Yearly Archives: 2014

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Growing an authentic training network in the Great Lakes region

BUILD is, in part, a network. But networks are notoriously hard to create and manage. And building a network in a context such as Africa’s Great Lakes region (comprised of Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and DRC), can appear, to the outsider, a somewhat daunting task. Yet on the ground, networks and relationships already exist, and one of the ways in which BUILD has grown is through making sense of, and drawing on, these relational networks and the common context they are set in. Furthermore, we believe that BUILD is part of God’s mission to grow his church. He is at work in the various relationships and contextual factors, and we should not be surprised by signs of that. This story illustrates that.

In November we began to train a new cohort of trainers for the Great Lakes region, with representatives from Uganda and five of the surrounding countries coming to a central training event near Kampala, including two from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It was the first time anyone from that country had come and given the sheer size of the continent’s second largest country we would have been forgiven for being concerned about how the work would link in.

Providentially, one of the existing trainers in the programme, Joseph, came to the event simply to meet and greet some of the team. Joseph had once visited the DRC, three years previously, and had preached in the cathedral of Aru Diocese, not far from the border with northern Uganda, close to Joseph’s parish. He shared with us how he had run into problems at the border, but how someone from the diocese called Emmanuel had come to help him and then looked after him during his stay. And so there was great surprise when Joseph discovered that the very same Emmanuel was one of the two trainees who had come from DRC for the BUILD training in Kampala, and there was much joy when they were able to reconnect face-to-face. Joseph, who is training local leaders in the north of Uganda, quickly offered to visit Emmanuel in DRC and to help him spread the work of BUILD in his diocese.

While on its own this might seem like a small link it is a powerful illustration of the importance of relationships set in a common context; one in which God is at work. Who could have choreographed that connection and its outcomes?

And that common context is the backdrop that provides such fertile soil for these relationships and God’s work in them. BUILD is developing primarily in the Great Lakes region, an area characterised by its many linkages. Ethnic groups and kingdoms straddle national borders that were imposed, arbitrarily, by colonial powers; and languages are shared and inter-related. As a result, most people are multilingual, with their second or third language being regional rather than local, including Kiswahili, English and French.

The links are also ecclesiastical and spiritual. For example, prior to 1979 the Church of Uganda was part of the Province of the Church of Uganda, Ruanda-Urundi and Boga-Zaire, which reached across Rwanda and Burundi and into what is now the eastern DRC. It was only from 1979 that the Church of Uganda was created as a province with borders that corresponded to the country’s state borders.

And the gospel spread originally along cultural and linguistic pathways, spearheaded by the remarkable early Baganda evangelists, such as the famous Apolo Kivebulaya who took the gospel to the west of Uganda in 1895 and then went on to spend the rest of his life among the Mboga people of eastern Congo. Later the Revival of an increasingly nominal Church retraced similar relationships from the 1930s. Thus the soil for BUILD in the Anglican Church in the Great Lakes region is not only the tightly structured shape of the provinces, dioceses, archdeaconries, parishes, sub-parishes and local churches, but also the cultural and linguistic and economic networks.

All this, and more besides, holds out great promise for the development of a strong, sustainable BUILD training network: God at work; a rich network of relationships; and a common background in which it is very much at home.

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BUILD: ensuring sustainability through partnership

Sustainability is a worthy but elusive goal. For a spectrum of reasons, there is more precedent for initiating projects than maintaining them; it is a sad reality that Africa is littered with failed projects.

History has shown us that the key to sustainability is partnership, genuine partnership. Therefore right from its inception, BUILD has placed a strong emphasis on building up workable and meaningful relationships. A story from Rev Henry Majwala provides an example of what this looks like in practice – of how genuine partnership can fuel sustainable training.

Early on in the development of BUILD, Henry was developing training in one archdeaconry* of a diocese, a diocese which, in the Ugandan context, had above average resources, yet 60% of its local church leaders were without formal training. With minimal outside resources available and in order to implement BUILD training Henry did a number of things. First, he asked each participant to find enough money to buy the training manual, which cost 5,000 UShs (around £1.20). This money was collected and accounted for by the coordinators over the course of the module. Second, each week when they met for training, individuals brought small amounts of around 2,000 UShs (£0.50) to buy food for the participants. They had raised this amount from their congregations the previous Sunday, after explaining to the church the importance and impact of the training. Finally, in one of the parishes, lay readers with bicycles, which accounted for roughly half the members attending the training, collected and transported the others to the event, which itself was held in a church building, therefore ensuring that there were no transport or venue costs.

The perception on the ground is that Western involvement often takes the shape of heavy initial investment, with external manpower brought in in the shape of development experts and mission partners. This is then followed by tapering support, the return home of the ‘outsider’, and surprise and annoyance when the project begins to unravel.

While BUILD does not claim to have all the answers in this regard, what is somewhat unique about it is that it began as a local initiative with low-level but long-term external investment (human, material and financial), invited in. Throughout, it has been driven from the ground. The local/external partnership continues and has grown in breadth and depth. And so has the work. But as with all things, one can never become complacent. Therefore please pray that BUILD continues to function through genuine partnership, and that we would continue to find creative ways to make it sustainable.

*An archdeaconry is often made up of around five or so parishes, and each parish, in this rural area, might have around ten local churches within it. Therefore an archdeaconry can have anywhere between thirty and sixty local congregations.

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A vision for strengthening the church at the grassroots through training local leaders

This opening post in the BUILD Partners’ blog articulates the vision of BUILD in the words of one Ugandan pastor – a pastor who not only attended the programme, but went on to train others who in turn went on to train others, as we have witnessed. He said this:

“Through our work with BUILD I would like to see a pastor who can preach effectively himself and stand firm himself, even though he has received very little formal theological education. And if that pastor is not around on a Sunday there are people who have been trained by him to stand-in for him. People who the congregation can trust, that they can say this person is really speaking something. I would like to see model churches developing – churches that people can point to and say there is something different about this church, its organisation, its leadership, its life.”

This blog, like BUILD Partners itself, exists to get behind that local vision and provides ways to understand it, explore it, learn from it, share it, pray for it and support it. Please consider signing up and becoming part of that.