Reconciliation and Renewal
The month of February 2019 began on a high note in which we received Friends, the Friends United Meeting (FUM) staff who traveled from the freezing temperatures of the United States to the scorching hot temperatures of Kenya. These were Kelly Kellum, FUM General Secretary, and Eden Grace, the Director of Global Ministries.
We had a staff meeting in our FUM Guest House in Kisumu on February 1. We encouraged, supported and lifted each other’s spirits as we shared our stories, testimonies, successes, and challenges of the FUM ministries in our respective areas of concentration. Eden shared some concepts from a book written by Everlyn & Richard Hibbert (2014) called Leading Multicultural Teams, about characteristics of multicultural groups and stages of development. These concepts included Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing and made each one of us do a reflection on when we began doing ministry to where we are now in our respective areas of concentration. I reflected on when I entered the FTC campus as the new principal in a stage of Forming, I experienced a feeling of a honeymoon stage. Then I progressed into Storming where I witnessed moments of conflict from among members of staff who expected things to change instantly in the first month of my arrival on the job. After 6 months things began to normalize as I felt a sense of acceptance from among the staff and the Kaimosi community. Now after my first four years of contract, the atmosphere at FTC has changed and moved into that of performing. Currently, everyone’s spirit is in a synergistic, and effective mode.
Kelly also led a session based on a book called Culture Mapping by Erin Meyer where he shared with us the cultural characteristics of our leadership that are based on communicating, evaluating, leading, deciding, trusting, and disagreeing. We compared our Kenyan and North American cultures and how members of these cultures operate within these concepts. Some of us were surprised to learn that our Kenyan and American cultures don’t align on any of these characteristics and the discussion gave us some tools for working better together.
Friends Leaders Conference and FUM-Africa Board
For me, the climax of the month of February was the Yearly Meetings’ Leaders conference that was held at Bishop Stam Pastoral Center from February 5-7, 2019. This conference drew representatives from among the Young Friends Program, USFW, Quakermen, and Main of all yearly meetings in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Also attending the conference were the FUM staff who included John Muhanji as the convener, Kelly Kellum, Eden Grace, Katrina and Shawn McConaughey, Catherine Gunza, Ken Saina and myself. The FUM Clerk and Vice Clerk, Ron Bryan and Richard Sitati respectively were also in attendance. They later presided over sessions.
The conference’s central focus was on the history, original vision and current vision for East African Friends. Several Friends who included Jacob Neyole, Zablon Malenge, and Ephraim Konzolo were invited to share their hearts out on what could have gone wrong to get us to where we are now. Tears were shed, emotions were expressed, and feelings were felt from within the gathering, especially during the plenary session, intercession, and reflection on Peace within our yearly meetings. My session came in the morning of the last day where I presented my proposal that can be interpreted as a total overhaul and reconstruction of the Friends Church in Africa. Some of my proposals were accepted as resolutions to be worked upon. The leaders at the conference also passed a resolution to constitute what came to be known as “Reconstruction and Rewiring Commission of the Friends Church in Africa.” The commission will meet with each yearly meeting in regional gatherings between the months of March to July just before the annual sessions begin in August 2019. I will keep you posted on the progress in this respect through my newsletter.
Friends at the conference were entertained with a musical interlude by a section of the FTC students on Wednesday afternoon. After I introduced students to the gathering, I was happy especially when I overheard someone say this is indeed a representation of the Friends Church in Africa because students were drawn from different Friends meetings in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda. I did emphasize the fact that even if Friends are divided among yearly meetings for various reasons, FTC will remain a neutral ground. It is my wish that FTC remains a cradle of peace and a light to all Friends meetings in Africa and beyond.
The Leaders’ conference ended with Lunch on February 7 but people only switched their minds to the FUM-Africa board meeting that was presided over by the Clerk, Ron Bryan. Several resolutions were passed. We gathered around and pronounced a blessing to Friends, Dorcas and Nicholas Otieno who have responded to God’s call to go to Tanzania as Kenyan Living Letters missionaries. Friends also extended another blessing to Job Bikokwa (Isaiah Bikokwa’s son) in his recent appointment as new Executive Secretary of FWCC-Africa Section.
On Wednesday, February 13, the FTC community was blessed to have Eden, Shawn and Katrina come to campus and share their testimony about what they do as missionaries among Friends in East Africa. In my introduction at first when I said, “We are glad to have Katrina and Shawn come and share with us about their engagement in East Africa,” some students in the audience expected to hear how Shawn proposed to Katrina in East Africa. Hahaha! However, some students were surprised to hear Katrina say she does not cherish Ugali (cornmeal mash) because they have never imagined anyone not liking ugali, woooow! Shawn went ahead to say something in the passing about their engagement anyway. Eden walked us through her 9 years stay and work among Kenyan Friends, and now coming back frequently to check on the FUM projects in her capacity as Director of Global Ministries. Students were equally shocked when they heard me say, when God calls you with a mission to a certain place, God will do it whether you like it not. And God can change your heart along the way. I gave an example of Eden when she came to Kenya for the first time in August 1991 for the FWCC Triennial accompanied by her husband James. They were newly married and still on their honeymoon. Those who have been in Kenya know that August is normally a very wet season. Chavakali High School grounds were so slick with ankle high mud. The triennial planning committee was compelled to form a “Mud Committee” to manage mud in addition to another crisis, lack of water! Rain, rain, rain everywhere, but there was no running water for barely anything. I concluded by saying, despite Eden and James’ marriage receiving a “matrimonial baptism in the African mud,” the two still fell in love with Africa.
Dr. Robert J. Wafula
Tel. +254 734 728564
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Praises and Prayer
- We thank God for the safe travel of the FUM staff back to the US.
- Please pray for Stephen Mundalo, chair of the FTC Board of Management who is in Washington D.C. since December 2018 attending an intensive course in Bible. He is scheduled to travel back to Kenya sometime in early March 2019.
- Please pray for me and the Academic Dean, Rodgers Wekesi as we travel to Nairobi for an International Program for Academic Leadership (IPAL) organized by the Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA). It will run from February 26 – March 1, 2019.