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Geoff Holder

Download our January 2021 newsletter as a PDF

By Impetus

Looking back and looking forward…

Forty is a Biblical number. Moses, Elijah and Jesus each fasted for forty days. The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years. Ezekiel lay on his side for forty days. The rains came down and the floods came up for forty days and nights. Saul, David and Solomon each reigned for forty years and Goliath taunted Israel for forty days before being slain by David. Forty years is a Biblical generation.

APF was founded in 1981 so 2021 marks our 40th Anniversary. It seems timely that we celebrate God’s faithfulness throughout that time and look back at APF’s ministry and achievements.

Looking back

This edition contains memories and testimony from one of our founders, a long-standing trustee and a grateful beneficiary of APF’s ministry in Africa. There are also recent examples of how APF continues to enable effective ministry that brings community transformation through local African churches in Kenya, Zambia and many other nations.

Looking forward

Our lead article highlights the progress being made with eVitabu together with an invitation for you to be among the first to use our new eVitabu sponsorship portal and sponsor an eVitabu user. For less than the price of a paperback book each month, you can give an African church leader access to an library of resources from their mobile phone. Visit:

www.africanpastors.org/evitabu

For our 40th Anniversary, we are praying for 400 eVitabu sponsors.

As ever, thank you.


Revd Dave Stedman
CEO

Online Church Services in Kenyan College

By Covid-19, Kenya

Revd Abraham Koech is Chaplain at Koitaleel Somoei University College in Kenya. He tells us how APF inspired him to set up online services during Kenya’s Covid-19 lockdown.

Koitaleel Smoei University College (KSUC) is part of the University of Nairobi. KSUC has two campuses, one at Mosoriot and another under construction at Nandi Hills, Kenya. The main courses offered include Education, Commerce and Business Administration among others. We currently have over 300 students and believe the student population will keep on going up every year. Hopefully we will soon receive a charter from the Kenyan government meaning the college can run its programs independently.

“I have been the chaplain at KSUC since December 2019 and I enjoy serving the Lord here. My contract has been renewed and the work designation has changed slightly to Lecturer/Chaplain. It is my prayer that through my ministry here many will come to the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“I would like to thank APF so much for inspiring me to begin online church services at KSUC. The inspiration came from an APF online gathering in July 2020 which I attended. We had a wonderful time of fellowship and prayers with other APF partners from across Africa through Zoom. I had never taken seriously the importance of online meetings before. After the meeting I said, “Why should we not begin online Church services at the university using Zoom? If we can have a meeting online, why not Church online.” Our students and staff had been at home since March, due to the pandemic so reaching them with God’s word online became crucial. I shared the idea with a number of people at the university and they supported it. We began the services without delay.

“The university IT officers were willing to help me with facilitating the online services and helped students and staff get a web link and login to the services in good time. Many students would join the services online along with most of their parents and siblings from different parts of the country and everyone actively participated. The university staff also joined the services.

“The link to join the services was sent through the students and staff WhatsApp groups. The services always lasted one hour every Sunday and included praise and worship, prayer, hymns, testimonies, encouragements, scripture readings, a sermon, and an offering. God gave me the grace to preach in these services.

“I am so grateful to God for APF as without the inspiration from the APF Zoom meetings I wouldn’t have started Sunday services at KSUC. I am also so thankful to the university for supporting this ministry.

“I believe that online platforms have a great role in expanding God’s kingdom in Africa and in the wider world now and in the future. I pray that pastors will seize the opportunity and start spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this way. In Africa today, a big number of people have mobile phones with access to the internet. Reaching them online has become easy. Through the internet a local church pastor is connected not only to his local area but to the entire world. Let’s take up this challenge today in obedience to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ (Mathew 28:19-20).”

Please pray

Give thanks for the African partners who have been able to network together online during 2020.

Pray for new initiatives that have arisen from online gatherings including Lawson’s farming project in Zambia, the partnership with Eaglelite Associates in Uganda and Abraham’s online church ministry in Kenya.

Please pray for those African partners who have not been able to use Zoom, asking that they continue to ‘feel’ connected and be supported.

As face to face contact restarts and APF personnel return to Africa in 2021, pray especially for Dave Stedman as he prepares to visit Kenya and Uganda in January and February.

Enduring Partnership in the Proclamation Task

By Training, Uganda

Since 1999, Proclamation Task has been helping Ugandan Bible teachers and preachers become diligent in studying, faithful in expounding the gospel and culturally relevant in applying God’s Word. Here, Proclamation Task founder Dr Julius Twongyeirwe (far left in photo) remembers the support he received from APF at that time.

