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Geoff Holder

Shockwaves from Ukraine reach Africa

By Politics

The eyes of the world are rightly turned to Ukraine where, at the time of writing, Russian forces continue to wage war. How have African countries responded to the conflict and what does it mean for the churches and communities APF works alongside?

The most prominent voice on the conflict in Ukraine from Africa has been Kenya’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Martin Kimani. In a powerful speech, Kimani drew historical parallels between Africa’s anti-colonial struggles – and agreement that Africa’s borders be respected in the aftermath of decolonisation – and Putin’s desire to roll back the years on Ukraine’s independence. He denounced “irredentism and expansionism on any basis, including racial, ethnic, religious or cultural factors.”

Ghana’s permanent representative to the UN Security Council stated that Ghana stands with Ukraine in the wake of the “unprovoked attack”, and Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister said his country was prepared to impose sanctions on Russia and comply with UN resolutions.

While a united African voice in opposition to Russia would send a strong message to Moscow, this remains unlikely. This is in part due to Russia’s economic and military influence at home.

Russia has been courting African leaders over the past few years. Chinese influence in Africa might be far more obvious but Russia has increasingly provided military and intelligence support to countries including Mali, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Mozambique.

This may in part help to explain the African Union’s muted response to the conflict, simply urging a ceasefire, and why seventeen African countries including South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Senegal, and Mali abstained from the UN Security Council vote to condemn Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Away from international politics and diplomacy, what happens in the mud and snow around Kyiv and Mariupol is likely to be felt far away in the dusty streets of Kampala and the villages of Tanzania.

East Africa’s increasingly unpredictable weather patterns have forced African governments, especially Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, to compensate by increasing grain imports. The bulk of Kenya’s wheat imports originate from Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. In neighbouring Tanzania, consumption of wheat is estimated at 1 million tonnes per year. The country imports more than 90% of that wheat from foreign markets including Russia and Ukraine.

Pastor Heavenlight Luoga, who oversees one of APF’s key partners in north-west Tanzania, told us that people in his church were praying for Ukraine and were worried about what the conflict might mean for them. “We’re all very worried on the price of wheat flour coming up” he says.

The dynamics of rising food prices are complex in rural market economics but generally the poorest households suffer the most as they spend a larger percentage of their household income on food compared to wealthier households.

Another impact of the war in Ukraine is an increase in the price of fuel. In Uganda, Revd Peter Mugabi explained how fuel price rises were being felt across the country:

“The fuel board now reads 5,140 [Ugandan shillings] per litre… it’s too much and this affects everything in the market space. It’s really tough and the masses are complaining but to deaf ears of our political leaders. So prayers should go up for us. Covid and now the new combination of fuel prices have intensified the crisis we are in.”

As people of faith from across the world pray for Ukraine, let’s also remember the poorest in Africa who, despite living thousands of miles away, are nevertheless feeling the shockwaves of this terrible conflict as well.

Download our April 2022 newsletter

By Impetus

April 2022 Impetus.

Thank you so much for reading our April 2022 newsletter.

Greetings from Kasese in the far south west of Uganda close to the border with DR Congo. Despite being overshadowed by the Rwenzori mountain range, Kasese is at a lower altitude than many other parts of Uganda and the March weather is seriously warm. As the evening breeze comes through my window and the fan in my room is spinning to keep me cool, I am reminded of ruach, the breath of God’s Spirit.

As you will read elsewhere in this edition one of the highlights of my visit to Uganda was the privilege of meeting Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba. I promised that the APF family would pray with him for his vision to see Uganda transformed through the conversion of:

Heads – improved access to education at all levels.
Hearts – compassion and social justice for the most vulnerable.
Hands – practical action and campaigning against corruption.
Homes – family life and an end to sexual violence against women.
Hospitals – improved access to clinical care.

Archbishop Stephen’s vision is brilliant in its simplicity but profound and far reaching. Together we discussed how eVitabu speaks to each of these aspirations through its various contributors and resources.

