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Hope for Friends Theological College

By Robert Wafula

Some people would say that hope is simply wishful thinking; that is, hoping for something to happen without taking any action. I do not think this interpretation of hope is what the Bible implies. The definition I have found in my reading of scripture is, “confident expectation.” Romans 8:24-25 and Hebrews 11:1,7 expound further on this subject. Other sections of the Bible such as Proverbs 23:18 point to hope as a fundamental component of righteous life. It is in hope that we have life and look forward to a better tomorrow. In fact the writers of Lamentations 3:18 and Job 7:6 bluntly point out that life without hope is like a body without a heart. A lifeless body has no anticipation for tomorrow.

Friends Theological College (FTC) has a heart and has quite a bit of hope for tomorrow. It is a ministry that shapes the continuing future of African Quakers. Since its foundation at Lugulu in 1942 and subsequent relocation to Kaimosi eight years later, hundreds of servants of God have gone through its doors to effect change in the world and win a joust for Christ. I am one of many graduates (Class of 1985) who received the grounding to minister and effect change in our world.

The arrival of the 21st century has put FTC at the cusp of yet another profound change ushered in by what I can only describe as an inexorable era of technology. Within these changes, FTC has maintained its call to provide inspirational spiritual service and theological formation to the members of the Religious Society of Friends and others. Despite its success in fostering positive change, like any other institution of higher learning, FTC has had its share of struggles and challenges. These challenges include its relationship with the wider Quaker community, both in East Africa and overseas, and with the lack of sufficient funding to run the academic programs.

Friends United Meeting’s (FUM) General Secretary, Colin Saxton, graciously accepted my invitation to speak at my church (Orange Friends Church) and on February 17, 2013, he gave a presentation on FUM Ministries in Kenya. Our congregation was amazed that FUM consists of 31 yearly meetings and that Kenya is the largest constituency of Friends in the entire world. There is an estimate of 200,000 to 500,000 Friends in Kenya, with 18 yearly meetings, over 2,000 village meetings and over 1,500 Friends schools. There are two major Friends hospitals and subordinate clinics; outpost missions in Samburu and Turkana, and other outreach missions in South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It was a surprise to many within North American Evangelical Friends that other Quaker organizations such as FUM are engaged in mission work globally.

Giving to FTC by Yearly Meetings

All those institutions and ministries mentioned above look up to FTC as a reservoir of pastoral and spiritual leadership supply. However, the challenge is that not many of the 18 Kenyan yearly meetings are involved in the financial support of the FTC programs. If it is true, as Colin Saxton indicated that Kenyan Friends are the largest Quaker community in the world, then we need to translate our numerical superiority with action. I am a social scientist and arithmetic has never been my area of expertise, but working with the lowest number of 200,000, if each one of these members gave only Ksh. 1.00 per month towards FTC, there will be a total of Ksh. 200,000 ($2,500) per month. Or putting it this way, if each gave only Ksh. 12.00 annually, there would be Ksh. 2,400,000 (equivalent of $30,000). I would call this simple Friends preparatory stewardship, which would then require only lower level capital campaign.

For FTC to be an effective agent for holistic change in the state of the African Christian Church, it must be thoroughly transformed. Transforming the spiritual character, the theological behavior and the intellectual capacity of students is the work of the faculty and the administration. Transforming the infrastructure and other physical facilities, however, is the responsibility of the sponsoring Christian community: the Kenyan Friends. This discussion goads the yearly meeting presiding clerks and all other leaders with a special responsibility to develop and support FTC programs. It is an imperative that we do so with a tremendous sense of pride.

The assistance from North American Friends in financial support, theological personnel and leadership enhances unity in our partnership. We are indeed proud of this kind of partnership and appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts. However, perpetual dependency on Western giving and leadership may create a mind-set within African Friends and may smother their spirit of giving. As a gift-driven institution, FTC is always very grateful for the relationships with the supporting local and overseas Friends. There are FTC graduates serving God all over the world.

Therefore, FTC covets a strong relationship with the yearly meetings. Current students, faculty and alumni should be given a chance to play an active role in every aspect of social and theological life within the entire Quaker community. Every yearly meeting must therefore fully participate in every level of FTC’s development process. Every presiding clerk and the entire leadership should take time to pay a visit to FTC and become familiar with FTC’s condition. Such visits will instill hope and stimulate enthusiasm in the lives of students, administration and the faculty and enhance a stronger connection with the local church. To cultivate a strong relationship and better understanding of the physical need of the college, every yearly meeting should be represented on the Board of Governors. The Executive of the Board of Governors should evaluate yearly meetings’ annual financial contribution to FTC, encourage those who may be committed in their giving and re-energize those whose spirit of giving is dissipating.

Giving to FTC by the Alumni

If a record of FTC graduates were to be published, I imagine it would be a relatively long one. I propose the FTC alumni should develop a trajectory of giving to serve as an example to the flock to which we minister. Here is my proposal:

1. To supplement and renew the energy of the existing Alumni Association, I propose that a list be published and every alumnus be identified (with full contact information).
2. Establish two chapters of the Alumni Association: the Local Chapter and the Overseas Chapter.
3. Each chapter should appoint coordinators.
4. Each member should be encouraged to contribute a minimum amount of money or primarily be responsible to fundraise for his or her required annual contribution to FTC.
5. Each member should look for foundations, corporations and individuals in both local and overseas communities for endowment.
6. Face-to-face and virtual annual meetings and frequent communication between members in both chapters to be maintained.
7. Co-coordinators of both chapters should evaluate the level of alumni giving and develop further fundraiser strategies annually.

Giving back to what others have given in you in terms of the spiritual and theological reform, mentoring, support in difficult times, relationships and inspiration is a virtue not a vice. Remember, someone invested in you and influenced you to move on. It is now your time to invest in the next generation at the FTC to influence a new paradigm of hope for the future.

Robert J. Wafula currently teaches Comparative Religions, Anthropology and Cultural Diversity at Columbus State College and Central Ohio Technical College, Ohio. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Malone University, and coordinator of Global Missions at Orange Friends Church, Ohio. Wafula is a graduate of Friends Theological College (FTC), St. Paul’s University, Earlham School of Religion (ESR) and Ohio University.