“My wife and I first learnt of APF in early 1998 when APF’s then Director Ralph Hanger and his wife Jane were visiting Uganda. At that time, we were preparing to take a one-year study in London and my wife Grace was expecting our third child. The Hangers guided us as we wrestled with the various implications of having our child in Uganda or the UK. Our bonds of friendship grew stronger once we were in the UK and a co-workmanship developed between the organisation I led in Uganda called Proclamation Task and APF in the area of training pastors. We undertook a number of training events in Kampala and often made upcountry trips together in a close fellowship of joint service.

“The Hangers home in Coventry, which also served as their office, became home for us too. It served as a very refreshing stopover whenever we visited the UK. We drew so much encouragement from our relationship with APF, enough to keep us focused and progressing in training pastors and their wives for effectiveness in local church ministry.

“With APF and other like-minded cheerers, Proclamation Task has thrived with increasing numbers of trainees per year. We always structure training programs carefully and use our experience to provide the best approaches for indigenous teaching in Uganda. With the PT Institute now offering formal courses, the seminars and informal training at local church level have been anchored well.

“As APF marks its 40th anniversary, we look back with great joy, celebrating this longevity in ministry with visible marks of successful partnership among us. As our long-standing friends and co-workers, we join in to celebrate these four decades of APF, acknowledging how such a God-sustained enablement has indeed been marked by resilience, sacrifice and great devotion to ministry and the ministers in Africa. May God flourish the work of APF for many more years to come.”

Please pray

Give thanks for the testimony of long-standing APF partners such as Julius, who has benefitted from sincere ‘fellowship’ over many years and thrived in ministry.

Pray for the many others who sent us articles for this edition of Impetus remembering many years of partnership with APF but we did not have space to include. Remember especially Pastor Lloyd Chizenga in Malawi.

Forty Years a Trustee

By Malawi

Revd Dave Howard has served APF as a trustee since the outset. Here, he reflects with gratitude and looks forward with optimism.

“APF was born out of a vision which God gave Derek and Jill Blundell in 1981. In those days there were two sorts of Christian overseas agencies: overtly mission societies who went out to convert, and relief organisations that provided aid. The genius of APF’s vision was realising that supporting the indigenous church could be more effective in spreading the gospel. Amazingly, no-one was doing that!

“My own involvement in APF was by accident. I became vicar of the parish in which APF founders Derek and Jill were active members. My commitment to APF was cemented when I travelled to Malawi sometime later with their successors, Ralph (pictured above) and Jane Hanger. A pastor told us he had walked “40 miles” (meaning a very long way) to attend some training. Ralph noticed that he had not brought his Bible and the pastor explained that as there was only one Bible for his entire church congregation it was better to leave it behind for their use than to bring it with him. This struck me deeply. Resourcing marginalised but dedicated church leaders like this man remains a driving force for my involvement as a trustee.

APF has changed over the years but meeting the needs of the local church in Africa has always remained the focus. As the world has changed, some of those needs have changed, but APF has adapted to meet them. In the early days, APF sent books and sewing machines to pastors and their wives, provided training courses and, of course, the thing with which APF became synonymous: bicycles. APF was the first to see that such basic help could transform the lives and ministry of pastors.

“The aim remains the same – to equip pastors to be the best they can be in their ministries under God. Now that many pastors in Africa have access to the same mobile internet technology we enjoy in the West, APF is responding with exciting new projects like eVitabu, whilst continuing to provide basics like bikes, local language Bibles and solar power. It is sobering to think that when APF was founded, mobile phones were still several years away in the UK! APF members can be proud that once again, under God’s guiding and providing hand, we are pioneering ways of enabling African pastors to fulfil their Christian ministries.

“Please join with us in giving thanks to God that, 40 years on, APF is still fulfilling its God given vision. We are grateful to the various directors who, over the years, have brought their differing gifts to bear on the work; to supporters without whose generous donations and prayer support the work could not have flourished, and to our dedicated African partners who give so much of themselves to their ministries.

“And above all, we thank our gracious heavenly Father who has been faithful to this work even when times have been tough. We join with St Paul in his words of thanksgiving: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ’.”

Please pray

Give thanks for APF’s extensive network of partners in Africa who often work with few resources and little access to training or materials.

Pray that as APF continues to serve these dedicated but marginalised leaders, we would help them fulfil God’s call upon their lives.

Pray for the current APF Board of Trustees: Revd Richard Suffern (Chair), John Chambers (Treasurer), Revd Dave Howard, Revd Andrew North, Andrew Richardson, Revd Richard Tucker and our newest trustee, Anne Lyttle.