Please take a moment to pray for Archbishop Stephen and his team at Namirembe Cathedral in Kampala.

Pray also that APF, through the gift of eVitabu, might be part of seeing a nation changed. Pray for the life giving breath of God to blow in this land and among this people.


Revd Dave Stedman
CEO

Training in Burundi

By Burundi, Tanzania, Training

Heavenlight Luoga is a key APF training partner from north-west Tanzania. Alongside Kesia, his wife, they use eVitabu to run workshops for untrained pastors from rural communities such as the recent programme they provided in Burundi.

The training was an amazing time. My wife, Kesia, and I based our training on resources from APF’s eVitabu app. eVitabu was a great help in preparing the programme for the pastors and wives. The key resources we chose on eVitabu were from Next Leadership and written by Revd Dr Kate Coleman.

Revd Kate’s material covered many important aspects of family life and marriage. We explored together how marriage was designed to reflect the God who created us in His image, both male and female, and who is recreating us to be like Him in loving relationships, deeply connected with each other and in partnership through agreement and cooperation in a way that honours the marital bond.

We looked at how unresolved issues can wreck marriages and destroy families and discussed problem solving and conflict resolution in marriage.

We also talked about repentance and forgiveness within family and married life. At the end of the training, there was an opportunity for husbands and wives to renew their marriage covenants together.

So many pastors told me that this teaching was completely new to them. Wives were praising God and even during breaktimes they gathered into groups to continue to discuss the teaching. Pastors were so happy to sit down side-by-side with their wives. This is not a normal thing!

Altogether, over 60 attended the training. We had hoped for 50. But success is not just about numbers, it was found in seeing husbands and wives together, repairing and building their relationships and hearing their testimonies after the training.

One of the pastors at the training was a Church of Burundi pastor called Revd Maendeleo. He enjoyed the training so much that he made a call to Bishop Evariste Nijimbere from the local Buhiga Diocese. I then received a voicemail from the Bishop asking me to come and join him in June to lead some seminars for the Diocese.

In more good news, a wider door has been opened for the next year. All pastors in the training programme agreed to sponsor themselves for three days of training next year if I can cover the transport cost for Kesia and myself. Kesia will facilitate the pastor’s wives training and I will facilitate the pastors training, then in the evening all of us will come together. We are told to expect 100 or even 150 for that training. I am not the one who asked to do this but the idea came from within the group themselves. Of course, for me this is a great fruit.

The journey from Karagwe in Tanzania to Buhiga in Burundi and back is long. We travelled by bus, taxi and motorbike and had to negotiate the Covid-19 testing challenges at the border between the countries. I was tired and suffered from fatigue at the end of training and after the journey but I had no regrets at all.

I look back to what God has done for me and for all participants and, for the sake of God’s Kingdom, I am full of joy in my heart.

A Tale of Two Villages

By Farming, Malawi

Southern Africa, especially Malawi and Mozambique, have suffered repeated destructive storms in recent years attributable to climate change. Revd Lloyd Chizenga from New Life Christian Church describes how the region’s most recent cyclone, Tropical Storm Ana, has impacted some of the communities he trains in sustainable farming skills.

Tropical Storm Ana started last January in Madagascar. It passed through Mozambique and came to end up in Malawi. The cyclone caused a lot of damage when it landed in Malawi. There were three days of very heavy rains, very strong winds and a lot of infrastructure was destroyed. Roads, schools, crops, animals and houses were swept away.

The government has reported that nearly 40 people have been killed in Malawi and something like 200,000 had to leave their homes due to flooding, especially in the southern areas of Chikwawa, Nsanje and the Lower Shire Valley.

In these places, many of the village communities where we have been running the Growing Greener sustainable agriculture training programme with support from Operation Agri and African Pastors Fellowship have really suffered.

