Yearly Archives: 2020

Higher things

Training local church leaders at the grassroots is BUILD’s focus. But BUILD programmes have a range of other outcomes, both those that are anticipated and some that are quite unexpected. One benefit that we are seeing increasingly is the way in which BUILD training helps churches to identify, enable and prepare emerging leaders for higher education, and to build their capacity in this vital way.

We asked a handful of BUILD learners some questions about their experience of further education and how BUILD had prepared them. Their first names, which they have given us permission to use where appropriate, are Celestine, Erick, Rodah and Sammy. Here are those questions and some of their responses.

First, to what extent did your BUILD training enable you to enter your degree course?

Celestine: “The BUILD training I received elevated my academic standards, which boosted my admission at St.Pauls University.” Similarly Eric shared, “The BUILD training was vital for my admission into Uganda Christian University for a degree program. The admission requisite was for one to have at least a diploma in any Biblical course. Therefore my BUILD training came in handy.”

Once you began your course, how did the preparation from BUILD help?

Rodah noted, “the two complement each other, the difference is the depth of the content.” Celestine added, “[BUILD] helped me understand both the Old Testament and New Testament, which helped me tackle exegesis units well; understanding the Christology and pastoral care units was simplified by the knowledge I had, and it has improved my preaching. I was very good at presentation and having ideas during group discussions.” And a comment from Sammy: “The BUILD training prepared me for the task ahead. I found it easy when I entered the university because pastoral studies, biblical studies and preaching became a walkover during my studies.”

How did you feel your performance compared to that of your peers who had not done BUILD?

One respondent thought that, “Thanks to [my BUILD trainers] and the principles we gathered through the BUILD programme, my grades at university were much, much better. Not only were my grades better but my general understanding of the Bible principles was made better.” Another concurred, “My grades were better than those who did not do [BUILD]. And my exposure due to BUILD helped me to be more informed….”

A third noted, “My level of perception increased – the illustrations that I received in BUILD class when it comes to Biblical texts helped me gain a more advanced insight.” Perhaps most importantly one added, “BUILD gave me a perfect and faithful background when dealing with the word of God; those who missed BUILD training missed the real foundation of the study.”

How might teaching others using BUILD materials have helped you in your studies?

As Celestine put it, “I gained experience and more knowledge while teaching that helped me in my studies. It kept me alert.” And Eric had been active during his BUILD course, “I was often used by lecturers in leading other students through the BUILD manuals. This helped me develop confidence in our classes [at university] I would handle the word of God before my fellow students, and later on in the Church where I served.” Rodah underlined all this: “training and teaching others using the BUILD materials increased my skills in tackling Biblical texts.”

Did you receive any comments about the quality of your work that might be traced back to BUILD?

One of the group had been seen as outstanding: “Yes, my lecturers loved my work and used me as an example to others, and in fact recommend me for further studies.” In a more reserved way another explained, “I received a few encouraging sentiments on my understanding abilities which were greatly enhanced during my training in BUILD classes. The lecturers appreciated my unique approach and view-points on various theological debates in a bid to clearly bring out biblical truths.”

The benefits of the clear focus on understanding and applying the Bible were matched by the others: “Actually my lecturers in exegesis we’re impressed with my participation in and I believe BUILD training had a hand in that.” And interestingly, “Most of the comment I received from my supervisors were when I proclaimed the word of God. [Comments such as:] ‘You have been so faithful with the text’; ‘Your introduction, body and conclusion were superb.’”

Do you have any final comments?

Erick underlined the focus of BUILD mentioned in the opening paragraph, and the difference between the types of study: “[The BUILD] programme, when compared to campus studies, is more practical and therefore better suited for training local pastors. The program receives direct feedback from the trainees who try out the lessons in the field immediately.” And for the record he highlighted his own experience of developing his preaching through BUILD: “The program helped me develop my pulpit character through in-depth sermon preparation and presentation on the study passages. This is still helpful to date as all my sermons are prepared through the BUILD structure.”

The others emphasised their enthusiasm for BUILD: “BUILD training is vital for those aspiring to be gospel leaders,” shared Rodah. And Sammy says he would “pray and urge upcoming ministers to go through the BUILD training because it’s the foundation that deepens the faith of a believer.”

