from Milltown, Indiana to Kabimba, DR Congo, download her report by clicking on the file image below.
Back in October, we shared with you that our beloved riverboat, The Indiana, had been damaged beyond repair in a storm and that we raising funds to replace it. Thanks to an outpouring of generosity, we surpassed our fundraising goal, and the new larger boat is nearly complete. We pray this one will spend many years transporting vital medicines and supplies, and safely and rapidly getting people where they need to go--be it to a hospital, a seminar, or a new clergy appointment.
Back in April, we announced that FPM board member, the Rev. Lana Robyne, was becoming a full-time missiologist based in Kalemie, DR Congo. After months of travel/visa delays due to the global pandemic shutdown, Lana has finally reached her new home in Kalemie, DR Congo and begun her full-time appointment in the Tanganyika Conference. Bishop Mande has tasked Lana with the work of developing and directing mission evaluation and discernment initiatives focused on and with the conference. She will be encouraging and equipping church leaders and connecting them to people and resources (e.g., specialized training, grant opportunities, etc.) that can help sustain and strengthen them in their varied ministries. She along with Rev. Mwayuma will also be FPM's new official liaisons for the Tanganyika Conference (FPM board member Freddy Kitwa is out of the country until late 2021).
Since, as with nearly all UMC appointments in Tanganyika, Lana's new job does not come with a salary, FPM is partnering with the Tanganyika Conference by serving as a reliable (and tax deductible in the USA) way for anyone wishing to financially support Lana's work to do so. To contribute to Lana's living stipend fund, use any of the listed options on our donation page and be sure note in either in the memo line or with an email to our treasurer (email@example.com) that the funds are to support Lana.
Rev. Lana posts regular updates from her personal Facebook page. We will occasionally feature her reports on this blog.
Great News! FPM co-founder, the Rev. Dr. "Biking Bob" Walters' book, The Last Missionary, has joined the Wipf and Stock Publishers' family in its reprint division. Copies can now be ordered directly through Wipf and Stock
About The Last Missionary
The Last Missionary is a bicycle adventure story set in remote districts in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Bob Walters travels with a team of Congolese colleagues discovering the state of the villages run over by the Pan-African war that devastated the region’s people through the terror of rape and the killing of millions.
Along the way, Bob offers the reader a number of short tutorials and reflections on missiology, the study of mission systems. He ponders patronage and cargo cults, and asks the question, “Is Jesus the answer?” But this is not an answer book, it is a book in search of better questions.
The Last Missionary is a challenge to both evangelicals and progressives in the church, missionaries and mission volunteers, and even non-religious aid workers.
FPM is proud to announce that the doctoral thesis of FPM's head of missiological training, the Rev. Dr. Taylor Denyer, has been published in the American Society of Missiology's monograph series. This work, Decolonizing Mission Partnerships, looks deeply at the evolving relational dynamics between United Methodists in North Katanga and the USA and sets up a multifaceted conceptual framework through which one can analyze other missional collaborations in postcolonial contexts.
The Rev. Dr. Mande Muyombo, United Methodist Bishop over the North Katanga Episcopal Area, writes "Decolonizing Mission Partnerships is a book that should lead us into redefining what it means to be a church engaged in God's mission. Structures and systems that support mission are called to reevaluate themselves through the lenses of the perspective and experiences that Rev. Denyer presents to us. I appeal local churches to reflect on the book."
Printed copies can be ordered directly via Wipf and Stock (for the publisher's discounted price) or from a number of major booksellers. For those on a budget, there is a Kindle version for just $10.