Yearly Archives: 2017

Serving South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda

Joseph Chandia, a vicar in northern Uganda, has been involved with BUILD for many years. His Eleku parish lies close to Rhino Camp refugee settlement and members of the churches have been reaching out sacrificially as part of a wider humanitarian intervention. That has included some BUILD training and we spoke to him about the challenges and opportunities.

As of August 2017 there were 1,355,764 formally registered refugees and asylum seekers in Uganda (Uganda Refugee Response Portal). Over 900,000 of these refugees are South Sudanese who are hosted in northern Uganda, having escaped violence in South Sudan. This is reflected in the nearest settlement to Joseph, who explains that, there, in Rhino Camp, “the Sudanese are the majority, along with some Congolese, and a few Burundians and Somalis.”

In the past and in a previous parish, which was even closer to the settlement, Joseph’s church reached out to the settlement with basic clothing and provisions that they themselves gathered together – those with very little, serving those with even less. Now, with Rhino Camp growing and the ongoing influx of refugees, Joseph has been reaching out under the joint initiative of Madi-West Nile Diocese and the Church of Uganda’s (COU) Directorate of Household and Community Transformation (HCT), led by Nason Baluku.

Joseph and some of his parishioners serve in the largest zone of the settlement, where around 15,000 people are living. He describes the churches there as “mixed up,” meaning there are a number of Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) churches together with “Pentecostal churches of different kinds.” He estimates that there are around twenty churches in the zone, with a dozen ECS churches among them. Most of the ECS leaders are lay leaders who have come from the Diocese of Yei, and they are led by a Pastor Joyce who helps to organise and encourage them.

Currently their churches meet under trees, although they are beginning to access materials to create simple thatched structures. And they lack basic training for their different ministries. In addition to the provision of basic needs and psycho-social support from the diocese and HCT, Joseph has been gathering ECS leaders together for BUILD workshops. The leaders “stay in different clusters and they travel far, so things are not easy.” But they have been “looking into Paul’s letters to Timothy, together, and the training has benefited them a lot. Many of them have not had a background of training; they feel the ministry should go on, but they are lacking the training.”

Joseph is both leading a parish and studying, but he is determined for the BUILD training to continue because he is sure “it can work very, very, very much.” So, in partnership with the BUILD Unit at the COU’s Provincial Secretariat, Joseph is looking at ways of making that happen, with the constant prayer that one day these leaders will return, rebuild and serve back in Yei.

A UK vicar test-drives BUILD materials in Uganda

Jem Hovil interviews George Crowder, a vicar in the UK, about his recent visit to Kanungu, western Uganda, where he field-tested the BUILD materials.

Q: George, what sort of training gathering were you attending and why?

A: I was part of a small team who went out to Kanungu on an information gathering trip, with a view to building partnerships between schools and churches in Uganda and schools and churches in the UK.  I suggested that while I was there I did some training workshops for local pastors, with a view to exploring training options for church leaders in that area.  As it happened all of the pastors in the newly formed Free Methodist Church Uganda were in Kanungu for the consecration of Hamlet Mbabazi as Bishop. So he asked them to stay on for the training.

Q: Can you describe the mixture of people who came to the event in terms of educational levels and the contexts they are doing ministry within?

A: There were some pastors who had done some formal training, but most of them had not.  Most of them were from rural towns in the South West, but there were a few from Kampala.  Most of them spoke Rukiga, but there was a small number who only spoke Swahili or French.  More than half spoke English, but I still needed an interpreter (Rukiga).  These were a group of pastors working in a very challenging situation in Nakivale Refugee camp.  Nakivale was established 20 years ago and has over 65,000 people living there.  There was a massive range of educational levels.

Q: How did the BUILD approach and the Module One Trainers’ guide help you during your time with them?

A: It worked very well.  Even the educated pastors needed to work on exegesis, so that totally levelled the playing field.  Especially doing group tasks, and then going through the structure of the text on the whiteboard.  I covered the first six units in Module One.  Each unit took two hours to do, but I went at the pace they could cope with and I always knew they were with me because of the feedback and the questions.  I found the material easy to use and very accessible.

