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Kenya

Empowering Leaders for Community Transformation

By eVitabu, Kenya, Training

Walter Rutto is a pastor trainer from the highlands west of Kenya’s Rift Valley. He’s passionate about holistic pastoral training. In 2013 he founded Transformational Compassion Network (TCN), one of APF’s newest partners. He shares some reflections on the church in Kenya and describes how TCN’s partnership with APF has helped sustain them through the pandemic.

In the forth century AD, a small Christian population brought change to the entire Roman Empire. From tiny beginnings, its impact was vast. Since then, the Church has pioneered social services, schools and medical care; it has been an inspiration for art, culture, and philosophy; an influential player in politics, ethics, and law. Imagine the 631 million Christians currently in Africa, making up 45 percent of the population, taking the same route as their Roman predecessors!

2000 years later in Africa, however, while the number of churches is growing fast, numerous difficulties and brokenness remain. They cause doubt about the truth of God’s presence in the lives of his people. We have many strict religious gatherings with different convictions, ways of thinking and tenets, all aimed at responding to local challenges. But it seems the more gatherings, holy places, and Christians, the higher the degree of brokenness, poverty, and hopelessness.

I believe the problem stems from the Church being disengaged from the deep cultural, social, and physical needs of Kenyan communities. Rather than serving communities at the level of their culture, a false separation exists that pits the sacred against the secular. It means the church offers extreme spiritual care (miracles and wonders), but it lacks social compassion and the physical touch.

Regardless, the Church is still the solution. A local church in the community is the most important strategic institution for bringing holistic transformation. The key is empowering, equipping, and encouraging local African churches to fulfil their God-given role in advancing his Kingdom.

It is for this reason that Transformational Compassion Network (TCN) established the Theology and Development programme. The training challenges the separation of spiritual and secular realms, changes mindsets and demonstrates the ways faith and society interact as central to holistic community transformation.

Since we began the programme in partnership with the Kenya Highlands University in 2016, 247 learners have achieved certificate-level training. There are two programme tracks for Christian leaders who already have higher education and one for those who have not been able to complete schooling. In August, we held our fifth graduation ceremony where thirteen students graduated from Kenya Highlands University. More will graduate in November at our new partner institution, Kaboson Pastors Training College.

When the Covid-19 outbreak hit Kenya and classes were suspended, the learners asked if they could continue studying online. At first, it was hard to plan and structure online learning. We did not know how to achieve it. Then we heard about an app called eVitabu developed by APF. The app could house all our training materials and help us bring the entire training programme online. APF support worker Rossa Wanjiru came and trained TCN staff on how to use eVitabu and it has been a big help.

We can do this in Kenya because digital connectivity is at now at over 85 percent. Many programme learners and programme alumni, who are hoping to enrol for diploma- and bachelor-level courses, are now using eVitabu regularly. Experience from our Sekenani class in Narok County shows that even those unfamiliar with smartphones can access the app after the training Rossa provides. We are now discussing translating the English programme material into several local languages.

For TCN’s Theology and Development programme to achieve its goals, partnership and collaboration from likeminded institutions and organisations is paramount. TCN is happy to share the programme through eVitabu to benefit pastors, church leaders and believers from across Africa. Appreciation to all our partners as we look forward to creating a framework of working together through eVitabu.

New Theology and Development programme classes began this September. TCN welcomes you to get involved by funding scholarships for learners from poorer backgrounds and supporting the programme in hard-to-reach areas. Please contact APF for information about how you can help.

eVitabu workshops in Kenya and Uganda

By eVitabu, Kenya, Uganda

In May and June, workshops were held in Kenya and Uganda to help pastors and church leaders download, install and use eVitabu on their own phones.

In Kenya, Rossalynne Wanjiru helped around 50 pastors get started on the training and resource hub app in Kiambu, Kericho, Narok, Webuye and Kapsabet. Rossa did a fantastic job and was supported by the APF team back in the UK through WhatsApp.

In Uganda, plans for workshops in Soroti, Mbale, Kumuli, Iganga, Lira, Mukono and Kampala unravelled as the government banned travel between districts and limited gatherings. Several workshop coordinators persevered and went ahead with locally run groups, taking care to follow the new Covid-19 regulations.

Making the cut? Tackling FGM/C in rural Kenya

By Kenya, Training

Walter Rutto is CEO of Transformational Compassion Network (TCN). He explains why the local church is best placed to work alongside rural Kenyan communities to address sensitive cultural issues and gender-based violence and promote sustainable development.

Transmara South sub-County is a part of Narok County. Located towards the south of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, it is home to Maasai, Kalenjin, Gusii and Kuira ethnic groups. It is an area famous for its wildlife and rich cultural heritage. Traditional culture in rural Transmara remains deep rooted. Rhythmic music and call-and-response songs echo under the guidance of a song-leader. Boys are sent out with the calves and lambs as soon as they can walk.

