Many Friends in Kenya dream of becoming a church that sends missionaries to other tribes, tongues, and nations. In fact, Kenyan Friends have already gone out in missions other people groups within Kenya, like the Turkana, Samburu, and Maasai people. Kenyan missionaries are right now serving in neighboring Tanzania. Faithful Kenyan women called by God make regular journeys to Uganda to encourage and build up the church. Kenyan Friends, through affiliation with Friends United Meeting, have also sent a missionary to Belize, a Caribbean nation. Additionally, Principal Robert Wafula of Friends Theological College raises financial support for his ministry at FTC. There are other Friends serving in missions, as well.
Yet in many cases, these efforts have not been fully supported by Kenyan Friends. Friends in the West have underwritten the lion’s share of the financial contributions required for new missions by African Friends.
Some Kenyan Quakers observe that while many Friends are quite generous in their giving, the larger church has not understood what it looks like to be an ongoing supporter of mission efforts. Communication struggles and broken relationships among more than twenty Yearly Meetings have made joint efforts difficult. Yet many Yearly Meetings are unable to support a missions program on their own, without combining efforts and giving.
For these reasons, members of the FUM Africa Ministries Office (AMO) have begun to look for ways to encourage Friends to come together to support missions. A new FUM-AMO missions committee has been formed to help give structure to mission sending. In addition, some of the AMO’s unifying efforts have grown more mature as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To learn more about Kenyans and giving, AMO Programme Officer Shawn McConaughey has been interviewing Kenyan Friends who’ve become increasingly involved in donating to sustaining FUM mission projects in Africa and across the FUM community. We publish below some of his first interviews.
Edgar Ala is a young adult Friend who is passionate about the financial sustainability of Friends missions. As one of the key leaders of the Quaker Investment Company (a for-profit subsidiary of Nairobi Yearly Meeting), Edgar is committed to mobilizing an entrepreneurial mentality to underwrite the cost of ministry.
I learnt about giving from my involvement in one particular mission that required we give regularly to ensure that the mission is established. My personal involvement there was the experience that taught me the need for consistency in giving. Although I have also received regular teaching from pastors on giving to ministry.
I consider giving as one of the forms of worship. Giving strengthens my faith as I realize that I have received much from God and my faithful response is to give also.
There are two challenges in giving faithfully to the work of ministry. Sometimes the desire to give is there but is limited by the resources available. And sometimes those raising money for various causes do not articulate the need clearly or account for monies collected.
But it is important to give as we recognize God’s grace at work in our lives. And for proper planning, regular giving is good both for the giver and the receiver.
Joy Kelemba was appointed as Recording Clerk of the FUM General Board in 2011, and served two three-year terms in that office. As a result of her service as an officer of FUM, she came to understand the breadth and depth of the donor base of missions support in North America, and felt moved to set an example that African Friends can also participate in missions giving. She has been a generous and faithful donor to FUM's ministries in both Africa and Belize since 2011.
The Friends catechism class we took in our church taught me about giving faithfully. My parents also taught us about giving. When I began to learn about the programs of FUM, I discovered the need for supporting missions. In addition to my local Meeting and Yearly Meeting, through FUM I have been able to help support Belize, Uganda, Tanzania, Turkana, Samburu, FTC, Lugulu, and Cuba.
I feel that financial giving enhances a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a way of undertaking corporate social responsibility.
Although it can be challenging when feeling the need to do more giving, but resources are limited.
I would encourage others to give by encouraging them to do the will of God—and giving is one of God’s commandments. It enhances spiritual growth and a sense of fulfillment in adhering to the covenant of God.
Rev. Dr. Oliver Kisaka has taught about giving several times within Nairobi Monthly Meeting. He is the author of the book, The Grace of Giving. His teaching on giving has helped some people to change their lives.
Miriam Were is an internationally-known leader in the field of public health, and a life-long Quaker who is enthusiastic about missions. She recently learned that, through the FUM Africa Ministries Office, she can contribute toward the global mission work of Friends and FUM will take care of the currency conversion and international funds transfers. After learning that she could donate through FUM, she wrote in an email to us that, “I have wanted to support mission work for years but the devil held me back because I did not know the ‘how’ of making a contribution in Kenya shillings!
The first generation of Friends, to which my parents belonged, talked to us about the importance of giving. They linked it to a traditional saying that those with closed fists don't provide room for receiving. They told us even God has no way to give blessings to those with closed fists! They let us know giving and receiving was the way to live well. They likened giving to opening one's fist for blessings from elders. So we grew up giving offerings, then, the annual registration fee. Tithing came to me much later.
By the time I began to earn a salary, I knew about tithing. I understood it as one of the key features of our relationship with God. But because of the many needs in our communities, I thought if I paid a child's school fees, it was like tithing. Then through church teachings & Bible study, I came to know tithing was for God's work through the church. So I came to realize that whatever I gave to support others was in addition to tithes. In my relationship with my parents and then with God, I was aware that obedience was important. So what God said to Israelites about their responsibility for Levites has stayed with me. When I am faithful in giving, I feel a closer relationship with God and my level of joy becomes high! This also seems to open doors for my prayers and my faith is strengthened.
There are challenges in giving to the work of ministry.
One challenge is responding to the needy in the community and still giving to God. I have given tithes regularly but giving to “other things,” e.g., mission work, seemed less important.
Also, controlling what I want to get so as to be able to give regularly wasn't easy! This used to embarrass me when my lifestyle seemed lower than where my colleagues were!
And when there are questions of the integrity among church leaders, it makes one wonder if you are giving to God's work or for someone's pocket!!
But increasingly, my spirit has heightened my sense of responsibility to the preparation of and support for the work of pastors in general and mission work in particular. This is because these are the channels for making Christ known to more and more people. It is so wonderful to know that one is part of the process of keeping the thief out and promoting Jesus’ mission giving the abundant life to the entire humankind, as per John 10:10! Halleluyah!!!
Shawn concludes, “Each of the folks I’ve interviewed would say that the amount you give is less important than the heart with which you give it. The issue isn’t whether you give a little or a lot, but understanding that all we have is actually owned by God and entrusted to us. Whether our gifts are financial or not, we become their stewards. As we work together, we can be the senders and supporters of God’s work in the world.”