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FUM Field Staff Updates – May/June 2013

Friends Theological College Update

By Ann Riggs

For quite a long time students have been able to study for pastoral ministry through their yearly meetings while living at home, but these programs have not awarded accreditation documents. Members of the Friends Theological College (FTC) Board of Governors have for some time been concerned that these local programs have been drawing students away from FTC and weakening the college’s educational endeavors. At the same time, they realize without these programs many students due to the expense of theological education or responsibilities at home would not have a chance to undertake training for ministry among Friends. As a result, board members have been meeting with Friends at Kitale Friends School of Theology, a program of Elgon East Yearly Meeting, and at Elgon Religious Society of Friends in Lugulu to plan possible solutions to these intersecting problems.

On 23 March 2013, the FTC Board considered two collaborative proposals outlining models that could possibly provide a solution.

The Lugulu model proposes that FTC personnel facilitate the certificate program of FTC at the yearly meeting offices of Elgon Religious Society of Friends in Lugulu. The model would be similar to the modular school-based program at FTC. Students would participate in a few intensive weeks of study three times a year. The yearly meeting would arrange for housing for those who do not live close enough to commute each day and for meals. A student following this model would earn a certificate from FTC in two years.

The Elgon East/Kitale model is a bit different. This school has a strong faculty and is currently conducting classes. This proposal affiliates the Elgon East program with FTC, using FTC curriculum and having examinations marked at the same time and with the same standards as the examinations at FTC in Kaimosi. This educational approach is in a trimester format, allowing students to reside at home and commute to the Elgon East campus. Participants in this program would be considered full-time students and earn their certificate in one year.

Both models seem to be promising ways to provide high quality theological education while keeping costs down and at the same time strengthening the relationships between FTC and the yearly meetings.

In each case, we hope that students who take the certificate, the lowest level of post-secondary school study in educational systems that draw on the British system of higher education, will be so excited by learning that they will continue on to take the Diploma in Theology or Bachelor’s in Theology at Kaimosi. We hope to later add the Advanced Certificate in Chaplaincy at both sites.

On a more personal note, I was recently blessed to participate in the dedication to the Lord of the infant son of an FTC staff member. Children in Kenya often are named after a person or event that marks the time of their birth. Jay Riggs is named after Jay Marshall, dean of Earlham School of Religion, and me. One can only be confident that Jay Riggs with such a distinctive name will grow up to be a scholar, an administrator or a missionary. Whatever plans the Lord has made for little Jay, I know they will be blessed ones.

Four Flat Tires Equal One Huge Blessing

By Eden Grace

Being in Kenya has allowed me to experience a great many miracles — some more unusual than others. For example, I was recently blessed by four flat tires!

I’d been noticing a slow leak in one of my rear tires for quite a few months and knew that both rear tires were overdue for replacement. The day before I was leaving to go on a trip, the tire that was slowly leaking was pancake-flat. My husband and son put on the spare, and I took the flat tire to the shop to be repaired. There, I found the tire was in such bad shape that I would have to buy a new one. I couldn’t wait to order the tire, as I needed to leave the next day. I drove away on the spare with the ruined tire bouncing around in the back.

I drove to Eldoret, left the vehicle at the airport, flew to Turkana, had a fabulous visit there, flew back to Eldoret, collected the truck and started to drive back to Kisumu. It was already dark when I left Eldoret, and I don’t normally like to drive after dark, but on that particular night I really wanted to get home to my family.

I had driven about two hours when the other rear tire burst. It was dark and raining, but I was in a market center where I knew people and I didn’t feel the least bit scared. I called the manager of a guest house we frequently use to see if he could come assist me. He said he was just ahead of me on the road and joined me in seconds. Of course, a crowd gathered (white lady with flat tire always attracts a crowd), so I had plenty of helpers. They pulled my second spare tire off the roof of the truck (where it had stayed unused for many years), struggled with the jack that didn’t seem to want to lift the truck, struggled with an elderly drunkard who wanted to “help” by standing between the flashlight and the real helpers, and finally got the spare on. They released the jack . . . and the spare hissed and crackled and lost about half its pressure, but then seemed to hold. At that moment, who should drive by but my colleague John Muhanji and Lloyd Stangeland (an Iowa Friend)! They were on their way to the very guest house whose manager I had called. It turned out Eloise Hockett (an Oregon Friend) was already there waiting for them. I had no idea they would be in this particular place that evening. Like angels, they appeared out of nowhere. We agreed that John would take my vehicle and look for a place to inflate the half-flat spare tire while I would take his vehicle and get Lloyd settled into the guest house. It made sense for me to also stay at the guest house, rather than try to make it home to Kisumu that night.

When John came back, he was driving on the rim. The spare tire had lost all its pressure, and he couldn’t find any service station open that late at night. We decided that nothing more could be done that evening, and I went to sleep, grateful for friends and community and the fact that I was never alone or afraid.

In the morning, we choose the tire that looked to be in the best condition and sent it off on the back of a motorcycle to be repaired. I got a call informing me that it couldn’t be repaired, but that they could put a tube in it as a temporary measure. I agreed to that plan, and soon the formerly-tubeless-now-tubed tire was on the car and I was ready to go. I expressed my great appreciation to the guest house staff, to John, Lloyd and Eloise, and set off. There were reports of violence in Kisumu, so I determined to take a back route over the hills to enter Kisumu from a more peaceful direction.

I got about 10 miles down the road when the tube burst. I pulled over and called my mechanic in Kisumu to ask him for a suggestion of what I should do, seeing as I had no more spares. He immediately dispatched some men with a tire to put on my truck as a temporary measure. As I waited the 45 minutes it took them to reach me, who should I see but Raymond who was driving the USFW Kakamega van full of Friends from my own home yearly meeting! I had absolutely no idea these folks were in Kenya. We had a lovely long chat, and I assured them I was fine and didn’t need any help, and they went on their way. A few moments later, John Muhanji passed me on the road. Seeing me with yet another flat tire, he just burst out laughing! What a comedy of errors! Yet everywhere I turned, my friends were popping out of the woodwork. God could not possibly have given me a stronger message that I am never alone, never without the help I need.

The men from the mechanic arrived, put their tire on my truck, and we set off in convoy (in case I got yet another flat). As we approached Kisumu, we were turned back due to rioting and had to take dirt roads around the city, but we made it safely to the mechanic’s shop. The only tires he could get on such short notice were a very high quality American brand. I paid a shocking amount for them, but the most valuable part of this whole story was not the worth-their-weight-in-gold new tires, but the total peace and lack of fear I felt through every moment. I was indeed blessed by four flat tires!