Several ethnic groups here continue to practice circumcision on young boys and girls as a rite of passage into adulthood.

In Maasai villages, for example, young men and women undergo ‘emorata’ when they come of age. Girls experience female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) as part of an elaborate ritual before entering early arranged marriages. Boys must endure the operation in silence or be shamed.

Men normally take several wives. Traditionally, when a woman gets married, it is understood that she has also married the other men in her husband’s generational group as well as her husband.

Across Transmara, we estimate that there are more than 30 different church denominations and networks ranging from the older Anglican and Catholic churches to new indigenous local groups and congregations.

The local church is the best place to address the challenges facing young people in this part of Kenya. Churches are where young girls shelter and seek protection especially during ‘circumcision season’ in early December. Girls prefer church-run safe houses to those run and funded by international organisations. Despite the church’s poverty, the girls know and trust Christian leaders. Only pastors have the power of persuasion needed to facilitate reconciliation between rescued girls and their families.

Although pastors have the spiritual authority to tackle FGM/C in local village communities, few have received higher education or proper theological training. Most, especially those serving in smaller church networks, dropped out of formal education before even finishing primary school.

At TCN, we are working in partnership with the Kenya Highlands Evangelical University and Kaboson Pastors’ Training College to support rural pastors across Transmara. The training is giving pastors Bible knowledge and is equipping them to think theologically about their culture. We believe that the Bible in the hands of a well-trained pastor is the key tool that is needed to address damaging practices like FGM/C.

Climate change is making rainfall less predictable and less frequent. This and overgrazing mean the economic outlook is challenging. It has led to ethnic conflict, cattle rustling and land disputes. We therefore also train pastors as peacemakers and teach them to lead sustainable development projects that reduce environmental degradation and improve food security. We never lecture but use a ‘flipped classroom’ approach where learning is achieved through discovery, discussion and reflection.

Thank you for supporting TCN as we work together to empower leaders for community transformation in Transmara.

My pastor called the people from here and told them there was a kid he was bringing whose father wants her to get circumcised, but she doesn’t want… I slept at the pastor’s place. The next morning… he took me to a certain office and registered me. There was a file he filled, so he talked with the people of this rescue centre and we came.

17 year old girl from Narok County.Quote from Population Council report ‘Tracing Change in FGM/C’, December 2018. Church leaders play a key role in facilitating rescue from FGM/C and reconciliation between rescued girls and their families.

Please pray

Give thanks for Walter Rutto and the work of TCN in rural Kenya. Pray for him as he works to support the mission of local churches and equip village pastors.

Pray for local village pastors working to protect girls and young women from FGM/C. Pray that God would strengthen them and protect girls at risk.

West Kenya Training Update

By eVitabu, Kenya, Training

Daniel Odour Gwara coordinates Renewal Ministries, an ecumenical network of Christian leaders from across western Kenya. Equipped with eVitabu and an annual APF training grant, Daniel holds church leader teaching workshops for pastors and lay leaders from across the region. He updates us on progress.

Since the beginning of the year, I have been trying to reach key leaders of training hubs in West Kenya. Together, we have been organising training for this year.

At this time, the big challenge we all face is the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid-19 is making people fear for death. It has made people think about life and death and many are now coming to ask about Jesus. When leaders gather for training, we have done our best to make sure we have water for washing hands and other things we need to stay safe.

A great tool that I use when I train church leaders is eVitabu. One of the resources I have been using on eVitabu is a video message from Revd Dr Kate Coleman about David and Goliath. If we have a big screen connection, we show this video on a projector.

Another set of resources on eVitabu that have really inspired people at the training hubs are from Foundations for Farming. This training teaches more sustainable ways of doing agriculture and running on-farm businesses, all starting with God’s word.

With APF’s support, we are running training across fifteen centres in western Kenya and reaching hundreds of pastors and church leaders. They really want to learn as many lack even basic pastoral and theological training. We have also been holding fellowships for about 100 women in Kisumu city. Most of them are lay leaders and women pastors.

We trust God that soon we will be holding a vision casting. This will be for those who have not yet heard of eVitabu. We’ll be helping them find the app on their own smartphones so they can also download it and benefit from the training resources on it themselves.

Please join us in praying for more opportunities and openness to the word of God here in western Kenya.

Please pray

Give thanks for Daniel as he travels to meet, encourage and train Christian leaders serving in rural communities throughout western Kenya.

Give thanks for the pastors and leaders who gather for training. Pray they would benefit richly from what is being shared.

