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Robert Joe WaltersSeptember 17, 1952 ~ July 31, 2017 (age 64)
The Reverend Dr. Robert (Bob) Walters, age 64, passed away unexpectedly July 31, 2017 in Plainfield, Indiana. A devoted husband and father, former Marine Corps helicopter pilot, and retired United Methodist pastor and missiologist, Bob Walters dedicated his life to serving others. From his birth to his death he nourished people around him with love, faith and humor.
Bob was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on September 17, 1952 to Robert and Thelma Walters, and spent most of his childhood in Farmersburg, Indiana. His father often worked overseas where Bob and his mother and two brothers would visit; the family lived in Chile during his eighth grade year. This helped spark Bob’s eternal love of travel and cross-cultural friendships. He began dating Teresa (Teri) Thompson in 1970, just before his high school graduation, and they married in 1974.
Bob entered into the Naval Academy in 1970 and graduated in 1974 with a Bachelors of Science in General Engineering. Among many activities, he participated in the Yard Patrol Craft squadron where he qualified to command the 66 ton training vessels. Bob was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1974. After basic officer training he went through flight training at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola for two years. Upon earning his wings he piloted Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters in support of Marine Amphibious Units conducting Cold War deterrent missions in the Caribbean and North Atlantic. He had long felt a call to ministry, and it was while stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in New River, North Carolina that he made the decision to resign from the Marine Corps and enroll in seminary.
After graduating with a Masters in Divinity, he was ordained as a pastor in The United Methodist Church (UMC) in the former South Indiana Conference. Over the years he was appointed to serve congregations in the Underwood area, Pekin, Plainfield, Indianapolis (Central Avenue, Sunrise at Geist, and Meridian Street), and Lebanon. Recognized for his leadership, he served the broader conference at Metro Ministries in Indianapolis, and in Bloomington.
In 1991, Bob was invited to join a clergy delegation to the Katanga province of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). This visit and the friendships he made there would change the course of his life. He worked tirelessly to build the connection between the United Methodist leaders in Katanga and Indiana. In 1997, at the request of Bishop Ntambo Nkulu, he became director of the theological seminary in Likasi, via The UMC’s General Board of Global Ministries. Together with his Congolese church colleagues, Bob led the way in developing a new model for mission in the Katanga province. He was forced to evacuate from the Congo due to war, but would return numerous times. Bob’s Doctorate of Ministry in Practical Theology dissertation, Scripture as a Tool of Community Development, focused on his work with church leaders in the Congo.
Bob, his daughter Rev. Taylor Walters Denyer, and Rev. Joseph Mulongo founded Friendly Planet Missiology in 2009 with the goals of changing missiological thinking in the Church and to support the work of their colleagues in the North Katanga and Tanganyika Annual Conferences. Bob and Joseph, along with other Congolese church leaders, covered thousands of miles by bicycle, bringing comfort, hope, and connection to traumatized communities that felt abandoned by the outside world. Bob served the people of Katanga with conviction, commitment, passion and compassion. He recorded his wisdom and adventures in his 2016 book, The Last Missionary. At the time of his death he was working on the manuscript of the book’s sequel, which his family hopes to publish posthumously.
A life-long learner, Bob was a voracious reader, but also found joy in things like restoring his vintage MG convertible and watching Dr. Who. Bob had a passion for travel and being outdoors on his bicycle, and it was during a ride that he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Bob’s greatest joy was his family - especially the love of his life, Teri, as well as their children and granddaughter. He is survived by wife Teri Walters; children Rev. Taylor (Stuart) Denyer; Robbie (Jordan) Walters; granddaughter Evelyn Denyer; brothers Gary (Patty) Walters and Mike (Bonnie) Walters; Mother-in-law Lois Thompson; and countless friends and family. He was preceded in death by parents, Robert and Thelma Walters; and Father-in-law James Thompson.
Bob was known by all as a maverick and champion of the underdog, and for his passion for social justice. Moreover, he could find the positive in every situation. Bob was a surrogate father and mentor to many, and a friend to all.
Family, friends and others whose lives Bob touched are invited to Plainfield United Methodist Church, 600 Simmons St, Plainfield, IN on Saturday, August 5th from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Services will begin at 2:00 PM at Plainfield UMC. Memorial gifts may be made to Friendly Planet Missiology http://www.friendlyplanetmissiology.org
Friendly Planet Missiology (http://www.friendlyplanetmissiology.org)