Remembering the early days

By Uganda

Although 2021 marks 40 years since APF formally became a registered charity, the story began nearly ten years earlier. Jill, wife of APF founder Derek Blundell, remembers APF in the early days:

“In the 1950s, Derek had been called to serve God after hearing a message from Isaiah by a missionary from Morocco. Following his ordination in 1961, Derek and I served in churches in Liverpool and Bath. While he was minister of a church in Bath, the family was offered a sabbatical and we went with our children to work for three months alongside Bishop Sylvanus Wani (pictured) in Madi-West Nile Diocese, Uganda. The Bishop shared the problems he faced with few pastors adequately trained or equipped for ministry.
On our return we approached several mission agencies to ask for their help. In those days they all replied: “We are sending agencies and unable to help train the indigenous pastors”. However, as we shared our experiences and the needs of the African church our congregation in Bath decided to help, providing funding for a pastor from West Nile to train in a Bristol theological college and spend his vacations with us. The African Pastor Fund was launched.

“After moving to an inner-city parish in South London, Derek contacted other Christians with a heart for Africa which broadened APF’s support base, enabling a number of pastors to train in the UK over the years. With Idi Amin in charge these were unsettled, difficult days in Uganda. It emerged that many rural pastors desperately needed bicycles to work effectively, but none were available. A generous response from supporters enabled APF to provide bikes for the African church.

“By 1980, APF had grown considerably. Derek spent six weeks in East Africa finding out about the needs of pastors and saw how many rural pastors lacked proper training and were ill equipped for their work. On his return, a small group of supporters met for discussion and prayer in our vicarage. They recognised the need for APF to become a registered Charity and became its first Trustees. Realising it was impossible for Derek to develop APF and run a busy parish at the same time, they asked us both to resign our posts and take on the work full time. This step of faith required us all to depend wholly on God.

“In August 1981 we were “sent to Coventry” which was an ideal base for APF, being centrally situated and providing easy access for us to travel and promote the work. Karibu House provided an office and home for us and for visiting African pastors and church leaders. By this time, the Fund had become a Fellowship and the work extended across several East and Central African countries. In 1977, following the murder of Archbishop Janani Luwum by order of Idi Amin, Bishop Wani became Uganda’s new Archbishop. He was the first of APF’s patrons.

“By the mid-1980s, costs at UK colleges had soared and other agencies now provided African church leaders with more advanced training. Our Trustees decided that APF should return to its roots and focus on providing basic training and equipment for pastors within their own countries. This was done by sponsoring week long in-service training courses led by a team of national and international trainers with pastors and spouses coming together in their local areas. In addition, APF provided relevant books, where possible in local languages, and bicycles for which pastors made a nominal donation.

“Over the years Derek and I were privileged to work alongside many church leaders. It was wonderful meeting African Bishops and their wives in Herne Bay during the 1998 Lambeth Conference at a reception which APF hosted as we retired. I remember with joy joining with them in their enthusiastic singing of Hallé, Hallé, Hallelujah!

“Praise God for APF’s ongoing work in this technological age! May it continue to meet the needs of grass root pastors enabling them to work effectively in Africa’s remote and rural communities.”

Zoom + eVitabu = Growing Greener Zambia

By eVitabu, Zambia

In March 2018, we received an email from Pastor Lawson Limao in Zambia. We replied, thanking him for getting in touch but explained we were not looking for new partner church networks at that time. eVitabu and our lockdown Zoom meetings changed all that.

Pastor Lawson leads the small Zambian church network called The Word of God Ministries International. During 2020, he joined us every month online for our Zoom meetings. During one meeting, other pastors talked about how they were using eVitabu, our mobile library app full of resources for African church leaders. Lawson downloaded and installed eVitabu on his own Android smart phone that evening. He was immediately drawn to training from Foundations for Farming about sustainable agriculture. “Rural pastors and leaders need training to do farming God’s way in which nature is preserved whilst making farming a profitable venture to undertake” he explained in his APF project application. Last summer, we agreed to fund his farming project which reached hundreds of farmer pastors from Ila communities in rural parts of Central Province.