Pray that more funding will be found to support APF Regional Trainers like Daniel.

Pray for other leaders who receive APF Regional Trainer grants including Pastor Heavenlight Luoga (Tanzania), Revd Peter Mugabi (Uganda), Revd Francis Esomu (Uganda) and Revd Charles Munyamahoro (Rwanda).

The African Paradox

By Covid-19, Kenya

Official statistics record that over 100,000 have now died of Covid-19 in Africa. Each one of those death is a tragedy. 100,000 is a lot of people. But the death toll is lower than many predicted when the first cases appeared in Egypt. So what is going on?

Firstly, this figure almost certainly under-reports the real numbers. Post-mortem testing at a university hospital morgue in Zambia published in the British Medical Journal for example showed that one in five were infected. Most die before reaching hospital without being tested. Secondly, the idea that Africa has been spared rings hollow in hotspots like Mozambique, Eswatini and Malawi where hospitals are struggling.

Unproven and dubious theories abound about the so called ‘African paradox’: vitamin D from sunlight giving extra protection or higher general exposure to disease due to poverty building stronger immune systems. What is true is Africa’s population is young. This is likely to be helping and many African countries already have hard won experience dealing with epidemics like Ebola and HIV.

Paradox or not, our world is interconnected. Covid-19 in Africa is bad for the whole world.

As for me and my family, not all is well. According to the doctor we all caught a bad common cold. We went down to self-induced bed rest believing the doctor. Soon, my husband, who is diabetic, became seriously ill and was hospitalised. Due to difficulty in breathing and other complications he was tested for Covid-19 and put on oxygen. The results came out and were positive.

He was taken to the isolation centre in a very traumatic process for all of us. I broke down openly because of his underlying condition and due to the fact that we can’t visit him. In the process of treatment, his blood pressure went high and they are now managing it. I and my other family members are on self-home care as advised. Kindly, we need your prayers during such low moments.

Revd Elizabeth CheruiyotSt Paul’s University, Kapsabet, Kenya

Please pray

Give thanks that the spread of Covid-19 appears to be lower in Africa with fewer cases and deaths than many predicted. Pray that Revd Elizabeth’s husband, Bethuel, recovers quickly.

Restrictions to stop the spread of Covid-19 are in place across much of Africa but with little government help for the millions who are losing earnings. Pray that local economies would quickly recover and for areas like Cabo Delgardo in northern Mozambique where extremists are taking advantage of the disruption to further their agendas.

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.

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.”

eVitabu Expansion in Western Kenya

By eVitabu, Kenya

Daniel Odour Gwara coordinates Renewal Ministries, an ecumenical gathering of Christian leaders in western Kenya. Daniel attended the first eVitabu stakeholders conference and in 2018 became one of the pilot users. Since then, Daniel has become one of the most influential and strategic eVitabu trainers in Kenya.

Armed with eVitabu and an annual APF grant for travel and training, Daniel serves 18 teaching hubs for pastors and lay leaders around his region. We estimate his teaching ministry reaches at least 2,000 church and community leaders. Daniel told us:

“People in western Kenya are now happy because they can learn the word of God through eVitabu which is helping them to understand and apply the Bible well and illustrate it. Many pastors now come looking for me, requesting that I go to their churches to teach using eVitabu materials. In Kisumu, I have a group of widows that I train every month. Most recently we have been learning about prayer using the Prayer of Jabez and the Lord’s Prayer.

“We now have pastors who can prepare better sermons with good interpretation. Their church members are telling them that they have changed. I witnessed this one day when I was traveling. One pastor told me how people are happily receiving Christian teaching and are learning new things that deepen their understanding and maturity.

“The groups I serve vary from semi-literate marginalised groups, some of whom believe polygamy is a prerequisite of Christian leadership, to government officials.

“Good leadership training is wanted across all sectors. For example, a nursing officer asked for more information after listening to one of my community health training sessions prepared using resources from eVitabu. At another workshop, we used eVitabu to learn about God, the environment and farming. A government officer invited me to return this year and deliver further training sessions on this.

“I am so grateful to APF for eVitabu and the annual training grant which enables me to continue this important ministry.”

Please pray

Giving thanks for Daniel as he travels to meet, encourage and train diverse communities throughout western Kenya.

For Daniel’s predecessor, Edward Amwayi, who graciously handed over responsibility and resource to Daniel after being appointed to lead another denomination in Kenya.

For the pastors and leaders who gather for training to benefit richly from what is being shared.

For funding to be found to enable more Trainers of Trainers grants to be shared with African leaders like Daniel.