One of those communities is Dwanya village on the East Bank of the Shire River in Chikwawa District. Here, all the crops that the project participants planted so carefully with manure, compost and mulch were washed away by heavy floods that came with the storm. As the water overwhelmed the village, family heads carried children and vulnerable people to safety. Families sought refuge in trees and the wind and water rushed across the fields, through their simple homes and stripped away their crops.

While the community in Dwanya are now in desperate need for food aid, basic household utensils and seeds to replant in March, villages in our training programme located in some other districts escaped the worst effects of Storm Ana and are doing very well. Ulongwe village in Balaka District further up the River Shire is one such community.

Here the situation is totally different. The fields are doing well with good, green and tall maize. With this strong yield, the community will be able to store more of their crop surplus to sell later in the year when food prices are higher. This will help pay school fees for their children. It will mean they can invest in animals such as breeding goats to diversify their household income. It will enable them to give more in tithes to support their church and their pastor.

As a leader in the New Life Christian Church network here in Malawi and the main coordinator of the Growing Greener agriculture training programme, it is so hard for me to see so many of our projects so suddenly and so badly affected. My heart goes out to the people in Dwanya and the other villages that are suffering. But I get strength seeing that our work has not been for nothing. We give thanks that Ulongwe and other places away from the path of the storm are doing so well.

Please continue to stand with us in prayer and thank you for all your support of this important agriculture training work with vulnerable communities in southern Malawi.

A Long and Winding Road

By Uganda

In March, APF CEO Dave Stedman met with one of our newest partners, South Rwenzori Diocese in Uganda. A highlight of the journey was spending time with Diocesan Bishop, Right Revd Nason Baluku.

Abandoned by his parents aged twelve, Nason Baluku lived alone on a hillside and dug neighbours’ gardens to pay school fees. He is now Bishop of South Rwenzori Diocese following a career in parish ministry and an international role with a large NGO. His enthronement took place during lockdown and he brings a wealth of pastoral wisdom and corporate skill to the office.

I spent three days with Bishop Nason and his team in March. It was my first visit to south west Uganda. He is a kind but no-nonsense sort of man, the type I like and respect. He has spiritual oversight of more than 650 congregations spread across 84 parishes. About a third of the diocese’s population of over 800,000 are Anglican.

There are many memories: the intense afternoon heat of Kasese in the valley, the dramatic backdrop of the lower Rwenzori Mountains and a precarious car ride up the mountain to his home village of Kibalya taking in views of the snow topped higher peaks.

Two stories set this man apart:

Nason’s mother was in labour for three days up that mountain. She took several days to wake from the fatigue that followed his birth. Bishop Nason lamented the lack of healthcare for the densely populated mountain people. “Nothing has changed since 1967” he says. If you are sick, injured, in labour or suffering from malaria, there is no doctor, no clinic, and no pharmacy.

In extreme cases an individual will be carried down the mountain by four men. A state of the art four-by-four vehicle (donated to the diocese by the President of Uganda) took nearly two hours to ascend that hillside. In the rainy season it might have been impossible. But Kasese is the nearest hospital. If it is a life-or-death situation, the men run. It is reminiscent of the four friends who lowered a friend through a roof to receive healing from Jesus.

Bishop Nason has established a simple health centre in the village and has a vision to create a maternity unit so other women will not suffer as his mother did all those years ago, and as others have every year since.

In ministry, Bishop Nason combines strategic leadership with spiritual passion. There is a weekly deliverance service at St Paul’s Cathedral. He told me that on one occasion, a woman was brought to a service restrained, so great was her distress. She writhed on the floor “as if consumed by a snake”, held in the grip of an oppression most likely diagnosed as a deep psychosis in the UK. The bishop explained that he has a team of deliverance ministers, but he took personal responsibility for this woman, declaring he would not leave until she was healed.

