Jacob in situ landscape

Courageous leadership in a refugee camp

Last month we began to connect learning with life in this time of COVID-19. How are the most vulnerable populations in East Africa coping? In order to find out we spoke to South Sudanese leader Jacob Karaba in a refugee settlement in northern Uganda. As a pastor and BUILD trainer he supports others in a range ways, and the pandemic has compounded local challenges, “exposing the community to hatred, poverty and educational problems.” But Christians like Jacob are responding with great courage.

Today Jacob reports: “Things are still at a stand-still as the lockdown and curfew has been increased for another 21 days. The restrictions remain on movement, public gatherings (including public worship), and schools remain closed. Lack of firewood has brought a number of conflicts between the refugees and the host communities. And there are shortages of drugs in the health centres, with fears of contracting the COVID-19 from social centres. Currently, people are scared and concerned about what will happen if this COVID-19 reaches the camps. And beside this, WFP [World Food Programme] has reduced the food ration to only 8.64 kg per month, there has been a lack of rain for two months now, and all this creates fear and worries among the refugees, not least in Imvepi Refugee Settlement which is a rocky land [and hard to dig]. Death rates, sickness, attempted suicide, cases of evil spirits, and domestic violence are becoming rampant.”

As a result, “COVID-19 has exposed tensions between the community of faith and local government. Some politicians are using this COVID-19 as an opportunity to finance themselves and to silence church activities. The challenge for all is how to foster community and to support one another while keeping physical distance.”

How are Christians and leaders like Jacob responding to these pressures and rebuilding community?

“Pastors and church leaders are under threat of harassment. As I speak now, when a pastor moves with a Bible it seems like he or she is carrying a coronavirus.” Despite this, “Many believers trust the blood of Christ to protect them, and in my community Christians are famous historically for staying to care for the sick and dying during significant plagues. After all to risk one’s life for the sake of another is the Jesus-like thing to do. They are never alone in these brave acts of service: this kind of self-sacrificial service is central to many of the pastors and the Christians.” And this, even though “pastoral care has become more complicated: some have set up a pastoral care roster of weekly phone or radio calls to check on both the physical and spiritual needs of members.”

In all this, “pastors are risking their life in providing some emergency services such as the burying of the dead, visiting and praying for the sick as well as reconciling families struggling with domestic violence.” Pray for Jacob and others that they would continue to do so.

The featured picture shows Jacob distributing food and support to the community

Joseph Adida

Living and learning through the pandemic

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley…” In BUILD Module Six we see the shape of the Psalter as a whole as it leads down into darkness and up through renewal into the light of mature faith. How are those involved with BUILD responding to the current COVID-19 crisis in the light of that teaching?

The growing death toll for the pandemic reveals an uneven spread of infection. Wealthier countries appear to bear the brunt of the disease while lower income ones are spared. However, this masks the wide ranging secondary impacts on lower-income countries such as those within BUILD’s footprint of East Africa, including the effect on livelihoods, on local economies, on education, on the political landscape, and on the vast volume of remittances normally received from the East African diaspora. And particularly, it seems, on the urban poor who are several steps removed from rural subsistence economies and are acutely vulnerable to widespread economic turmoil.

How can our blog begin to engage with the scope and scale of the pandemic and its fallout? Rather than attempt the analysis that is being done elsewhere, we will simply see how trainees respond to the crisis as they experience it and in the light of BUILD teaching – as they connect their learning with lived realities, and inform us of both along the way.

Returning to the Book of Psalms, early on in Module Six we trace the stages of the Psalter and its five books through five words: covenant, kingship, crisis, renewal, and maturity. Book I is grounded in the covenant and relying on the Lord who leads his people; Book II highlights kingship and obedience to the King who rules his people; Book III turns to crisis and reflection on God’s covenant in our suffering; Book IV looks to renewal, not least of our lives of worship; and finally, Book V heads to maturity and our growing faith as God’s people. The crisis in the middle is that of the exile, which we label ‘the darkest valley’ as we reflect on suffering and injustice through select Book III psalms. And we teach that Psalm 23 itself follows that pattern: it moves from trust in the Shepherd and obedience to him; into that ‘darkest valley’; and on to renewal and the celebration and stability of covenant love, where we “dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

There were simply too many responses to this question: how does that learning speaks into your lives? Taking one person’s response by way of introduction, Joseph Adida, Christian Education Coordinator for the Anglican Church of Tanzania shared: “There is nothing people fear like death. People in Tanzania are devastated and disoriented as corona is hitting us. Among the people [around Lake Victoria], it is regarded as an evil spirit (Masamvwa in Sukuma), which is against the lives of people. Many Christians regard Covid-19 as the punishment from God because of sin: people are worshipping idols and power. Others see it as an effect of natural evil.”