Getting the Hump in Kenya

By Kenya

Rev Shadrack Koma is an APF partner serving in the Kenyan Africa Inland Church (AIC). He lives in Kapsabet, in west Kenya, with his wife and children. He told us about some of the challenges facing rural pastors in Amaya, Baringo County, a tribal area to the east of Kapsabet, and how he hopes to support them.

Dear friends and supporters of APF. I am so grateful for your tireless sacrifice to African pastors. I personally thank you for your assistance when I was doing my master’s degree in theology. I am so grateful for APF.

My big concern now is for pastors in Amaya. The pastors depend on their cattle since they are from a pastoralist community. In the last two years, however, they have been affected by the worst droughts which have killed most of their livestock. The pastors suffer in abject poverty. Women and children form the bigger part of their congregations and their small contributions cannot sustain the churches.

As the climate is changing and drought is now normal, we need to change our way of life. Cattle cannot continue here because of drought and overgrazing has made it so the land cannot sustain them anymore. Instead, I am leading pastors towards camels to take the place of cows. A pastor can support themselves, their family and their ministry through camel rearing. The camel is the only animal that can survive in this increasingly hostile environment.

Camels cost about 50,000 Kenyan shillings (about £390) each. This is a lot of money for anyone but there is a great demand for camel milk in local markets because it is highly nutritious. A camel produces over six litres per day and one litre goes for around 90 shillings. With a camel, the pastor will be free to put their ministry first and the rest will follow. Having trained in skills of how to teach, outreach and basic theology they will impact the community in amazing ways.

Building on a cultural tradition, where the eldest child receives a heifer and is expected to gift calves to each younger sibling until all are provided for, the firstborn calf from each pair of camels will be given away to another pastor. In this way, the project grows itself and becomes self-sustaining.

It is my sincere request that friends can help me to boost this mission in this marginalised and arid area so pastors are not suffering anymore, and the rural churches can grow.

In an attempt to adapt to longer and less predictable droughts caused by climate change, a growing number of Kenyans are keeping camels. There are now around three million camels in Kenya, three times as many as ten years ago. 

In cafés in downtown Nairobi, camel milk is catching on. It has a longer shelf life than cow’s milk and contains far more Vitamin C. It is rich in iron, unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins. In Kenya there is talk of a ‘camel rush’, as demand outstrips supply.

Please pray

For Revd Shadrack Koma overseeing multiple congregations and pastoral formation in the AIC North Rift Association.

For church planters in Amaya seeking to share the gospel and bring Pokot and Ilchamus communities together.

For funding to be found to enable APF to sponsor the camel project and enable four pairs to be bought. This will cost £4,000.

For communities in increasingly arid parts of Africa struggling to adapt to increased drought.

A ‘win, win, win’ partnership model

By Kenya

An exciting new three-way partnership is being established between St Barbara’s Church, Earlsdon in Coventry Diocese, APF and St Paul’s Theological College in Kapsabet, Kenya.

After visiting St Paul’s, members of St Barbara’s Church were impressed by the dedication of staff and students at the college and decided they wanted to make regular donations to help the college develop its vision, improve its infrastructure and make theological education more accessible in West Kenya.

Rather than sending money directly to St Paul’s, however, the St Barbara’s approached APF to help manage international transfers and monitor how the additional funding would be used. College staff were delighted to receive the first amount of funding in November 2019, retain a direct friendship with St Barbara’s Church and know APF are there to support the relationship.

The college has already earmarked some of the support from St Barabara’s for desperately needed improvements to the college library and a small computer suite which will give students access to online resources. The college already has two eVitabu tablets.

APF made a short visit to Kenya in October and meet with the college’s principle, Rev Elizabeth Cheruiyot. Elizabeth has a remarkable testimony. In an environment often hostile to women in Christian leadership she overcame many obstacles to pursue her call to ministry. She is also an incredibly busy woman, serving the college, local church, diocese and national synod in various capacities.

With travel to and within Africa becoming easier, more and more UK churches are developing their own links with churches and projects in low- and middle-income countries. The three-way partnership being modelled between St Barbara’s, APF and St Paul’s seems a good and sensible one. St Barbara’s can have confidence that with APF’s access, experience and expertise their generous donations will be well used.

It is a win-win-win opportunity for all parties!

Please pray

That the three-way partnership with St Barbara’s Church, APF and St Paul’s Theological College should lead to significant and much needed improvements to the college.

For Rev Elizabeth Cheriyokot as she oversees administration, academics and infrastructure developments at the college.

For other theological colleges and Bible schools with which APF has close ties including Atirir Bible School, Uganda (Baptist); Kapsabet Bible College, Kenya (AIC) and Wisdom Bible School, Rwanda (Free Methodist).

For students currently receiving academic scholarships to study for degrees including Tom Opiyo, Simon Laboso and Victor Turikumwe.