Q: What were some of the responses to the material? Were there key issues that were debated or discussed or raised by it?

A: The main response was that this is exactly what they needed, particularly the step by step approach to exegesis.  Because the material introduces itself conceptually it raised discussions about implementation of the whole BUILD programme.  The pastors had never met together as one group before, so it was a real melting pot for ideas and discussion.

Q: Was there anything new or surprising that struck you, as a church leader, during those discussions?

A: The joyful response of the pastors.  When they learned something new they stood up and praised God.

Q: What did you notice about the way in which they interacted and learnt, and the way the BUILD materials facilitated this?

A: I was looking out for possible ‘equippers’ and I did pick up on that as they worked in groups.  When we did the evangelistic exercises, they really enjoyed sharing their stories with each other.

Q: Do you have any thoughts or plans for the future of this training or this sort of training?

A: I would like to help implement the whole BUILD programme for these pastors.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I wonder whether this would be useful for training pastors elsewhere in the world …

Translating training: Kisii speakers on a mission in Kenya

Bishop John Orina believes himself to be the youngest bishop in the world. At thirty-five he was made a suffragan bishop in the large Southern Nyanza Diocese of western Kenya (the diocese has the shores of Lake Victoria on its west side and Tanzania to its south). Kisii is the name of his missionary bishopric, named after the lush, highly fertile, densely populated area it covers.

While the land may be fertile, Naomi Ngoge explains that the work has been extremely hard. The diocese has struggled to reach Kisii and its vernacular speakers because of language barriers between them and the largely Luo speaking church leaders. While many of the local Kisii speakers also speak Kiswahili, Thomas Odingo notes that the Luo speakers’ Kiswahili is not always of the highest standard. This is honest: Thomas is himself a Luo speaking parish priest who has been called to the area. There is simply very little vernacular preaching, and only fifteen Anglican churches dotted across a vast area that covers two counties of Kenya. Those churches, set within four parishes, have only around 2,000 Christians.

The critical need for the church in Kisii is to grow leaders from among the potential leaders at the grassroots, but using the very few who have some basic training. Thomas along with Naomi and three other extremely valuable local, first language Kisii speakers (Vincent Ogaro, Benson Ogoti and Joshua Ochola), are all attending a BUILD, block based training-of-trainers course in the west of Kenya. Naomi, the youngest, turned twenty-two today and is already in charge of a congregation within Kisii town, an important node for growth. Benson shares just how hard and costly travel can be, with no tarmac roads and the rich, red soil that so easily turns to mud. Benson is the coordinator for mission and evangelism covering the entire area: he has a vision for developing a team of evangelists to share in the work, working alongside Vincent.

Thomas shares the way in which they are all committed to carefully teaching the BUILD material, but doing so intelligently – selecting the simplest and most important units in the early modules. They plan to then go back over the more complicated areas that have been left out when the participants are ready to take in units that are at a higher level (when they have reached a third module and have learnt how to handle the Scriptures, and think theologically about basic issues).

All of them plan to translate from the English or Kiswahili versions as they go, but to work together: with one teaching while another takes Kisii notes of the key ideas that need to be communicated. In the process the most basic of Kisii resources will begin to be developed.

Thomas knows from experience that “as you train people they grow in confidence: they understand the Bible for themselves and are then able to share it with others themselves. They then say things like, ‘I can use the Lectionary myself and really teach in the church,’ whereas before that they just shy off and do not want to do their duties.” And all of them are looking forward to sitting down with the young Bishop John to share their vision and make a detailed plan of how the training can be translated into Kisii and into people’s lives.

Converging paths: BUILD and the Anglican Church of Tanzania connect

BUILD has enjoyed links with the Anglican Church of Tanzania (ACT) for a number of years. Tanzanians were involved in BUILD’s curriculum development process; they have been and are being trained as trainers in Uganda and Kenya; and there has been BUILD training in-country. Importantly, BUILD has a special relationship with ACT’s Provincial Theological Education Coordinator, John Sembuyagi, and in principle BUILD has been accepted as a provincial programme. However, only now, through a timely meeting, does it seem clear that BUILD and ACT’s paths are converging.

