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Passion about poverty leads United Methodist to work in Congo
LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Taylor Walters.

This girl is one of 48 orphans at the Kamina Children's Home.

Dec. 20, 2005

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Early in her life, Taylor Walters was seized by a passion to understand poverty.

Now, at age 26, she is seeing and experiencing it firsthand in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as assistant to United Methodist Bishop Ntambo Nkulu, who leads the United Methodist Church’s North Katanga Annual (regional) Conference.

“Right now there is a slow hemorrhage on my savings account,” she says, laughing, as she talks about how she is managing to live in the Congo without a salary. She went to Africa last March both as a volunteer in mission and as a missionary from Indianapolis Metro Ministries, which is the mission arm of the Indianapolis East and West Districts in the South Indiana Conference.

She returned home to Indiana in September and plans to go back to the Congo in January. During her time home, she is visiting churches to speak about her experiences and raise funds to finance her return trip. She made a trip to Nashville to visit United Methodist Communications.

“I think God has been preparing me for this for a long time,” she says. Her father, the Rev. Bob Walters, went with a team of pastors to the Congo while Taylor was in middle school. That is when he met and became friends with Nkulu. “My father talked about Congo constantly during my teenage years.”

Nkulu’s daughter lived with the Walters when Taylor was in high school. Between her sophomore and junior year in high school, Taylor was able to make her first trip to the Congo.

“It was a tremendous experience for me,” she says. “…That was when I felt the call for international ministry. I really just had a passion to understand poverty and the division of poverty and wealth in the world.”

Community development

In addition to being the bishop’s assistant, Walters is coordinator of the development department for the North Kantaga Conference.

“We focus on what are the most productive things we can do with no operating budget,” she says. “They sell seeds in the community in order to buy paper and pens for the office … that’s what I mean by no operating budget.”

The team has come up with 12 themes of community development — one for each month. Topics include AIDS awareness, nutrition, gardening techniques and responsible parenting.

“We created a manuscript that includes Scripture, so pastors could include it in their sermons if they want to,” she says. For six months, the team has been leading seminars at least once a week in different United Methodist churches on that month’s theme.

“The hope is that eventually we can polish this manuscript and get it printed so that at an annual conference — maybe this year — they can be distributed to all the pastors in the conference,” she says.

Pastors play an important role in Kamina, Walters explains. “A pastor in the Congo, especially North Katanga, is more than just a pastor. The pastor’s job is to be the community developer.”

Sources of education are few, and the pastor often becomes the primary educator in the community, she says. “It is the pastor who teaches nutrition, it is the pastor who teaches AIDS awareness and all those other things. It is a huge task. I really hope we are able to do an increasingly better job at supporting these pastors.”

Walters has also helped the conference establish a Web site, A Canadian company set up an Internet café and has brought the World Wide Web to Kamina, she says.

“We don’t get many outside visitors to North Katanga. Now people can go to learn about all the projects; they can see all our programs and get an idea of everything we have going on.”

The church in North Katanga is “growing by leaps and bounds,” she says. “It is huge; we cannot keep up with the growth.” Often there are too many people to fit into the buildings, and they are lined up outside, looking through the windows, she says.

“Even when we don’t have the funds to build a church, the people will still just build mud-brick churches and thatch roofs just so they can have a place to gather.”

In a country that has known such pain and suffering, she says there is a hunger for good news. 

Kamina Children’s Home

Though the Kamina Children’s Home is not officially part of her portfolio, it is a big part of her life.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Taylor Walters.

A girl shows off her "hat" at the Kamina Children's Home.

“These children are just wonderful and brilliant,” she says. “I am so impressed by their maturity and how well they have been raised.”

During the war, more than 3 million people were killed and Kamina became saturated with displaced people. Orphans, never a problem before, suddenly became a big problem, she explains.

“Just like in the United States, when one is orphaned, the extended family takes in the child. The community became supersaturated; the families kept taking in these children until it got to the point that they just couldn’t feed them anymore.”

The United Methodist Church, along with local leaders, created an external feeding program to help the families feed the children. When it became apparent that some children were homeless, the church established a home. Currently, the church feeds 300 children in the external program and houses 48 children.

A dorm was created last year with funds from the Bishops’ Hope for the Children of Africa appeal. The dorm has room for 160 children but only enough funds to feed 48 children, she says.

Walters emphasizes this is not the type of orphanage where the children are trying to be placed in homes.

“This really is a family,” she says. “They have been adopted; they have been adopted by the United Methodist Church.”

Imagine the impact these children will have on the future of the Congo, Walters says.

“Imagine the wonderful impact this will have on the region when you take that many kids and give them the best — nutritious food, good schooling all the way through, and a stable and loving environment. I am so excited about that.”

Giving back

When she speaks to churches, Walters uses the illustration of the rich man who asked Jesus how to get into heaven.

“He was a good guy and he had a good life,” she says. He had followed all the rules, but when Jesus told him to sell everything and give it to the poor, “he was just too scared.”

Walters says most people, including her at times, are too scared to appreciate the gift Jesus is offering.

“We get this strange idea that if we follow the call, we are being suckered into a life of suffering — that if we answer that call we are going to live a life of sacrifice. But if we follow that voice that is pestering us, we are really about to go on a tremendous ride.  I took this leap of faith, and I have never felt this alive.”

When asked what her wish is for Christmas this year, she laughs and says, “My selfish Christmas wish is for people to go to and sign up and be a monthly donor.”

But it really isn’t about money, she says. “Money helps, but it is really about relationships and support.”

Walters says the Congo needs to feel the presence of United Methodists in the United States.

“The people in Congo are smart; they have their acts together in so many ways. The war has knocked them over, but they are starting again. Just to have someone say, ‘I believe in you, I believe you can start over, I believe you can rebuild,’ that is so important.”

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

View Slide Show

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Audio Interview with Taylor Walters

“Church is growing by leaps and bounds.”

“This really is a family.”

“I have never felt this alive.”

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