But the Psalm assures us that, “He is the God who cares and protect his people against evil and death. Fear not. Psalm 23 is a very well-known psalm to most believers. People sing it when they are facing troubles that are beyond their control and beyond their understanding of power, politics, reason and thought. When President Magufuli of Tanzania first spoke about COVID-19 he was courageous about God’s power which is in control. He supported his talk by using Psalm 23 to encourage people to have faith in God alone who can control and finish COVID-19.”

“Psalm 23 shows how God cares and protect his people against evil. It is in this regard that people in Tanzania see it as the Psalm that speaks to the current situation of COVID-19. The people read it in connection with Psalm 121 and Colossians 1:15-20: through the Cross of Christ on Calvary God has conquered and controls all through his Son Jesus Christ, the image bearer of God who has become the agent of God’s grace. Therefore we should not fear, he alone can provide abundantly and protect his people by his power.”

As we continue to walk through “the darkest valley” with different people we will see what it means for them in practice to “fear no evil” in their various contexts.

AICMAR cohort 19 10 15 - Copy

The merry-go-round, ‘harambee’ and sustainability

An earlier post shared some promising data from BUILD training-of-trainers cohorts in western Kenya. Quantitative impacts were the focus but the qualitative ones include some fresh attitudes and approaches to sustainability, which are essential for the health and future of the Church, given the extensive training needs across East Africa.

There is no ‘silver-bullet’ for sustainability. Instead a range of approaches needs to be discovered, undergirded by a fundamental attitude of commitment to training, which needs to be set as the seedbed within which any creative initiatives can flourish.

Two of the three cohorts mentioned in the July post were, on the whole, locally resourced. This meant that something of a model had already been set – how the training starts can dictate its direction. However, one, with a regional reach, had significant external support, which was not surprising in a pioneering context. But the wider effect of the training was experienced and its value rose: “They see the need for the training and go out of their way to make sure they get it,” as one observer put it. And so with a new cohort beginning on 15 October 2019 there was an opportunity to observe and develop some fresh attitudes and approaches to sustainability.

To set the context, the cohort was fairly large for this sort of intensive training: 38 individuals with the 19 women and 17 men giving good gender-balance. The training is, like all BUILD training, in-service: in this case a day a week on Tuesdays, over a two and a half year period. All the participants are what we would call ‘mature students,’ with families to support and who cannot therefore afford to leave their homes for full-time study. All the participants are already serving in churches as lay-ministers, supporting the work of their vicars, and so the mode and content of the study is tailored to their needs and the needs of their parishes, who are encouraging them. The formation of the cohort was not driven by BUILD or even the Diocesan Education Coordinator in this instance, but instead by repeated requests from the institution itself, AICMAR (African Institute for Contemporary Mission and Research), which had seen the impact of the training as well as its suitability and teachability.

But the most striking thing about the current group is the way in which they are supporting themselves and one another. The course is running on a modular basis with the ten modules forming the core of the learning. That in itself means that self-funding can be broken down into ten smaller units, when compared with the typical tranches associated with four semesters or six terms. Each module is costed at 8,000 KES per student, which is approximately 80 USD or 60 GBP, meaning that the BUILD based Diploma in Bible, Theology & Leadership as a whole comes in at 80,000 KES or 800 USD or 600 GBP.

All students have been asked to raise their own funds. Some are raising support from within the churches they serve – but that is only for around 20% of the students who are serving in significant roles in their churches, and serving in churches that are able to support them. This needs to be addressed going forwards. When it comes to the other 80%, some individuals have their own savings from their small-scale businesses and/or from farming.

Not only is the diploma as a whole broken down into the ten units of the modules, they are able to pay in an even more micro and incremental manner, week by week, saving and contributing effectively 200 shillings per week per person. The system they have come up with a group is based on two local approaches: what they are calling ‘the merry-go-round’ and the Kenyan principle of ‘harambee.’

