African Quakers to Visit Friends United Meeting Triennial at Wilmington College

July 17-31, 2011

July 11, 2011

Eden Grace is shown with women and children of Turkana Friends Mission.

Eden Grace is shown with women and children of Turkana Friends Mission.

Hundreds of Quakers from across the nation will descend upon the Wilmington College campus for the Friends United Meeting Triennial July 27-31. Make that Quakers from around the world, thanks to a large contingent from East Africa.

“Quakers have been in Kenya since 1902 and half of the Quakers in the world live in Kenya. That’s a fact that most American Quakers don’t know,” said Eden Grace, field officer in FUM’s African Ministries Office. “The second-largest concentration of Quakers in the world is in Bolivia. Quakerism is a religion of people of color; it’s not a religion of white Europeans anymore. That’s a really important identity that we have yet to fully grasp in this country.”

Serving as FUM’s primary fiscal officer in Africa since 2004, Grace lives and works in the gap that separates needs and resources.

“I’m called to stand in that gap, and that’s not a conflict that I can resolve,” said Grace, who lives in Kisumu, near West Kenya’s Lake Victoria, with her husband Jim and sons, Isaiah and Jesse. “That’s a place that needs to be witnessed to. It means living a broken-hearted life and being willing to be broken-hearted every day. My experience over and over again has been that every time that I’m at that breaking point where I can’t stand any more discouragement, then God will send some sort of encouragement that renews my faith and my spirit.”

Friends United Meeting’s ministry in Africa includes the healing touch of Kaimosi Hospital and the sustenance of education. Grace has become drawn to the nomadic tribe of Turkana, where the value of girls’ dowries makes them better dropout than graduation candidates. Few girls make the transition from primary to secondary schools, but Grace and a little divine social networking have improved the odds. 

“This past December we had 14 girls finish eighth grade in our schools. A good year previously would have been two or three,” Grace said. “That was really exciting, but immediately created a funding crisis for me because I had guaranteed those girls that if they finished eighth grade I would send them to high school. I put it on Facebook and had all the money I needed in one day. That’s an example of when God’s hand is in something that finance is not an obstacle.”

Kenyan goods and artwork will be for sale at a global marketplace during the triennial. What won’t be on display during the Quaker gathering is the future of African Quakerism.

“There are 16 FUM yearly meetings in Kenya and one in Uganda and every yearly meeting is expected to send a delegation of representatives to the triennial because the triennial is the ultimate governing body of Friends United Meeting,” Grace said. “It’s discouraging, though, that the U.S. will not allow anybody under the age of 55 to travel to the U.S. because they fear that they will stay here and try to get jobs. We won’t see the vibrant youth movement because we can’t get tourist Visas for them. Quakers in America would benefit from seeing the youth of Kenya. There is a lot of spiritual energy there that we could benefit from here.”

Friends United Meeting Triennial

Date: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 — Sunday, July 31, 2011
or call 937/382-6661   Ext: 719

 Friends United Meeting will host its 2011 Triennial on the Wilmington College campus July 27-31.

“Transforming Lives” is the theme of the global Quaker event that will put into focus the ministries of FUM, an international association of Friends meetings and churches, organized for evangelism, global partnership, leadership development and communications.

Several of the scheduled Triennial activities will be open to the public free of charge. Sylvia Graves, FUM General Secretary, will deliver the keynote address at 6:30 p.m. July 28. Randy Quate, Senior Pastor of Poplar Friends Meeting in Trinity, N.C., will provide the Johnson Lecture at 7 p.m. July 29. B. Welling Hall, Plowshares Professor of Peace Studies at Earlham College, will deliver the Earlham College Peace Lecture at 7 p.m. July 30. All plenary session speeches will be in the Hugh G. Heiland Theatre in Wilmington College’s Boyd Cultural Arts Center. The Boyd Center also hosts the Meriam R. Hare Quaker Heritage Center and T. Canby Jones Meetinghouse.

The Triennial will feature a Global Marketplace from 3 to 5 p.m. July 30.

For more information about the Triennial, visit the FUM Web site.


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