Together with others they prayed for several hours until she was still. Months later that woman continues to be well. Whatever our theology, clinical experience, or cultural interpretation, this represents a triumph for prayer especially when the act of praying was made an absolute priority. I’m reminded of James 5:16: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

I promised Bishop Nason and his diocesan team that the APF family would pray for them, especially as they seek substantial partners for the clinic and explore options for the training of new leaders.

Nason Baluku, an abandoned boy from a remote Rwenzori mountain village, was reunited with his parents in later life. His mother passed on a few years ago but the son she bore provides a home for his father and continues to pay school fees for several nieces and nephews.

Ministry in Mozambique

By Mozambique

Beira is Mozambique’s second city. Its large container port is a gateway for shipping goods into Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia as well as inland parts of central Mozambique. In 2019, the city was devastated by Cyclone Idai and more recently, the Covid pandemic has dealt a further economic shock.

Carlos Tique Jone is a leader in the Baptist church in Beira. He lives with his family in the city. Carlos was the first eVitabu user in Mozambique and he uses a wide range of resources from the app in both Portuguese and English to support rural pastors. Rural pastors in central Mozambique have virtually no access to training.

Faith in Mozambique is characterised by a combination of African traditional religious practices blended with aspects of either Christianity or Islam.

In December, Carlos received an APF Covid grant to support vulnerable families in Beira. He describes how he used the funding and the impact it had.

Firstly, I would like to say thank you very much to APF for your support. It was great to be able to help some of the neediest in our churches, those who were seriously struggling to provide something for their families during Christmas and New Year time. Your support meant people were able to have a meal on their table and celebrate the New Year with joy.

We made food parcels and identified vulnerable people from the church and local community for the distribution. Each parcel had rice, beans, cooking oil, sugar, salt and fruit. We are very experienced at providing food aid and identifying beneficiaries for support. The Baptist church in Beira did a lot of this work following the emergency when Cyclone Idai affected our city.

Anita is a widow and a member of the First Baptist Church of Beira. She cares for her 15 year old grandson. They share a small room in a very poor part of the city.

Angelina is the mother of four children. Her husband does not take care of or support his family. She is a Muslim believer and is our neighbour. We always help her to feed her children when we can.

Pastor Ernesto had a stroke and is unable to work and get income to feed his family. He lives with his wife and son. The church cannot provide him with sick pay or pension.

Julia, standing next to me in this photo, lives in shared accommodation in the city with her granddaughter. You can find many vulnerable people like them in Beira.

Download our January 2022 newsletter

By Impetus

January 2022 Impetus.

Thank you so much for reading our January 2022 newsletter.

I attended a very long and hot graduation ceremony at Kapsabon Pastor Training College in Kenya in November. I was given a minute to introduce myself and APF which I think I stuck to (unlike everyone else!) My address to the gathering was undoubtedly the shortest, with “all protocols observed” to coin the phrase of the day. It was a privilege to see women and men receiving their awards and being sent out to serve but I was tired, dehydrated and more than ready to stretch my legs at the end of the five hour extravaganza.

My highlight of the occasion was a joke in the keynote address. It went something like this:

A man had a dog. He loved the dog very much. But sadly, the dog died. The man went to see the pastor and asked if he would provide a burial service for the dog. The pastor declined, explaining the church did not offer rites of passage for dogs. The man was disappointed but as he was leaving, turned to the pastor and said, “I can pay $5,000 for my dog to be buried.” To which the pastor replied, “My friend! My brother! Why did you not tell me at the start the dog was born-again?!”

Many become cynical about African friends and money matters. There’s a seemingly bottomless pit of need, different understandings about budgeting and ownership, a lack of financial transparency to name but some of the cross-cultural challenges.

But I also hear myself in their appeals. For APF, there remains the constant need to chase down every donation, the pressure to maintain enough regular income to pay our staff and keep up with demands, not to mention the preparation of dozens of funding proposals to ensure we have growing funds to support our partners in Africa.