With the merry-go-round they pool small amounts together each week and credit that pot to just one member of the group – to more or less raise the total for one module’s training for that person. The following week they move onto the next. They are determined that no one should leave their class. What they bring together to put in the pot each week covers not only fees but can also help with other personal needs related to their studies, or relieving needs that would prevent their study. As the same observer put it, “This is based on a common philosophy here in Kenya called ‘harambee,’ which means pulling resources together for a common goal.”

The above account might appear to assume that all will contribute the exact same amount, but the reality on the ground is that those who have more are covering others, going out of their way to support their friends and co-workers: “students are making individual sacrifices to support each other.”

This might sound difficult for the institution itself. However, the funds are trickling in consistently over time, so there is no shortfall at the end of the year or semester, with the common scenario of students failing to pay at the end of the course and the painful threats around not being awarded their diploma.

Rhino Camp

The Revelation and the power of cross in context

Teaching and learning from the final BUILD module with local leaders is a humbling and enriching experience, not least because of the contexts they face. A recent residential with learners from Burundi, Congo, South Sudan and Uganda led to additions to the module as we explored why the cross of Christ is the key to history.

An excerpt from a book by John Stott drove the discussion. The BUILD materials rarely quote from western authors, preferring to draw on comments and insights from participants in the curriculum development process. But given the relevance of the material and the stage learners have reached in the curriculum and their personal development, it seemed right to quote the book, and at length. What follows is drawn from the materials. The introduction and the discussion questions that follow top and tail an extended quote. The hope is that our readers will also be challenged and encouraged.

The cross of Christ as the key to history

In one section of his book The Incomparable Christ, John Stott considers Revelation chapter 5, just as we have done in an earlier learning unit. He draws attention to the truth we have already discovered: only Jesus, the Lamb of God, can break open the scroll of God’s purposes. “See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals (5:5).”

John Stott then asks and then answers these questions: “Why is Jesus Christ the only person who is worthy to open and explain the scroll? What is it about the Lamb of God which uniquely qualifies him to interpret it? Clearly it is because he was slain, and because of what he achieved by his death.”

We have already been learning that lesson together, but it is important to reinforce it: Jesus is the only one who is truly qualified to shed light on history because of his death on the cross. But we need to now go deeper and Stott recognises that. He continues by adding this question: “But what is it about the cross that makes it the key to history?”

We have grown a great deal in our understanding as we have gone through the BUILD curriculum. This is a good moment to test and to stretch that ability by reading John Stott’s answer carefully and by considering the questions that follow. Why is the cross of Christ the key to history? John Stott explains what that is the case by making four main points:

“First, the cross illumines history because it speaks of victory. The reason why the Lamb was able to open the scroll is because he has triumphed (5:5). The same verb has been used at the conclusion of each of the seven letters to the churches. A promise is given to him who overcomes. For example, ‘To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne’ (3:21). Thus the cross is represented in the New Testament as victory not defeat, as triumph not tragedy. For, as Paul wrote, on the cross Christ dethroned and disarmed the principalities and powers of evil, triumphing over them in the cross (Col. 2:15). True, they are still alive and active, for they have not yet conceded defeat. Nevertheless, they have been conquered and are under Christ’s feet (e.g. Eph. 1:22). This is the great truth of Christus Victor, which the church has sometimes forgotten. The first reason why the Lamb alone can interpret history with all its evil is that he triumphed over evil at the cross.

“Secondly, the cross illumines history because it speaks of redemption. The repeated use of the title ‘the Lamb’ will immediately have reminded Jewish readers of the Passover. For just as the Passover lamb was sacrificed, its blood sprinkled and the people spared, so Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us, so that we might be redeemed and might celebrate the festival of redemption. Thus history has a twofold plot-line. There is world history (the rise and fall of empires) and there is salvation history (the story of the redeemed people of God). Moreover, we dare to say that the former is explicable only in the light of the latter; that what God is doing against the backdrop of world history is to call out from every nation a people for himself; and that only the cross makes this possible.

“Thirdly, the cross illumines history because it speaks of suffering. For the sufferings of the Christ, although unique in their redemptive significance, were nevertheless the prototype of the sufferings of the people of God. Because he suffered, his people are called to suffer. Because he went to the cross, he calls us to take up our cross and follow him. So John moves on from the Lamb slain (in ch. 5) to the souls of the martyrs, slain because of their faithful testimony (in ch. 6). Thus those who are called to suffer for Christ, whose sufferings are so hard to understand and to bear, learn to see them in the light of the sufferings of Christ.

