Monday, February 18, 2008

What is Kafakumba?

What is Kafakumba?

Get comfortable if you intend to read this entry through in one sitting. Here I am going to begin to tell the story of Kafakumba….

The Kafakumba Training Center

No description of Kafakumba is complete without understanding its history and the philosophy behind it. Mostly Kafakumba is an idea, a vision for transformation of a people and a place. The name itself is not particularly significant. Years ago a center for training United Methodist village pastors was created at Lake Kafakumba in Congo (then Zaire); Congo’s continued war forced the leaders of the school to relocate in Zambia. John Enright and his father, Ken, simply named the new school in Zambia Kafakumba Pastor’s School to signify its continued role in Central Africa. However, the vision of the school expanded to include a broader training center, the creation of a place where education and empowerment can happen every day of the year. And so Kafakumba Training Center was founded in 1999.

The center of programming at Kafakumba Training Center remains the two-month Pastor’s School held every May and June. About 120 pastors (mostly, but not exclusively United Methodist), gather from villages throughout Central Africa over the course of eight years. These community leaders represent regions in Tanzania, Zambia, Congo, and Senegal. Teachers come from around Africa and the United States, providing almost the equivalent of American seminary training in an African setting. During their last four years, pastor’s wives and children join them, providing important opportunities for training and fellowship. This support for the village pastor and the burgeoning indigenous church is critical to the vision of Kafakumba.

During the off months, the Training Center is open, without charge, to any groups who wish to use the facilities in a conference setting. Although many groups are Methodist, they are not exclusively so. The new Women’s Center and the just-finished Children’s Center will also provide programming and opportunities in this area throughout the year.

The Training Center is foundational to the expansion of Kafakumba into community development, mission and ministry, and the economic development that supports them. It is here that the core values of Kafakumba are articulated. Here one can hear the words of Jesus taught in simple, applicable ways. Here foundational doctrines about character, servanthood, and love find themselves fleshed out in classrooms and workshops.

The complimentary arm of the Training Center is the Kafakumba Development Project, developing primarily to provide the funds to sustain the mission and ministries of the Center. Although the Training Center is a United Methodist mission, it does not receive nearly enough funding from the West to survive. Creating the funding in Africa became the only way that its founder, John Enright, could envision its sustainability. Thus began Kafakumba’s venture into economic development.

Kafakumba Development Project

A big question for Africa—and other missional areas of the Christian church—is how ministry remains sustainable over time. Funding can be capricious if left to churches and individuals in the West. In fact, monies have become less and less available, sometimes being cut off altogether. Those who had depended on those funds were left stranded, without resources and without any means of generating them. Decades, even centuries, of always waiting on money from American and European churches had created a sick dependency that stifled imagination and innovation. Its result was a Church and its People living as beggars, even though surrounded by the most incredible natural and human resources.

In order for the Kafakumba Training Center and its ministries to prosper, another way of funding had to be discovered. How do you begin to generate the money needed in Africa? How to do it in spiritually and socially responsible ways? The answer for Kafakumba took the form of bananas and timber to begin with. With personal and family funds, the Enrights planted bananas and used the profits to fund the Center and more banana plants. They talked neighbors into planting bananas in a partnership that divided profits between the growers and Kafakumba (which had supplied plants and training); again the Kafakumba funds went to the Center and more plants for more partners. Banana partners enjoyed higher incomes than other plantings had provided, and Kafakumba received valued funds for its ministries. At the same time, generous donors and banana profits provided woodworking equipment for the fledgling woodshop that would become Ukupanga Timber. Hiring local workers, a team of craftsmen has emerged from unskilled labor, providing jobs for many who had none before.

And so a pattern is emerging: businesses will be developed that focus on partnering, employing local workers, making profits that will be shared with people and community, serving others. John Enright remains the primary source of ideas for new businesses; his continual research fuels the ideas that shape development now. In the future, however, it is very evident that the talented people at Kafakumba, including its own workers, will generate the ideas and innovation necessary for survival.

So how is Kafakumba moving from bananas and woodworking to its many other projects? One might say very carefully, except that there is a certain wildness and wonder to this whole idea. Investment capital is still in short supply. Small businesses begin with only enough planning and funding to get them started...long-range planning might be a stretch for this thoroughly African innovation. In some wonderful, even mysterious way, it’s working.

Kafakumba as both a spiritual and economic base is still developing. Capital is still needed to start the businesses that will create jobs and generate funds for continued ministry. There is so much to do….healthcare, education, leadership development, orphan and widow care, feeding programs, church development, urban and rural ministry ….the list goes on.

Kafakumba presents a unique model for doing mission. Its long-term goal is to see ministries become self-supported by monies raised locally. This can happen as people partner in traditional charitable gifts, in investments both short and long-term, in local partnerships working together. It moves from simple charity to investment, from consumption to growth, from hand-outs to community development. Some call this model “Business as Mission” or sustainable mission, Bill Gates speaks of “Creative Capitalism” as necessary to alleviate poverty, I think of it as ‘entrepreneurial humanitarianism” or “innovative mission.” Here at Kafakumba they call it simply “The Kingdom of God.”


Anonymous said...

A GREAT ARTICLE! I just read this today - as First Wayne Street UMC plans our promotion of "Focus Mission for the Month: Zambia/Kafakumba". Thanks, Dan D., Fort Wayne

Black Gomer said...

Thanks for the article! As a the son of a Methodist missionary, my sister and I spent several weeks in the summers at the original Lake Kafakumba (in Congo/Zaire) in 1970 - 1974.