Featured Stories

A collection of stories about the life of FPC ... what's your story?

New FPC Mission Partner - Sister Mary's Children

The FPC Mission team is pleased to offer financial support for the ministry of Sister Mary's Children in Mthatha, South Africa.  Joan Brown, a member of the church, has established a beautiful relationship with the people of Mthatha and we are hoping to broaden that relationship to others in the church and FPC as a whole.  We are excited to see what God has in store for us!  To remind you of this ministry, this newsletter story about Joan's experience with them is provided below.  Please be in prayer for Joan specifically as she will be visiting Mthatha again over Spring Break.

An Unexpected Calling

Years ago, FPC’s Joan Brown was invited to travel to Mthatha, South Africa—an invitation she had no intention of taking. But the still, small voice of God urged Joan to put her faith into action, impacting her life in ways she never would have expected.

In 2006, Joan Brown was presented with an opportunity she never thought she would take: the chance to travel across the world, without her husband or children, to Mthatha, a town in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Joan, then a mission elder at Colbert Presbyterian Church, was invited to go on the trip as part of a delegation to determine whether a church in Mthatha could form a partnership with the church in Spokane. But just because she was invited didn’t mean she was game to go. “Inside I was saying, ‘I’m not doing that. I’m not the one who goes across the world,’” Joan remembers.

Joan, who is an elementary school teacher in the Mead school district, says she’s not inclined to take a lot of chances, and traveling around the world to do something entirely unfamiliar wasn’t exactly a comfortable thought. And yet, as time passed and the group prepared to make the trip, she couldn’t stop thinking about it; she sensed the presence of God at work. “The entire time, I had this incredible, almost tangible feeling of this rope around the center of my body, gently pulling. I wasn’t being yanked,” she says. She talked with her husband, Kevin Brown, about what she was feeling. While she felt uncertain and unclear about what to do, Kevin felt calm and at peace. “He said, ‘You need to listen to this! This is holy stuff,’” Joan remembers.

Joan responded to the still, small voice of God, encouraged by her husband, and in 2007 traveled to Mthatha as part of the delegation, thinking at the time that “I’m just going to do this thing to get God off my back,” she remembers with a laugh.

Little did she know that God was calling her into a relationship with the people of Mthatha that has now spanned almost a decade. Joan has since returned a number of times. She visited again in 2008, traveled with Kevin and their two children in 2009, and returned with Kevin in 2011 as a way to celebrate their 25th anniversary.

During all of that time, Joan was building relationships with the people of Mthatha and the church there. The church partners with Thembelihle Home, a foster group home for children who have been taken out of their homes due to abuse or neglect, and a school run for these children was in need of volunteers. The school serves the students—many of whom are in the group home for a year or more—so that they don’t fall behind in their education. Many of these students “have huge gaps in their learning because of their family situations,” Joan explains.

Joan was feeling the pull to serve as a teacher in this school, and was considering taking a semester off from her regular teaching job to do it. In some ways this trip to Mthatha once again seemed risky. “When we made the decision for me to take a semester off, it was in the midst of Kevin losing his job, with one of our children still in college—it seemed ridiculous!” she says. Despite how risky the choice seemed on paper, after a process of prayer and discernment she and Kevin both knew that it was the right one.

In 2014, Joan served for one semester as a teacher for the foster children. Kevin was able to join her for one month of that four-month sojourn. In addition to teaching, Joan also served in other ways as needs presented themselves—the swing of daily life can often be quite unpredictable, at least to an outsider—tasks like office work, driving, and taking children to the medical clinic (once, she drove 16 children to the clinic over the course of a single day). Through all of this, she was able to continue building relationships with the adults in the community and to slowly earn the trust and respect of the students, many of whom have led incredibly difficult lives. It is these relationships that have kept Joan called to South Africa.

“I am an extremely relational person…and what I think we’re called to do in service is to be in relationship,” she says. First traveling as a guest and a delegate, returning over the years, and taking the time to build real, lasting, mutually respectful relationships with the people of Mthatha has changed Joan’s life and strengthened her faith. Mthatha is a poor town in South Africa’s poorest province; it is a place known for crime and can be dangerous. (Nelson Mandela’s hometown is just outside of Mthatha.) But “even amidst that, I still keep feeling called to go back,” Joan says. She returned again to the foster group home this past summer to assist in the classroom again for four weeks.

“Faith-wise, it really has been an amazing 8 years,” Joan says. “Kevin and I have learned so much about trusting and listening. We are eager to see what is next with our travels to this crazy place that has stolen our hearts.”

 

Link to the Story

Summary

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