“Fourthly, the cross illumines history because it speaks of weakness, and specifically of power through weakness. This paradox is seen in its most dramatic form in Christ and the cross, and in John’s vision in Revelation 4 and 5. For at the centre of God’s throne (symbol of power) stands a slain Lamb (symbol of weakness). In other words, power through weakness, dramatized in God on the cross and the Lamb on the throne, lies at the heart of ultimate reality, even of the mystery of almighty God himself.” (Inter-Varsity Press 2001, pp. 185-187.)

For discussion

  • Look at John Stott’s first point, “the great truth of Christus Victor” (Latin for the Victorious Christ or Christ the Conqueror). Consider his argument carefully and then explain how the cross – an event that appears to be one of humiliation and defeat – qualifies Jesus to teach us about the turbulent history of our world.
  • Think about Stott’s second point, “history has a twofold plot-line.” Explain what he means by that and then go on to discuss how this truth can help us as Christians to live through the difficulties of human history and to stand firm in our faith.
  • Now turn to point three. A “prototype” is a first example of something that then becomes the basis for later models or versions. How do Christ’s sufferings explain and help us in some of our own sufferings (see also 2 Peter 2:21)?
  • Finally, look at the last paragraph and point. The cross is the ultimate demonstration of power in and through weakness. Explain and describe some of the ways in which that can help Christians in the midst of the struggles they face.

 

Featured picture: South Sudanese BUILD trainees in a refugee settlement learning together.

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Responding to training needs in Kakuma Refugee Camp

BUILD has been training local church leaders in refugee settlements in northern Uganda, as reported previously. This month, in partnership with the Church Army in Kenya, we have begun to look at the needs there – beginning with Kakuma Refugee Camp in the north west of the country.

Kakuma is under enormous pressure. The camp that was designed to host a population of 70,000 now has approximately 150,000 refugees, and that having been ‘decongested’ through 38,000 being hosted in the nearby Kalobeyei Settlement from mid-2015 (the combined population was 191,500 registered refugees and asylum-seekers at the end of August this year).

Every possible resource is stretched to the limits, including those needed to grow and sustain healthy churches. Benjamin Kibara from BUILD in the ACK is also a Captain in the Church Army (an Anglican mission initiative). Benjamin reported as follows:

“We visited Kakuma Refugee Camp with a team from Church Army Africa through an invitation from Ven. David Wuor, from the diocese of Ayod. Five dioceses from southern Sudan had written to us asking for help in various areas including evangelism, clothes, food, tents and chairs for use during Sunday worship, and the training of leaders. The dioceses are Ayod, Nasir, Akobo, Maiwut and Bentiu (all are new dioceses, sub-divided from Bor and Malakal).

“As a team of eight we managed to take two large tents, with capacity for 150 people to meet, 100 plastic chairs, 10 sacks of clothes and assorted foodstuffs. Earlier in the year, Carlile College, the Church Army College in Nairobi, as a response to their request admitted four evangelists to train for three years. Even with this, the need for training leaders is huge and there is so much that needs to be done.

“Ven. David Wuor, was the dean of the cathedral that was demolished due to the ongoing war, and finished his diploma last year from Carlile College. David, who has been in the camp since 2014, shared with me that he had no previous training, even though he has served as a clergyman for twelve years. He is in charge of five congregations with 400 – 500 in attendance each Sunday. To do that work, David is supported by fifteen evangelists and lay readers who have no training at all to lead churches.”

David’s situation seems typical. Benjamin went on to describe how he had also visited a classmate of his from Carlile, Revd Timothy Ibrahim in his church in Kakuma.

“Timothy was my classmate in Carlile from 2005 – 2008 and has been in the camp since 1999. Timothy has three congregations and seven untrained leaders who support him. Timothy introduced me to the chair of all the Anglican clergy, Ven. Abraham who has been in the camp since 1992. Abraham shared that there more than 40 ordained Anglican clergy in the camp but more than 90% of these have no formal ministerial training.

“During my visit to Timothy’s church, the Bishops of Feiyang and Kongeren Dioceses were visiting the Dinka community in the camp. The bishops gave me time to address the gathered Christians and I explained to them about BUILD work across East Africa. Bishop David and Gabriel were excited to hear of the prospects to train their church leaders right there in Kakuma.”

