John Fumana reflects on the first year of his ministry of co-coordinating Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, a partner agency of Mennonite Mission Network.
When John Fumana began serving as executive co-coordinator for Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission (AIMM) in February 2021, he envisioned North American Mennonites investing in African initiatives in which African and foreign mission agencies are equal partners in doing the work of God.
AIMM and Mennonite Mission Network have worked with a team approach to supporting ministry between African and North American countries since 2002. (Commission on Overseas Missions, a predecessor agency of Mission Network, was a founding member of AIMM.)
Bruce Yoder, who co-coordinates with Fumana, previously served with Mission Network in Benin (2000-2009) and in Burkina Faso (2012-2019). Fumana works from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Yoder splits his time between Canada (Listowel, Ontario) and the United States (Goshen, Indiana).
First year of shared leadership
As he reflected on his first year of shared leadership with Bruce Yoder, Fumana described how their ministry is immersed in prayer. Each Monday, Fumana and Yoder pray for their partner churches before focusing on business matters. On Wednesdays, AIMM's two administrative support personnel, based in the Goshen office, join them for prayer.
Fumana said that Mennonites from industrialized countries must change their stereotype of Africa as a needy place. And they must build on a different foundation than they did during the colonial period.
"If [mission agencies] invest in the needs [of Africans], [their] dependency on aid from North America and from Europe will persist. It is time for [well-meaning people from outside Africa] to invest in a foundation that helps African churches to take full responsibility of their future — to be active and efficient partners in this ministry that we are doing together."
In 2021, Fumana conducted an Assets Based Community Development (ABCD) training workshop for Christ Salvation Mennonite Church in Sierra Leone. The ABCD approach mobilizes resources and gifts that are found within a community, rather than focusing on what is lacking.
During 2020, all business had to be conducted online. But in 2021, in-person administrative meetings were held in October — the Burkina Faso Partnership Council met in Bobo Dioulasso and AIMM held their international board meetings in Kitwit, Congo. These meetings brought together representatives from eight countries, spanning Africa, Europe and North America.
John Fumana Photographer: Lynda Hollinger-Janzen
Moving beyond dependency to become equal partners in mission
Fumana said he is inspired by 1 Corinthians 3:8-9, which speaks to the diversity and complementarity of gifts among God's people.
"The person who plants and the one who waters are both doing important jobs," Fumana said. "We are coworkers in God's field. This means that not only are we workers with God to fulfill his mission on this earth and to serve his people in the world, but as individual members in the church, we work together to bring our talents to serve the Lord."
Fumana expressed gratitude for the commitment of North American brothers and sisters, who dedicated their lives to living out the gospel with the people of Congo, and other African countries. He said that former missionaries made every effort to develop programs that would demonstrate the gospel in concrete ways to help the church move forward and provide God's people with resources.
"All of that was good a century ago, [but] it is now time for churches in North America to see things from another angle," Fumana said. "It is time for North American Mennonites to invest in [ministries] that are already working under the leadership of African nationals. This will help to build sustainability and enable the local churches to be self-supporting, equal partners in this venture of spreading the gospel and building God's kingdom."
Watch the following two videos in which Fumana and Yoder share their vision for AIMM more fully: Part One and Part Two.
Fumana brings rich experience to mission
Fumana speaks with passion when he talks about why he left his well-paying jobs with non-profit agencies and government organizations to embrace a demanding ministry, in which he earns a fraction of his former salaries. Prior to joining AIMM, he worked as a cultural affairs assistant at the American embassy in Kinshasa. He also held positions with humanitarian aid organizations, like World Vision and Oxfam.
In 2009, Fumana accepted a position as an operations manager with Interchurch Medical Assistance , where he worked until December 2020, when he was selected by AIMM to serve as executive co-coordinator.
"I have a strong belief that, as church members, we have freely received something from God that we must give to strengthen the body of Christ," Fumana said. "And I had a strong conviction within me that it was time, now, to go back and serve my own church — the Mennonite family."
Fumana grew up on the Mennonite Brethren mission station in Kikwit, Congo, where his father, Pierre Fumana, was the lead pastor, a regional church representative and educator — schoolteacher, school director, school inspector and educational advisor.
When Fumana was six years old, his family moved to Manitoba, Canada, where his father attended Winkler Bible Institute and Winnipeg Mennonite Bible College. When the Fumana family returned to Congo, they were sent to the Kafumba missionary station for six years, before returning to Kikwit.
Fumana majored in Latin and philosophy in high school. He received a university degree in education, with specialties in English-language teaching and African culture. In his first career, Fumana taught and served as a school headmaster.
In addition to the experience he brings from his formal careers, Fumana brings expertise in ABCD. Since 2013, he has taught trainers in Mennonite Brethren congregations and other organizations in Congo. He has also held ABCD workshops for a non-governmental organization in Cameroon and, in one of his first actions at AIMM, with Christ Salvation Mennonite Church in Sierra Leone.