This is a great example of how eVitabu can work. Dedicated pastors like Lawson, downloading the app and accessing training materials on their own phones, need very little to make a huge difference in their churches and communities. Access to the library of training resources on eVitabu, and a little APF funding to help with the cost of sharing that training with others, means hundreds of families are now able to feed themselves better, farm more sustainably and know more of the hope they have in Christ Jesus.
eVitabu development continues…

We’re working hard to improve eVitabu and make it easier for African leaders to access resources on it. In recent months, our eVitabu developer Jonathan Haddock has been working hard to add new features our partners in Africa have requested. These include:

  • SD card support so more resources can be saved offline by users
  • Simplifying app registration
  • Bug fixes
  • Making it easier for us to add new resources on the app

All this is costly but you can help…

Sponsor an eVitabu user

  1. On your phone, tablet or laptop, go online and visit: www.africanpastors.org/evitabu
  2. Scroll down to find the ‘Sponsor an eVitabu user’ section.
  3. Complete the secure online payment form to set up your sponsorship direct debit. Just £5 per month, less than the price of a paperback book, will give an African church leader access to an entire library of books and training resources.
  4. You will be allocated an African church leader already using eVitabu to sponsor.
  5. You’ll receive an email telling you a little about who you are sponsoring including their name, where they live and their ministry background.
  6. Your monthly sponsorship will be used by APF to make eVitabu better for the person you are sponsoring and hundreds of other users all over the continent of Africa.

Please pray

Pray that the eVitabu user sponsorship campaign would be successful in its vision to see 400 sponsors added during this 40th anniversary year.

Pray for the APF staff team as they continue to develop eVitabu, adding new features and making the app work better for African users.

Pray for Dave Stedman and Geoff Holder as they work with partners in Africa to grow the network of people eVitabu, for Jonathan Haddock as he develops the app and for Rossalynne Wanjiru who is helping us upload new content from Nairobi.

Download our July 2020 newsletter as a PDF

By Impetus

The interruptions are our work.

Henri Nouwen wrote of a now-famous conversation which helped him think about interruptions as something other than a bother. He writes, “While visiting the University of Notre Dame, I met an older experienced professor who had spent most of his life there. While we strolled over the beautiful campus, he said with a certain melancholy in his voice, ‘You know… my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.’”

The coronavirus pandemic has been a major interruption to the work that APF had expected to be doing in 2020. Scaling-up the eVitabu app, training conferences, tree-planting, bike and Bible distributions and more… It has all been paused as various forms of lockdown, quarantine and curfew affect everyday life in Africa. Future planning and visits have been mothballed so, in addition to the anxiety and loss surrounding Covid-19, it has been a painful bother.

But in the space created by lockdown, APF has adapted. We’ve held regular Zoom conference calls connecting partners from across Africa for reflection, Bible study and prayer. Technology has been harnessed to bring UK supporters together too. Using social media, we set up a Covid-19 Relief Fund. Within two weeks of opening, your generous donations raised over £10,000 which we quickly passed to African partners who have set up local community-based responses to the triple threat of lockdown, locusts and landslides which have hit the region in recent months.

This edition of Impetus contains theological reflection on these calamities as understood by our partners in Africa and tells just a few of the stories of how the Covid-19 Relief Fund has been used to enable effective ministry in lockdown. APF’s plans have unquestionably been interrupted but the work continues: maybe we too have discovered that the interruptions are our work.

Thank you for your continued support.


Revd Dave Stedman
CEO

The View from Tanzania

By Covid-19, Tanzania

Unlike most African countries, the Tanzanian government did not announce a strict lockdown. Churches, mosques, and other religious buildings have remained open for worshippers, although schools, sports and other gatherings deemed unnecessary were closed until June. From Karagwe, a remote rural town in Kagera Region in the far north-west corner of Tanzania, Pastor Heavenlight Luoga shares his reflections on what God has been reminding him of during the crisis.

“This pandemic teaches us how God is in control of this wonderful and fragile world. During the crisis, there are both dangers and opportunities. Dangers because thousands and thousands of people have been infected and died. Also, there is the related economic crisis with people losing their jobs.

“Opportunities have come because many people are turning to God. We have seen, all over the East African countries, people crying and praying to God because of Covid-19. It is striking the world and all of us realise we are most certainly not in control, ‘we’ meaning humanity as a whole. The fragility of life is emphasised, the limitations of knowledge become plain and human capacity is challenged.
People here in Karagwe were in fear concerning the limitations of local health infrastructure. Our highly social lifestyle and overcrowded homes all created a huge fear of the virus. Many expected to see uncountable dead bodies on the streets. Thank God this has not yet come about in Tanzania. Our government recently announced that the situation here is not too bad. The number of people affected in hospitals is coming down. Our government prepared 1,000 beds at Saba Saba Exhibition Ground, but today all of them have been removed.

“We see wealthy countries investing millions of dollars for security purposes, on health insurance and social safety nets, but still many people in those countries are dying from coronavirus.

