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By Geoff Holder, Projects Coordinator
At APF there will always be huge value in travelling to Africa. When it comes to meeting new partners, designing projects, monitoring how things are going and building stronger relationships, nothing builds trust and confidence like meeting face to face.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, APF had been increasingly using the internet for holding meetings and keeping in touch with partners.
For years, we have used social media and instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to receive reports, videos, photos and updates from partners. We were using Zoom well before it became de rigueur.
The online gatherings quickly became valued platforms for African church leaders to share ideas, challenges and solutions. Church and community leaders from Malawi, DRC, Liberia, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya and Burundi have joined us. Men and women from cities, towns and villages all working through the challenges in their own contexts. Just as my home office here in rural Herefordshire doubled up as a classroom, children paused their home schooling in Kampala, Kinshasa and Kigali to say hello.
One of the most exciting aspects of our online gatherings has involved asking African partners to lead the meetings. For example, Pastor Samuel Kimani from Kenya used a very powerful pastoral story that got leaders from across Africa discussing issues around domestic abuse. This was a very important discussion as domestic abuse incidences have been reported to be very high during lockdown.
Brenda Abeja and Allun Kakinda from Eaglelite Associates in Uganda led another gathering. Eaglelite is a leadership consultancy and performance coaching company that works with organisations to help them become more effective. In the online gathering they led they helped church leaders think creatively about using social media and other online tools to reach their congregations while churches were closed.
More recently, Revd Josphat Charagu from Kenya led a brilliant session on leadership skills. He began to unpack how a good leader can influence and guide others to reach common goals. It was inspiring. Josphat has offered to write up his notes and make his training available on eVitabu.
Regardless of how much APF staff can travel in the future, it’s clear that our online gatherings are here to stay.
- For the collaboration with Eaglelite as we prepare online training to help mainstream African churches use the internet and technology better.
- For the good relationship APF enjoys with Kingston Ogango, East Africa Director of Alpha International, who supported September’s Zoom call.
- That APF would use Zoom and other platforms as training and mentoring environments effectively to strengthen local churches and communities.