Following God’s Call

What do an American sports journalist and a South African fashion designer have in common?

They’re both examples of how God’s call can lead to unexpected destinations, such as Hannover, Germany, as they’re also both interns for the WCRC this year.

Fundiswa Kobo was a fashion design student in 2001 when she first sensed God’s call. “I spent almost a year and a half trying to discern what God was really saying to me, constantly asking for guidance from senior ministers who prayed with me,” she said. Fundiswa enrolled in a bachelor of theology programme at the University of Fort Hare and went on to obtain her masters in systematic theology from the University of Pretoria in 2010.

She has since served the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa in Gugulethu Township and Delft, working to create relations between the church and community, “offering spiritual upliftment, creating space for dialogue on issues that are controversial as well as crucial to the life of both the church and community.”

“It is almost impossible to separate the church and the community in my context,” she said. “First and foremost we believe in ubuntu—a person is a person by virtue of others. Our spirituality therefore is communal in a sense.”

Fundiswa was first connected to the WCRC through the 2012 Global Institute of Theology, which “challenged me as it brought new insights in what I had always known. Being with theologians from all over the world, sharing our stories, struggles and finding new ways of doing theology was a highlight for me.”

She hopes to come away from her internship “an empowered young woman who has been formed by so many voices through encounters with various theologians and people Reformed and non-Reformed. I hope to be able to use the knowledge and these experiences as a tool to empower as I continue to find new ways to minister when I return back to South Africa.”

Joanna Hipp, growing up in rural North Carolina, never thought going into ministry was an option for her until her Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation called a woman to be their minister, with others following. “These women showed me that ministry was an option and somehow saw potential in me that I didn’t even know I had,” she said.

God redirected Joanna again at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, which she entered intent on becoming a rural church pastor. “As Christians we are called to live out koinonia. I think it’s important to remember that we live together in one community of faith, honouring diversity. My question, though, is how is this lived out not only in our local context but also in relationship with the WCRC?”

Joanna experienced the international ecumenical world as a steward at the 2012 central committee meeting of the World Council of Churches and again at the WCC’s General Assembly in Busan, participating in the Global Ecumenical Theological Institute.

“I am deeply passionate about the ecumenical movement and how to continue on this pilgrimage. I am also deeply Reformed,” she said, “and we believe in the interconnectedness of the whole church. We pride ourselves on our confessions, but we acknowledge that we are to move forward together as one church body, active in the world.”

When asked to choose what she hopes to come away with from her internship, she said “it would be that I hope to have a greater sense of how to live into my ecumenical calling and aid others in joining the ecumenical movement. I pray that my time here in Hannover is rich and rewarding, but from the past weeks I already know it will be.”

Fundiswa’s work will focus on theology while Joanna will be primarily connected with social justice. Both will also work with communications.