This month, John Sembuyagi invited BUILD representatives from Kenya and Tanzania to Tanga (on Tanzania’s coast) for their Principals of Theological Colleges meeting, to discuss many of the key issues that BUILD has addressed in its curriculum development: namely curriculum design that is relevant to the local context, drives training and is both biblical and practical. As the Bishop of Tanga, Rt Revd Dr Maimbo, emphasised in his opening remarks at the meeting, there is a clear need for “a relevant, contextual and dynamic curriculum, developed by those who understand the situation of church and society in Tanzania.” He also observed that the current curriculum, “borrowed from the western world,” is outdated.

Participants at the meeting agreed with him. For instance, Rev Joseph Bea, from Mungu Ishi Bible College in Arusha, noted a lack of clarity and structure to the curriculum, which means “that colleges teach in a shallow way.” In addition, participants pointed to a failure to connect ministry training with ministry practice. Rev Canon Philip Munguti, the diocesan coordinator for Christian Education and Theology in the Diocese of Zanzibar, shared how the few leaders in his region who have theological education do not know how to apply it to their ministry. Rev Peter Akester, the Principal of Kondoa Bible College (and a mission partner in Tanzania for over twenty years), talked of the lack of relevant training, which helps students to apply what they are learning to their ministry context. Rev Samuel Maduma, Principal of Morogoro Bible College, put this down to the fact that the provincial curriculum has not been reviewed for twenty years; those who go through it are not able to tackle the current issues facing them in their ministerial contexts today.

Miss Schola Ochieng, from the diocese of Rorya and the head of Kowak Theological College, pointed out a related issue. She noted that Bishops seem to force students who have no capacity for formal theological training to go for studies. This, too, means graduates are unable to connect their training in the college with ministry in the field. But it is not only students who lack the capacity. One of the biggest needs is for “properly trained theological teachers in the colleges,” Rev Canon Jackson Mwidowe, Principal of Amani Christian Training Centre, Ruaha Diocese, explained. BUILD aims to address this need too: growing its own grassroots theological educators is integral to the programme.

Set against these needs that were being described, a BUILD trainer in Tanga Diocese, Rev David Peter, was instrumental in helping people to see the potential of BUILD. David, one of the current students at a BUILD regional class in Kenya, explained that when he started the BUILD course, “he wondered whether he would learn anything new.” But now, having experienced five modules, he admits that the course should be done “by everyone in ministry whether they have PhD or just a certificate.” David has gained confidence in his preaching and can now structure sermons well. He has also been able to use the BUILD method of theological reflection to tackle issues in his own ministry. He feels his leadership has changed tremendously as he has sought to become a godly leader who is strategic and missional in outlook. He has also benefitted from the fact that BUILD builds learning incrementally, developing people’s capacity as they progress, including their capacity to connect their training with ministry.

David’s shared his plans for a BUILD group in Tanga Diocese.  That class will signal a fresh start, but plans are being laid to create a platform for a much wider work within Tanzania as BUILD and ACT journey together in upgrading training in this part of the world.

Jem Hovil with Ben Kibara

Provincial and providential: recent BUILD growth

The word ‘provincial’ is ambiguous. It can mean that something is rather marginal or a little irrelevant. Alternatively, it can describe the reach or scope of something in terms of it covering an entire province or region. For BUILD and its work within Anglican churches it is entirely the latter and recent events have only reinforced that positive view.

From the beginning BUILD has been a unit of the Education Department of the Church of Uganda (COU), in the offices of the Provincial Secretariat, which serves the Province of the COU; in other words the Anglican Church in Uganda as a whole. Having been initiated, accepted and developed by the COU, BUILD is a resource that is available to all thirty-six COU dioceses, many of which have implemented the programme.

However, that provincial scope of BUILD is not true of all the Anglican provinces in the Great Lakes. While BUILD has relationships at the provincial level with some of the national churches in the region, it has tended to respond to invitations from individual dioceses in these countries due to the semi-autonomous nature of their bishops. In some cases that work has then in turn spread to a few neighbouring dioceses, as in the case of Rwanda. But this seems to be changing: BUILD is beginning to work not only on a diocesan basis but on a provincial one, in a movement that is from one perspective entirely providential, evidenced by the ‘accidental’ manner in which it is happening.