David, Gabriel and many others are excited by this prospect, but delivering that training will not be straightforward. The nascent BUILD ACK initiative is now beginning to look at how this might happen, alongside putting down roots in and around Nairobi, where, despite a wealth of resources in comparison to Kakuma and Kalobeyei, there are also significant training needs. The challenge and opportunity will be to do this in an integrated way.

AICMAR grad supporters (2)

“Some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Empirical data on follow-on training from BUILD initiatives can be hard to gather. It was therefore encouraging to be sent figures from efforts at AICMAR, described in an earlier post. 36 of 59 students who completed their BUILD-based diploma studies were sampled and the following figures were noted and observations made.

First, the training had been emphatic when it came to the importance of passing on learning to others. 100% of the sample followed through on this: every single one had trained others using BUILD materials or methods and a total of 423 individuals had been reached. If that figure is extrapolated for the 59, then a total of approximately 700 will have been reached, 693 being the estimate. One outlier showed extraordinary enthusiasm in passing on his training to 45 others. BUILD can have that effect. But if he is removed to normalise the findings and a new average is applied, the group remains responsible for equipping around 640 (637 the figure).

Second, students were assured that quality was as important as quantity and that follow-on training to a few peers was legitimate and to be encouraged. Against that background the lowest number reached by an individual was three (two individuals trained that number) and the highest 45, as we have noted above. If that exceptional individual is included the mean number trained per student is just under 12 (11.8), but even with the outlier removed the average is only reduced to just under 11 (10.8). These encouraging figures may well reflect local leadership development group sizes. In that distribution of leaders reached per trained trainer the person, apart from the individual who reached 45 others the next most prolific reached 24 others. The most frequent number reached was nine: six individuals reached out to that number with BUILD based training.

Third, the 59 BUILD graduates came from three distinct cohorts. 23 were part of a Church Workers Cohort made up of students in full-time ministry: priests, deacons, evangelists, lay readers and associate ministers. A further 15 were in a Chaplaincy Cohort, the majority of whom were early childhood development teachers and teachers from primary and secondary schools. Finally, there was a Regional Cohort, also with 23 graduates, drawn from the Western and Nyanza regions of the Anglican Church of Kenya, together with two students from Tanzania. Looking at those different types of leader, the Church Workers averaged just under 10 per person (9.7). The Chaplaincy members averaged a higher number: 15 (although the outlier was in their ranks and without him they averaged just under 11 (10.7)). Those from the Regional Cohort reached on average just over 14 others (14.3). That higher number may be due to the sustained focus on the incremental development of local leadership development groups in that group.

A final observation or comment is that it is impossible to quantify the more informal teaching and training that resulted. If the approximately 700 who were directly touched by the training (including the 59 themselves) were preaching to or praying for or sharing with just ten others on a week-by-week basis then the wider impact or influence is increased ten-fold. But of course many would be interacting and interfacing with much larger numbers in groups and congregations. The wider numbers of those influenced in some way by just 59 students in a single BUILD programme are then in the thousands.

Manzi Costa

“David faced what we are facing” – confidence despite insecurity

Kamango Diocese is a young Anglican diocese in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It lies close to the Uganda border in the Beni region of DRC’s North Kivu province. Various armed groups operate in North Kivu, encouraged by an absence of governance and the presence of mineral wealth. One of those groups, the Allied Democratic Front (ADF), continues to create havoc.

We spoke with Manzi Costa who serves in the diocese, and travels regularly to Uganda as part of a BUILD training cohort. Manzi described how the ADF is operating in his area: “They attacked the diocese and killed many of our Christians in April. Even now Bishop Sabiti [Tibafa Daniel] and the diocesan staff are no longer at the cathedral in Kamango but have been displaced to the town of Nobili close to the Uganda border, where there is some protection. This is the challenge we are facing: the whole diocese is scattered. It feels as though no organisation is really helping us, and no one is going out to get food. They attacked the town yesterday and killed eight civilians and three soldiers. People are no longer going to the churches. We gather together in the town and pray from there, sometimes in semi-permanent structures.”

In this context, Manzi went on to explain how his studies that week on the Psalms were helping him: “David faced the same challenges we are facing, but he remained confident in God”, he shared. “However much we are facing challenges, we are still confident. This is how the BUILD training is helping me: the Psalms are encouraging me as the Psalmists were facing what we are facing but they continued to trust in God. Even though we are suffering, our God is there – that is the message I am taking and will share with others. The wicked one is prospering but I will cry out to God. It has been this way since I was born – 28 years ago. Up to now I have only experienced wars.”