A final word from Celestine: “Long live BUILD.”

Thank you all for sharing.

A firm foundation for BUILD

The name BUILD is a gift. The word sums up BUILD’s focus: to build God’s Church through growing and multiplying healthy local churches. It has also led to our anchor or memory verse: Matthew 16:18, in which Jesus says: “I will build my church.” And the five words behind the acronym (Biblical – Understanding – In-service – Leadership – Development) not only lead to some excellent learning tools but act as anchor points for the values behind BUILD. However, those values have remained implicit, until now.

Over the past few months one of the behind the scenes tasks has been to communicate BUILD’s vision, mission and values in fresh contexts within Africa’s Great Lakes Region (BUILD’s target area within East and Central Africa). With institutions operating in very different modes it has been an opportune time to move conversations forward about the place of BUILD in different churches. Until now BUILD has worked with a combined vision and mission statement and with implicit values. Teasing apart the vision and the mission, and creating an explicit set of values in dialogue with individuals in different countries has been rewarding: it has not served both our communication and our teaching.

For example, Module Four of the BUILD curriculum has the title Nehemiah & the Historical Books: Building God’s People & Strategic Leadership. One component, which follows on from a study of Nehemiah mobilising God’s people in Neh. 2:11-20, is a learning unit exploring that theme, and it includes the importance of mobilising God’s people around a common vision, mission and values. It has been important to work back through the curriculum and to flag up in Module One the need for those elements in relation to the BUILD initiative itself, and in so doing to anticipate teaching and learning that lies ahead.

The outcome is that these important elements are currently as follows (with section numbers left in place to indicate that they belong in a manual):


We have already discovered the focus of BUILD, which is to build God’s Church through growing and multiplying healthy local churches. It is also important for any ministry or project to have a clear vision, mission and values. We will look at this subject in more detail in Module Four, but it is introduced here along with BUILD’s own vision, mission and values.

1.5.1  BUILD’s vision statement

A vision statement paints a picture of the future we hope to see as a result of the work we do in partnership with God and his people. Here is BUILD’s vision statement:

“BUILD’s vision is to see a multitude of well-equipped leaders at the grassroots building healthy churches across Africa’s Great Lakes Region and beyond.”

1.5.2  BUILD’s mission statement

In addition to a vision, it is important to have a clear mission or purpose. A mission statement captures how we aim to achieve our vision, as we work with God and his people. Here is BUILD’s mission statement:

“BUILD’s mission is to enable churches to train their own leaders with a practical understanding of the gospel, Scripture and theology.”

1.5.3  BUILD’s values

In addition to a vision and mission it is helpful for churches, organisations and projects to have a clear set of values. Values are foundational principles that we believe in and which motivate us and guide us in our practice.

BUILD has five values. Each one is a conviction about Christian learning that flows from one of the five words that BUILD stands for (and from the word and verse in 2 Timothy they are linked to).

1. Biblical – BUILD believes in learning under Scripture

The word ‘biblical’ (and “Scripture” in 2 Tim 3:16-17) reminds us that our learning must come under the authority of God’s word. The Bible and its gospel must be central to our training if personal development and local church growth is to be genuine.

2. Understanding – BUILD believes in learning with integrity

The word ‘understanding’ (and “handle” in 2 Tim 2:15) reminds us that our learning must be conducted with integrity. Skilful and godly use of the Bible and its gospel are essential for the development and growth of true leaders.

3. In-service – BUILD believes in learning in context

The word ‘in-service’ (and “reflect” in 2 Tim 2:7) reminds us that learning is best done in the midst of ministry and mission. This means that the training of local church leaders must be done in partnership with their local churches. The fact that BUILD was developed locally reflects this commitment.

4. Leadership – BUILD believes in learning and leadership

The word ‘leadership’ (and “entrust” in 2 Tim 2:2) reminds us that learning and leadership belong together. Leaders who understand the gospel deeply and who then identify and invest in others are essential for healthy churches.

5. Development – BUILD believes in learning for life

The word ‘development’ (and “continue” in 2 Tim 3:14) reminds us that while every training course comes to an end, Christian discipleship does not: learning is for life. Our training must equip leaders to be life-long learners.

We hope you will find those elements as informative and encouraging as we do.

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

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.

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.