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