Pray for Manzi as he returns to Congo, that he will continue to know and share that message of hope. And, as Bishop Sabiti, requests, “Please pray for a quick recovery of peace in the area so that people are able to grow their crops. [Without that] soon hunger will be generalised and sickness will follow as an epidemic. People now need shelter, clean water, food and medication, and sensitisation about the Ebola virus.”

Edward Nyiturikyi

Reintegrating Rwandan communities

We caught up with Edward Nyituriki, a BUILD student and trainer who is in Amsterdam studying for a masters. Edward is exploring how genocide perpetrators can be reintegrated back into their communities once they have been released from jail. We discussed what that work might mean for him when he returns to Rwanda later in the year, and how it can inform, connect with and impact BUILD.

The focus of Edward’s study is on how prisoners who were involved in the genocide but are soon to be released “can be positive to the community, how they can bring peace rather than instability.” Edward has looked at how his diocese, Shyogwe, has been doing prison ministry and preparing prisoners for release. He discovered that while there has been a great deal of helpful preaching, there has been very little personal work to respond to their cry. As one prisoner told him, “We are like orphans and no one is taking care of us.” In response, Edward’s study advocates for a particular type of prison chaplaincy to develop at Muhanga and Nyanza, a chaplaincy that will “counsel prisoners and connect them to the local community, helping them to share with those communities, and especially with the genocide survivors.”

The re-integration of perpetrators among survivors is understandably challenging. First, Edward shares, there is the need for them to “realise what they have done, for confession and forgiveness.” As he went on to say, “asking for forgiveness is a very big step towards reconciliation, and survivors are willing and wanting to hear from perpetrators, although it can take some time to forgive.” To complicate matters, the local gacaca law court system that was already struggling before the genocide was completely overwhelmed with cases. As a result, many prisoners who are presumed perpetrators feel they have been the victims of terrible injustice. As Edward pointed out, “some say, ‘What will we confess?’ We need to be able to help them to deal with this.”

The chaplaincy will connect prisoners with parishes in order “to create local reconciliation groups where perpetrators and survivors can meet for teaching and sharing on reconciliation, repentance and forgiveness. Not only drawing on key biblical passages, but also on how our culture encourages peaceful neighbourhoods, working closely with pastors and catechists. This means identifying genocide survivors and those in the community with relatives in prison, and bringing them together too.”

As Edward pointed out, it can be hard gathering people together for such meetings. “But if they can do an activity together it can motivate them, an activity of their choice – farming, brick making, income generating. That means having micro-finance funds available that they can borrow to start these up. Doing these activities together will encourage them and help them to overcome the stigma that they feel, their feeling that they are rejected, developing a sense of being together helps to reduce their fear.”

How does all this link with the work of BUILD? Edward explained that, “in one way and another I have been inspired by and have learnt from BUILD. But BUILD is focussed on the catechists and pastors, while this chaplaincy programme will draw in a wide variety of those who have been affected by the genocide. Those who have been trained by BUILD are among the ones who will implement the reconciliation groups – the catechists and pastors. This will give them a new perspective and message in their groups.”

Along with BUILD and other programmes, this initiative will be integral to delivering the four pillars of the diocese (sharing the word with families, alleviating poverty, bringing peace & reconciliation, and creating church ownership*), so that Rwandan communities can be reintegrated as a critical part of the Church’s mission in that context.

 

*Edward clarified that ‘church ownership’ means “members resolving their own problems and initiating their own programmes,” rather than assuming that the pastor or diocese will do it for them.

Chandia

Growing leaders from the grassroots

Joseph Chandia’s story illustrates how BUILD can grow exceptional leaders from the grassroots, leaders who can then go on to influence and equip others far more widely. Joseph has been mentioned in this blog before (here for example), but the story behind the story is well worth recounting.

From BUILD’s perspective the story begins over a decade ago, when Joseph was working as a security guard in Kampala at the headquarters of the Church of Uganda. Joseph had travelled there from his home near Arua, in the north of the country, looking for work. Life was far from easy on a number of fronts, and it was hard for Joseph to hold down a job. Joseph shared:

“I was about to lose my job because of a problem with drink. I was given several warning letters and then suspended. Stephen, the BUILD Coordinator, noticed me. He drew me close to him and we became friends. He shared the word of God with me, which changed my life and I became involved with BUILD. I had little formal education, but BUILD helped me even in that. Several BUILD training events empowered me with skills of how to preach the gospel, and gave me a foundation for further study.”