“It is a reminder to us that God is in control of the world and he can do whatever he wants to do, without any resistance. In response, we start looking up. As Deuteronomy 32:39 says:

‘Look now; I myself am he!
There is no other god but me!
I am the one who kills and gives life;
I am the one who wounds and heals;
no one can be rescued from my powerful hand!'”

We will pick up where we left off…

By Farming, Malawi

One of APF’s projects that has been paused due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions on gatherings is the Growing Greener agriculture project run by New Life Christian Church in Malawi. Revd Lloyd Chizenga reports on how the church network was responding.

“What is happening in Malawi with Covid-19? As a church we are currently on a sensitisation tour, teaching the communities on how people can get the virus and how to avoid getting the virus. There is a lot of misinformation about, especially in the remote areas, and the government is being supported by NGOs [Non-Governmental Organisations] and churches like ours to keep people informed. We are busy bringing awareness messages to rural communities about Covid-19.

“Apparently, about 80 people have been found positive in Malawi. Twenty-four have recovered and three patients have died. The government tried to impose a national lockdown, but it did not work well because most of the people are poor. We live hand-to-mouth and there were no plans to help people financially so they could stay at home without starving. As you may be aware, around 85% of the population lives in the rural areas so they must continue farming, buying and selling food.

“Besides the impact of Covid-19 on our livelihoods, it has also affected us morally, physically and spiritually. We have a sense that some of our cultural tendencies have to be stopped. This includes having to follow social distancing guidelines and keeping at least a meter apart from others. We have been told we must avoid hand shaking and instead hand wash frequently with soap or sanitiser. There is also a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people. All these are new things in the Malawian setting. We are used to meeting in our hundreds even in rural communities. Our government has been less strict than many others in Africa but they are now saying we should wear a mask.

“In terms of the ‘Growing Greener’ sustainable agriculture project we have been running with support from APF and Operation Agri, Covid-19 has had an impact. Since we can only meet with 50 people and not more than that, we have had to pause meetings and training sessions with project beneficiaries. Our community groups normally have around 120 people in them so training must be reduced.

“We will pick up where we left off as soon as we are able. One thing we can do is to divide the community groups into more but smaller groups to follow the guidance. In the long term, Covid-19 has not affected the operations of the project so much, it has just slowed it down this year.

“One of the tasks I have been doing is to provide hand washing buckets, soap, sanitiser, and face masks to over 35 communities in the Chikwawa area. This is so important to stop Covid-19 spreading through our communities. We have been supported by APF donors in the UK to do this but we need more assistance so we can purchase more.”

Please pray

Giving thanks for the long-standing partnership APF has with Revd Lloyd Chizenga and his team

Giving thanks for Lloyd’s faith and optimism about picking up where we left off with Growing Greener

That some training has been able to continue albeit with reduced numbers

For any negative unintended consequences of social distancing on cultural habits to be minimal but that soap, water and facemasks being provided by Lloyd have maximum impact, maintaining public health and protection from coronavirus in Chikwawa region

Lockdown, locust and landslide in Kenya

By Covid-19, Kenya

Western Kenya has faced a triple-hit in recent months. Besides the significant impacts of the lockdown on jobs, incomes and livelihoods, the area has been badly affected by locust swarms and landslides. Revd Shadrack Koma from the AIC North Rift Convention in Western Kenya shares his thoughts on the situation.

“In such time of suffering and adversity it is futile to imagine there is no God. Even in the darkest times God is present with us. There is no time when God is absent. According to Job 36, he is in control of the entire universe. He knows the weather patterns and what is happening in the world. Nothing happens without him knowing. God sometimes allows such events like the lockdown, locusts and the landslides to take place to demonstrate his sovereignty but amidst such events, God remains the creator and the sustainer of the universe. God is everywhere, even in the lockdown, locusts and landslides.

In this time, I see that God is teaching humanity about humility. He is preparing us for a greater blessing to come but for now, we have to endure this. God is teaching the church that there is value in suffering. Through suffering the church is strengthened. It is a wakeup call that adorns the church with the garment of glory (Romans 8:18). Suffering prepares the church for mission. It is important to note that God does allow suffering, pain and even death if they best serve his purposes but the suffering is for a short time. The pain that has been caused by the lockdown, locusts and landslides is for a short time compared to God’s eternity.

“This time of lockdown, locust and landslides can be our greatest motivation for spiritual growth or a deadly means of discouragement. The difference depends on our understanding of God’s purpose for allowing it to happen. We must remember that God is with us through these events. He is teaching humanity about humility. What God teaching the church now will help us serve him more diligently in the world as the threat of Covid-19 passes.”