For a few years BUILD has related to the provincial offices of the Anglican Church of Congo, even if in practise that has meant working with a few dioceses near the Ugandan and Rwandan borders of that vast country. And there have been links with the provincial administration in Burundi, for example, even if the training is currently on hold there. But things are developing in Kenya (and in Tanzania for that matter – a topic for another blog).

BUILD’s strongest link in Kenya has been with Butere Diocese, headed by Bishop Timothy Wambunya, with his Diocesan Mission Coordinator, Revd Benjamin Kibara, leading the BUILD work there. As reported previously Butere has the regional training centre of AICMAR (the African Institute of Contemporary Mission and Research) in its diocesan compound, which has led to a regional BUILD initiative serving Butere and the seven dioceses surrounding it. But Bishop Timothy also happens to be the chair of the Provincial Education Committee for the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), under their Board of Education. The committee met earlier this month in Mombasa and Benjamin Kibara attended and reported as follows on two main areas from the perspective of BUILD:

First, Benjamin described how they worked together on the drafting of the Provincial Education Policy, a new document that will govern education related issues across the ACK as a whole. Benjamin shared about “the work of BUILD in Kenya and Great Lakes Region and we agreed that AICMAR, in Butere, will be the training centre for church leaders ranging from Bishops, Archdeacons, Administrative Secretaries, Vicar Generals and Provosts. We also agreed that once the BUILD curriculum is accredited [in Kenya], it will be recognised and used across the country to train grassroots leaders who may not be able to access the conventional theological training because of its structure and cost.”

Second, they went on to spend time reviewing the curriculum that is being used in schools but this also meant that, “we had time to share on the gaps of the current theological curriculum being implemented by mid-level theological colleges and the need to have a more dynamic, creative and bible focused curriculum. I shared again on the structure of BUILD curriculum, its design and how it places in the hands of the participants the skills to handle the bible passage with confidence and authority by going through from Genesis to Revelation.” Benjamin ended with his prayer that, in “the reviews of curricula and drafting of the provincial policy, God will use them to make the Bible central in all the theological training taking place in Kenya and beyond.”

It is our prayer that, in God’s providence, BUILD will play a significant role in the answers to that.

Fit for mission?

With some recent cases of ill-health among Church of Uganda leaders there is now a province-wide requirement for physical exercise to be integrated into training events. It was encouraging to see this stipulation implemented at a recent BUILD workshop, not least because the wider question being addressed was this: is the Church is fit for mission?

The participants, all relatively young graduates with various responsibilities for mission in their dioceses, embraced the demanding exercise routine at the end of each day: “It is a good culture to build into workshops given the increase in cardio disease among the clergy,” said one. “It boosts our circulation after sitting and refreshes us for the next day’s learning, and it boosts our team work too as we all exercise together,” said another. “We need to keep the body flexible, to burn the fat and develop the muscles – I will practise this at home,” promised one. Quite apart from the physical benefits, it provided a helpful backdrop for our BUILD studies on The Mission of the Church and Missional Leadership, as we looked at the book of Acts together and considered the spiritual fitness levels of our churches.

One learning unit, ‘Mission Shaped Church,’ encourages leaders and churches to get fit for mission, based on indicators of health established early on in the module and in Acts itself. Just as the body needs to be fit in four key areas (endurance, strength, flexibility and composition), so the church must be actively announcing Christ’s message, developing his community, welcoming his presence and obeying his will if it is to effective in its witness to the world.

As a result of this and other studies, one trainee noted that “mission must not just be left in the hands of a mission coordinator – we need to all join hands together in mission.” Others became acutely aware of “our need for teamwork: we need to lead together in mission – like Paul, Timothy and Silas – and be trained for mission – there is a big harvest but very few workers.” Because the trainees came from the different cultures of north, east, south and west Uganda, and learnt from one another, one thought that involvement in mission further afield would encourage engagement locally: “we must encourage cross-cultural witness together within Uganda and participate in inter-diocesan mission, working with others in different contexts.”