As we begin 2022, APF is looking to diversify and strengthen our leadership team to take on some of these activities. This will release my time so I can give more energy to implementing strategy, reflect more deeply on digital theology and foster key relationships both in the UK and Africa.

I’m not yet taking payment for canine cremations or barking burials, but I do want to see APF able to support more graduations (although I will happily sit them out!) and be better placed to help equip dedicated but under-resourced leaders with training, eVitabu and many other life-changing projects and initiatives.

Thank you for your generosity and trust. Please pray with me to stay focussed and trust the Lord for his provision in this new year.

Thank you for your continued support


Revd Dave Stedman
CEO

Vaccine hesitancy in Uganda

By Covid-19, Uganda

As news of a new coronavirus variant ‘Omicron’ emerges from Africa, we asked Rose Mugabi from Pastors’ Discipleship Network in Uganda about the vaccination programme there. With only 2% of Ugandans fully vaccinated, she explains how some churches have been complicit in spreading misinformation about vaccination which remains a very hotly debated issue.

The past two years have been very difficult for Uganda due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The country has experienced multiple total lockdowns that have driven many people into extreme poverty. Incidence of domestic violence and teenage pregnancy has spiked. Schools have not opened for the last two years and many businesses remain affected or have closed.

The government secured coronavirus jabs for mass vaccination programmes through the United Nation’s COVAX facility, which aims to provide equitable access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines globally. The hope was that vaccinations would ensure Ugandans were protected from the virus and schools, businesses and churches could open up again.

But the good news about the vaccine has not been received in good faith, especially in the Pentecostal churches. Many leaders of these churches have been misled about the vaccine through falsehoods circulating on the internet and social media platforms like Facebook.

Some have told me that they believe that the vaccine is really a microchip which goes inside you when you get the jab. They tell me that this is spoken about in the Book of Revelation and that the vaccine is the plan of the Antichrist. Others say that it is all part of a scheme by the western world to destroy Africa and take its abundant minerals and natural resources. They believe there is a plan to kill all vaccinated people within two years.

When I have these conversations, I always listen carefully to what is said but I also make sure they know that we are vaccinated, and our church fully supports the vaccination programme. For us, the vaccine is a gift, it is an example of God’s compassion for his people. He has given people the intellect and science to understand and tackle this enemy, and that we should trust that he is bigger than any virus and not live in fear of its cure.

The government has said that some jobs will now need employees to provide a proof of vaccination card, but in this climate of misinformation and rumour even this requirement has not turned the tide. To me, it seems like the non-vaccinated are waiting for the vaccinated to die while the vaccinated believe that it is only a matter of time before all non-vaccinated die. Here in Uganda, the vaccine is still a considerable debate.

Relief on the River Bank

By Covid-19, Mali

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, APF have been providing small grants to partners to help them, their families, their churches and their communities navigate the huge challenges posed by Covid-19. The most recent grant was made to our new partner in Mali, Mission Évangélique Chrétienne Agape, based in Manatali on the Bafing River. Pastor Pascal Thera reports on how the funds were used.

I received the Covid-19 relief grant from African Pastors Fellowship and immediately I began meeting the beneficiaries. The message I brought was the same for everyone. I said in the difficult times we were living in, some of my friends, partners of the Mission, are helping us give assistance to those in greatest need.

Knowing the communities and what they were going through, I told them that God loves them and has many ways to prove it. I said that this was part of Christ’s compassion for them and that I am just a channel.

The first reaction was the surprise and joy of receiving a gift like this from the Mission. One of the beneficiaries was Bamoussa from Manatali. He couldn’t believe it with his own eyes when I arrived to see him. Shedding tears and with his voice knotted, he said that the problem of the return to school was a very real challenge but he was also living with something else. Since the beginning of the month, he was living under the weight of several illnesses and his prescriptions remained unpaid. The pandemic’s impact on his very small income also meant he had a delay in the payment of his rent. In this, God really came to visit him.

