Transcontinental Connections

by Larry Winckles

A large number of Free Methodists from the Democratic Republic of Congo were displaced to the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Tanzania, including Abwe Mulonda. Abwe entered into the ordination process while in the camp, under the supervision of the Free Methodist Church in Tanzania. While there he ministered to a group of about 500 people and served as a coordinator for the International Child Care Ministries. Before he could be received as a Conference Ministerial Candidate, Abwe and his family, along with others, immigrated to the Republic of Ireland and received Irish citizenship through that country’s Refugee Programme. Connection with other people from the camp in Tanzania was essentially lost.

Abwe being received as a CMC by Bishop Roller

Abwe being received as a CMC by Bishop Roller

In early 2014 Abwe and his wife made contact with Larry Winckles, Free Methodist missionary serving in Europe, asking to establish a Free Methodist Church in their new hometown of Monaghan, Ireland. Following a series of e-mail correspondence and vetting through Free Methodist missionary Linda Stryker, an onsite visit was made in 2015 by Free Methodist missionary Gerard McNamara. Abwe’s credentials were examined, and it was determined that he did indeed meet the requirements for becoming a Conference Ministerial Candidate. He was invited to attend the 2015 European Church Leaders Conference held in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he was interviewed by the Europe MEG Board and received as a CMC in Europe. He was appointed to be the pastor of the newly established Monaghan Free Methodist Church, the first Free Methodist Church in the Republic of Ireland. It was determined that the supervision of his ordination process should be referred to the UK Conference, and his transfer to the UK Conference was completed in May 2016.

Meanwhile other Free Methodist Congolese from the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp immigrated to the United States. In 2016 a group settled in Lansing, Michigan, and made contact with Bruce Cromwell, senior pastor of the Lansing Central Free Methodist Church. The principal contact with the Congolese was through Nehemia Mmbumba, a young man who spoke excellent English.

Larry with the Congolese in Lansing

Larry with the Congolese in Lansing

It just so happened that Larry and Katie Winckles were visiting the Lansing Central FMC on the same Sunday that a group of Congolese attended for the very first time. Upon hearing that the group had relocated from a refugee camp in Tanzania, Larry immediately asked Nehemia if he knew of Abwe Mulonda and his family. Nehemia was surprised to hear Abwe’s name, as he had been a great friend of his family in the DRC and in Tanzania, but he had lost all contact with him.

Larry contacted Abwe and put him in touch with Nehemia. Abwe was delighted to regain the connection.

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