It was agreed that this meant that “congregations need to be trained for mission and learn to support mission.” In other words, “the whole Church must be mission oriented, it must equip and send missioners into the world as Christ commands.”

Leading the Anglican Church of Congo from the grassroots

The Most Revd Zacharie Masimango Katanda is not only the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Congo (ACC), but he remains bishop of the vast Diocese of Kindu. Travel along narrow dirt roads through forest to the church centres is all but impossible except at certain times of the year. We listened to his experience of training local leaders to see what BUILD can learn as it partners with the ACC.

The Archbishop began by describing a typical visit to a distant group of churches: “Most of our parishes are in remote, equatorial areas. This means we are only able to visit them in the dry season: we go for confirmations, to visit the pastors, and to train the catechists where they are. We invite those from around five local churches to come to a central place, so that they are able to walk to meet with me. Sometimes I travel with my wife, Naomi, so that she can meet with the women, otherwise she will not have a connection with them.

“A visit like this can involve 250 kilometres of travel from the headquarters, and there is no petrol anywhere on the way. And so I carry my own petrol supplies on the back of the motorcycle. My bishop’s cross for ordination and confirmation [is in short sections] – I unscrew those so that it can travel in a box on the motorcycle, and I then screw it back together again when it is needed.”

Travel within the diocese is only part of the challenge. When asked about the training he does, the Archbishop described methods that are similar to those embedded in BUILD: “I teach the catechists an overview of the Bible as a whole; how it is set in sequence according to the plan of God. I use local illustrations to help: people are used to the way in which the leaves fall in the forest, and can understand the Fall of Man. I use images and ideas, such as from Creation, which they know well. And [to teach] the covenant I use ways in which they are used to making covenants – for example, a goat as the symbol of a covenant: two families being bound together. For the Holy Spirit, fire, which has great power. When teaching we use cultural issues.

“For example, teaching the death of Jesus: no one will die for another person in our culture, but sometimes people will use animals to reconcile people in the village. There is a large animal in the forest, and if they can find it they will bring it to share with each other: there is joy and a feast. The animal was hidden, just as Jesus was hidden in Heaven. Then he came and there is now reconciliation and peace.”

The training is at a basic level, and literacy levels are low. He shared that, “like BUILD, local level training is what we need. I am talking to people who have never been to school, but they have a heart for mission. So we need people who are creative with resources in adult education.”

The Archbishop is impressive for the way in which he is taking the lead in this, from the top to reach those at the grassroots. “I want to set an example,” he explained, “and I need to train others who can move and train others themselves using simple resources: with the Bible and teaching documents in Swahili, to share biblical models of leadership.”

An earlier post described the scale of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the genesis of BUILD training in Bukavu on the eastern fringe. It ended with a mention of the consecration of the first bishop of the ACC’s new Kamango Diocese, attended by BUILD representatives from Uganda, where BUILD has since begun some teaching. Archbishop Masimango shared how grateful he is for the vision of BUILD, and for the ways it is beginning to have an impact within the ACC. His prayer, and ours, is that slowly but surely it will continue to grow there.

BUILD takes to the air

It is estimated that two million people listen to Namirembe FM in the central region of Uganda. For the past four years BUILD has been capitalising on that with a programme that spreads biblical teaching and encouragement to leaders and people alike. We caught up with Stephen Kewaza who presents that programme in order to find out more…

Q: Stephen, how long has the show been running?

A: We began the 93.9 Namirembe FM programme in 2012. It runs from 8.30 to 9.00 p.m. every Sunday, and is advertised by the producer throughout the day.

Q: Can you tell us about a typical programme?

A: A typical programme presents a unit of teaching and then hosts discussion around it – so there is a three minute introduction, a seventeen minute presentation and ten minutes of callers’ questions and our answers.

Q: Why do you feel it is important to give time to this?

