There are several possible answers to this question. With random strangers, I usually just say that my husband is a US foreign service officer assigned to the embassy in Lusaka.
The long answer as I tell it begins almost 20 years ago. It starts with my father, Rev. Dr. Bob Walters, going on a clergy trip to Zaire (now called DR-Congo) in the early 1990s. He returned with a passion for the region and its people. This passion was absorbed my me, his pre-teen daughter, as he made frequent return trips and our family hosted Congolese in our home (One of Senator Bishop Ntambo Nkulu’s daughters became my highschool roommate in order to get a quality education in the USA).
At the request of then District Superintendent Ntambo Nkulu, we launched a fundraising campaign so that the United Methodist Church in Katanga (a region of DR Congo) could purchase hundreds of much needed bicycles for its leaders. When I was 15, I and two other teens accompanied my father as he worked with Congolese church leaders and witnessed the distribution of the bikes. The experience cemented my passion and helped me decide on my college studies—a BA/MA program in International Development focusing on community development and a M. Divinity. I wanted to be a pastor with a holistic understanding of the dynamics of poverty and prosperity so I could be best equipped to support local leadership in transforming their communities.
The horrific recent war in Congo delayed my return until 2005, when Bishop Ntambo appointed me as both director of the North Katanga Conference’s community development department and his personal assistant (overseeing his e-mail correspondence and developing a conference website). I was based in Kamina, and friends like you covered most of my living expenses. During that year I led many workshops on various community development issues and concentrated my energies on the training of trainers, so that church leaders could spread these concepts in their own communities. In my spare time, I hung out with our fabulous kids at the United Methodist children’s home. I even made trips to Africa University in Zimbabwe (in ’05 & ’06) to help United Methodist Communications train UM leaders across Africa in communication technologies. From this, I’ve started coaching UM leaders from several countries.
Much of what I did could be considered seed planting. I have been enjoying watching for the fruit of my work appear—and it has shown up in surprising places. Last summer, for example, when Dad was in Kalemie (far eastern border town hit by the brunt of the war; I have never been there) he was impressed by project descriptions and proposals local leaders had created. When he commented on this, they told him that they had been trained by me! (The itinerancy system has really scattered those seeds!)
In 2006, my ‘quick visit’ to the USA turned into a two-year separation. Bishop Ntambo worried the shifting political climate could lead to another surge of violence in his conference and asked me to remain in the USA to work on raising public awareness of Congo’s plight and the heroism of our church leaders. I used this period to launch The Kamina Project (www.kaminaproject.org), the precursor to Friendly Planet Missiology (www.friendlyplanetmissiology.org), to study at Wesley Seminary, and continued to work with leaders in Congo via phone calls and e-mails. Once Bishop Ntambo gave the green light, I began making frequent trips back to DR Congo.
In 2007, I married my best friend Stuart Denyer, and he promised to support my call to ministry in Africa. Good on his promises, by mid 2009 (right after I completed seminary) he successfully got a job as close to North Katanga as he could—at the US Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia.
Now I figured Zambia would just be where I lived, and Congo would be where I worked. It didn’t take long to figure out that God had a different plan.
In fact, the District Superintendent of Lusaka and his wife (pictured below) have a very different and shorter answer to why I now live in Lusaka. They proudly say that they prayed fervently for assistance, and God sent them me. (I'll write more about that later)