Joseph later returned home where he was welcomed back and began to serve in the church. He continued to be involved with BUILD from there. “I gained a lot of experience through the BUILD programme and was encouraged to serve not only by word alone but also in action. As a result I established a faith based organisation, helping those who were suffering from HIV and AIDS, which also empowered my church in their mission and outreach.”

Joseph grew in his leadership, was ordained, and was sent by his bishop to study for a diploma in theology at Uganda Martyrs Seminary. During that time he began to lead his churches in their outreach to refugee settlements in his local area – for example by organising and mobilising the local churches to gather together clothes and food to help those in need, despite their own challenges and poverty.

Joseph has since been able to take his studies further, and having now completed a degree in theology part-time he has a vision to serve the church in South Sudan through the training of local church leaders, both in the dioceses there, as well as among the many in exile in Uganda. Recently he brought some of these leaders from one of the settlements to the formal BUILD training-of-trainers course, despite the sacrifice involved. He is now studying for a masters in development studies in his spare time.

For Joseph and for BUILD things have gone full circle.  Joseph was brought to faith, nurtured and equipped through the various levels of BUILD, and he is now helping to select and send South Sudanese leaders for BUILD training. In turn, those leaders are now taking the training downwards, in the opposite direction: from the formal training they are receiving, to the local non-formal groups in the refugee settlements that they are developing and leading themselves. And through the informal teaching and discipleship those groups are engaged in more widely, they are now more serving those in the congregations in the settlements more effectively.

As a result many at the grassroots are being influenced by BUILD’s biblical, theological and practical training, so that, in time, a whole new generation of leaders will emerge to build the church and impact their communities.

Lay Readers Transport

“My preaching weighs more than my age” – indications of impact

It is always encouraging to hear about BUILD’s impact. Trainers and participants often write and share what is going on in their lives, and here are just a handful of comments. They speak for themselves, not least because of their context: the reports included the challenges they were facing, which included ill-health, loved ones lost, insecurity and numerous accidents.

Noah, a young priest from eastern Uganda, underlines the opportunities that BUILD has opened up for him: “Amidst the challenges God has been in control, and through the BUILD classes I have been given opportunities due to the way I always handle the scriptures. I was given the opportunity to be mission coordinator of the archdeaconry, and given the opportunity of training all the mission coordinators of all the twelve parishes with the BUILD programme. I was also given the opportunity to preach before the archdeacon. People commented that my preaching weighs more than my age and wondered where I was trained.”

Despite the many difficulties that David, a pastor from western Uganda, is facing, he shares: “The BUILD programme has improved my leadership skills, and because I am now confident in biblical interpretation I can stand in front of educated people having confidence that what I am going to say to them is true and the real message of God. I have now started a Bible study class at the archdeaconry headquarters: every week the number of participants increases because of the real message they get from the Bible. And every Sunday the congregation increases because of the message they are receiving.”

Catherine, a church worker from central Uganda in her early twenties, explains how the training has empowered her beyond expectations: “When I was in the field I was not expecting anyone else to help when carrying out my training to the group, but I want to thank God that I was helped by the Diocesan Secretary, who helped me to organise the participants. The people gave me maximum respect that I never expected and also patience: this was a miracle because I thought that I could not manage and even in my preaching God made me strong.” As a result of her growth in confidence and competence she was fast-tracked for ordination and further studies.

Matthew, from South Sudan, begins with a gracious understatement: “Though Christians are not settled due to the insecurity that sparked off in South Sudan, the church is progressing. This helped us a lot to mobilise participants for the BUILD programme from the four archdeaconries of Nzara Diocese. As the BUILD programme has rooted its seed in South Sudan and Nzara Diocese in particular, we therefore hope that it will be scattered to all dioceses in South Sudan. This is because God is our refuge and strength.”

Mercy, a Christian worker from Kenya, explained how the training, coupled with practical challenges, strengthened her as a leader: “I appreciate the BUILD course because it has taught me to be a leader of integrity who can lead by faith even in hard times. I have learnt to trust in God’s wisdom that will help me make decisions that are right and valid. It is as a result of the much I have learnt in this course that I have not given up in ministry during the hard times I have been through.”

It is our hope and prayer that these indications of impact will be multiplied up as these trainers and more besides pass on BUILD to others.