The event was hosted at Calvary UMC, Brownsburg, where Todd Outcalt is the pastor. Lana Robyne, of the Purdue Wesley Foundation, was the chauffeur/tour guide. We gathered with Teri Walters and various members of Calvary UMC for a breakfast meeting.
Pastor Mumba asked after Baba Fred (now in Camden Michigan) and Mama Nikki (now Doctor Nikki, I was happy to tell him). Everyone present knew the late Bob Walters (Teri's husband), or at least knew of him. He was one of the great connectors of ministry between Indiana and Congo. That said, he wasn't the first: Methodist missions in Congo date back to c. 1890, and lots of midwestern boys and girls went off with the trumpets of glory ringing in their ears at the call to serve. An awful lot of them died within six months of their landing in Congo, too, from one tropical disease or another. Anyway, lots of Indiana churches have kept up with African missions one place or another.
Joseph brought us all up to date on happenings in the Congo. He has been in the midst of the peace-making between the Bantu peoples and the Pygmies, an important work of the church. Wars and rumors of wars are still prominent in the country, but the building of churches and nursing centers and schools and the digging of wells go on, aided by friends in the US. We also assist with Bibles and bicycles for pastors. And, of course, our UM Scouters help with Scouting ministry in the North Katanga Area. We funded a double-jamboree in Bob Walters' memory last year. We gather up and transmit scholarship funds for Scouts to attend college. We've sent uniforms and other stuff. Joseph acknowledged all these ministries and thanked everyone for their part in them.
Relationships mean a great deal to Africans. Once you establish one, you need to keep it up. Brownsburg was about as close as this group would get to me on this trip, so I bestirred myself to go. So often, I can't go. Common experience: I have more than once found myself standing around somewhere in Congo or Tanzania, and a local church leader will say, "I'm coming to America next fall; could you look me up?" I'll ask where they're heading in the US. "Houston," they reply, or someplace equally far from Indiana. This makes me sorry to disappoint them, and more determined not to leave them, ungreeted, when they're within a reasonable distance from me. And it also means that I continue to advocate for their causes, and explain their situation to others, and make some room in my missions giving for the things I can do that might help.
Several folks from around the country who don't know any of the African delegates asked me to thank them for their service at General Conference. I did so. Nobody, however, talked church politics at this event. I gave them all copies of My Lord Knows the Way Through the Wilderness, which we handed out at our last Conference Scouting Retreat.
And then it was time to go. Godspeed!