Mamady, another beneficiary, said that he was feeling the weight of this pandemic. He is blind and before the pandemic he made a living from begging. But it was now more than a month since he had gone out into the streets to ask for money.

The difficult walk to the corner was no longer giving any reward. Before, people could give him a thousand franc note (a little over £1) or even two thousand francs. Now, he so rarely received anything he just hid away at home in despair. So let us come to him and give him a lifesaving gift from the Mission and from a person to whom he has never paid attention to before. What a joy!

Kama told me that he had learnt that Christians are good and help their neighbours. He is from Niantaso, some 45 km east of Manatali where we have one of our mission cells. He is also blind. I remember his words very well. “It was like a tale for me and even for many of this village,” he said. “That good comes from the Mission is not surprising because since you started coming to this village everyone appreciates you and says that you are good. We will keep your blessing in a corner of our hearts and through me, you have offered this gift to the whole village.”

This small but important operation has seriously marked me in my Christian life. I rejoice that I have been able to join in with this good work for the Lord. With it comes a certain inner peace. I am experienced in doing development work, especially in agriculture, but this is the first time in my whole life that I have been able to bring cash grants to very vulnerable people in desperate and immediate need.

It reminds me to leave aside my own benefit and understand the true meaning of compassion. I experienced this through the sharing of a gift.

Download our October 2021 newsletter

By Impetus

October 2021 Impetus.

Thank you so much for reading our October 2021 newsletter.

Do you remember when the world was young and ZOOM was just an onomatopoeic word used in primary schools? Or when it became the title of a hit song by Fat Larry’s Band in the 1980’s? Now I suffer ‘Zoom fatigue’ and I have developed my own brand of ‘Zoom wear’: smart up top, casual down below!

I have spent a lot of time, too much time, on Zoom calls over the past 18 months. In the midst, some excellent contacts have been made and relationships developed.

I especially enjoyed meeting the Archbishop of Uganda, Most Revd Dr Stephen Kaziimba. We were introduced because in addition to the obvious synergy between his ministry and APF’s, we share a common concern for children and families living with disability.

Archbishop Stephen shared his vision for the conversion of heads, hearts, hands, homes and hospitals and we prayed together for the outworking of this defining motive.

Another excellent contact is Pastor Edward Kiwanuka. Edward is founder and national overseer of Deliverance Church Uganda, a network of more than 500 churches, schools and clinics in Uganda, Burundi, DRC and Kenya. The movement began at Makerere University in the late 1960s. Pastor Edward has already received funding from APF for local language Bibles and we are working towards online eVitabu introduction workshops with church leaders.

There is no doubt the world has changed; the word ZOOM will never be the same again. Here at APF, we’re adapting well to the new normal and planning for the future. I believe this edition of Impetus illustrates the agility of APF and ingenuity of our partners, finding ways to minister despite lockdowns and loss. But I also pray for more opportunities to meet friends like Archbishop Stephen and Pastor Edward and many others in-person during 2022.

Thank you for your continued support


Revd Dave Stedman
CEO

APF 40th Anniversary Celebration

Join us at St Margaret’s Church, Whitnash (near Leamington Spa) on Sunday 3rd October* from 10am to celebrate 40 years of African Pastors Fellowship.

Start by joining us at for a Celebration Harvest Service.

This will be followed by:

  • Wonderful African catering and music
  • Keynote addresses
  • Recorded greetings from African partners
  • And more!

For catering purposes, please register your attendance by visiting https://bit.ly/APF40
Call us on 01227 681186 or email [email protected] for more information.

* The event was originally scheduled for June 26th but has been postpone due to closeness of this date to the planned easing of lockdown restrictions.

** If it is not possible to have a physical gathering because of Covid-19 restrictions, we will have an online event instead. Although in that case, you may have to do the food yourself!