A: It gives us an opportunity to reach out to many listeners in the central, Buganda, region. But we have also had callers from as far as Kasese [in the west] calling in to say, “you are reaching us!” And we have also heard from people in Hoima and Masindi [in the north-west], as well as some in Busoga, Mbale and even as far as Busia [in the east by the border with Kenya]. Because our show is in the setting of a Christian, Church of Uganda programme, they are expecting biblical encouragement, so it attracts listeners who already have an appetite for BUILD learning and who want to grow.

Q: How do you adapt the training for the radio?

A: We simplify it for the beneficiaries – when handling a text of Scripture we make sure that we go into application. We regularly use BUILD’s seven-steps for understanding, applying and teaching the Bible, and many of our listeners now understand those well. We want to move all the way from text to teaching. We discuss Bible words on air, summarise  the meaning of passages, and we ask and answer questions such as: ‘How should we preach this passage?’ or ‘How does this speak to you who are listening?’

Q: What is the impact of this?

A: Respondents call to say things like this: “I have been refreshed in a new way” (Wilberforce from Mityana called to encourage us), and they share how they now see biblical passages in a new light. Someone shared that they never realised they could preach from the Song of Songs and how it has helped them. And it is not just church leaders: teachers call in, including a headmaster who is in touch with us. Some call in repeatedly.

Q: Why does radio remain so important?

A: It is so easy to reach people through the radio – it is low cost and finds people where they are, it takes training to them for free, they do not need to move anywhere or meet anyone as we are spreading the gospel on air.

Stephen, thank you for sharing with us.

Learning from Luwum

Forty years ago today, on 16 Feb 1977, Ugandan Archbishop Janani Luwum’s body was discovered, murdered by Idi Amin’s forces and under his orders. His death was a critical moment in Uganda’s post-colonial history. What had led to that point and what are some of the lessons to learn?

Throughout Amin’s time the semi-established Anglican Church of Uganda had to learn to live without the traditional privileges of position and to stand firm in the face of suffering and turbulence. Rather than retreat, the Church responded with renewed vigour, particularly in northern Uganda where, united by a common threat, believers worked together, and historic rivalries and divisions were overcome.

The understanding of what it meant to be a church in opposition was strengthened when Janani Luwum, the Bishop of Northern Uganda, was elected to the position of Archbishop. Luwum, a fierce critic of the atrocities of Amin’s regime, brought a bold voice of protest to the very heart of the Church. It was a voice that Amin tried to silence with accusations of political involvement, allegations that eventually led to Luwum’s arrest and brutal death. But he went to that death as a martyr, sacrificially standing firm for freedom in Christ, and leading his people in the way of the suffering servant.

Prayers are underway today at Janani Luwum’s birthplace in Mucwini, Kitgum district, where, incidentally, some of the first local BUILD training in northern Uganda was conducted. Led by Uganda’s Archbishop, Stanley Ntagali, together with 26 other bishops and thousands of believers, they are remembering Luwum’s legacy of Christian endurance in the face of brutality and injustice, and his tireless commitment to peacebuilding. Given the significance of Luwum’s death in Uganda’s history (evidenced by the fact that there is a public holiday today in remembrance of him), those same lessons continue to have relevance today.

As a result, they are embedded in Module Ten of the BUILD curriculum, a study of Revelation and apocalyptic under the title, The Victorious Christ and Leaders that Endure. One unit draws together some of the learning with a focus on persecution and martyrdom. The unit begins by looking at the events in 1877, a century before Luwum’s death, when the gospel came to the court of the Kabaka or King of Buganda in the south. With a change in Kabaka in 1884, the nascent church faced the fire of persecution and martyrdom, and through it experienced the birth of a robust indigenous church. The learning unit ends with events a hundred years later, those surrounding the death of Janani Luwum. Through reflection on them it underlines the message of Revelation using the module’s key verse, Revelation 14:12, which recognises that the whole book is a call, “for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.”

Today, of all days, is a day to remember that same call to be faithful, not only for the Church of Uganda and the surrounding provinces where BUILD training goes on, but for the Anglican Communion and God’s church worldwide, in turbulent times. And it is a day to commit to the sort of biblically faithful training that will strengthen the Church to face the future, knowing its ultimate security in Christ, the first martyr, or faithful witness, who is also “the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5).