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Uganda

eVitabu expansion to Church of Uganda clergy

By eVitabu, Uganda

 There is a really strategic and exciting partnership developing with the Church of Uganda. Dave Stedman explains:

As you may recall from earlier editions of Impetus, during lockdown I was introduced to the Archbishop of Uganda, Rt Revd Stephen Kaziimba. When I was in Kampala in March of this year, he kindly invited me for a breakfast meeting at the Archbishop’s Palace, close to Namirembe Cathedral.

As an outcome of that meeting, I returned to Uganda in July to speak at a conference attended by all the principals of Church of Uganda universities, colleges and tertiary institutions at Namagongo Martyrs University (pictured above). This was with a view to APF providing IT training and sharing eVitabu with Group 2 clergy in the Church of Uganda.

‘Group 2’ is the label given by the Church of Uganda to pastors who have theological education to certificate or diploma level, and work in poorer informal urban parishes or rural communities. Group 2 clergy represent the largest proportion of Anglican clergy in Uganda and characteristically have very limited access to ministry resources.

By helping Group 2 pastors access eVitabu, we’re helping the Church of Uganda with their vision of building digital, pastoral and theological capacity amongst their clergy.

APF is also seed funding a smartphone loan scheme for clergy who don’t have an adequate Android phone. The loans will help clergy purchase a device to run eVitabu on, giving them access to local language Bibles, Church of Uganda liturgies, everything on eVitabu, and more.

I will be delivering induction training over three days in early November to the first cohort of 100 Group 2 clergy. An APF team will return in March 2023 to work more closely with selected users identified by the Church of Uganda as having the capacity to become eVitabu trainers … Then the process repeats!

This is a very exciting development for APF and eVitabu. It promises to add many new users to the app and grow its profile across Uganda. The Church of Uganda will also become an eVitabu contributor, making use of the platform to publish their own resources, liturgies and higher-level academic research papers.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Joy and generosity in Uganda

By Covid-19, Uganda

Revd Francis Esomu is principal of Atirir Bible School in rural Teso Region, east Uganda. His theological reflection on the impact of the coronavirus lockdown highlights how joy and generosity can overcome disaster.

Here in Uganda we have been overwhelmed by the chaos and difficulties caused by the desert locusts that invaded most parts of Teso, Karamoja, Acholi and Lango Regions. The locust destroys crops and green vegetation once it lands in the area.

As if that is not enough, Covid-19 has spread all over the world with breath-taking speed. It is stealing lives, bankrupting businesses, plunging economies into chaos, shuttering churches, distancing people, hurting people. It has taken our routines and has changed many of our most cherished patterns of life. It has presented a challenge unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes. These things create fear among the people here in Uganda. They are wondering where is God in this situation? What is he telling us from his word?

As a pastor and leader here in Teso Region, I have told them that although Covid-19 is such a deadly and contagious disease that has claimed many lives, God is in control of everything that happens to his people. It is God’s reminder to me and everyone else that we do not control our lives and if anyone feels they are in control of everything they are denying that God is all knowing and powerful. We completely depend on God.
Jesus Christ knew that he was completely dependent on his Father as seen in Matthew 26:39: “Our Lord Jesus Christ cried and said, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’”

In this time of uncertainty, two sides of the coin come into play. Sometimes we feel God should fix our afflictions as soon as possible. Then again, not as we will, but as God wills. Our Lord faced the same, but he realised the decision was not his. It belonged to his Father in heaven. Let God’s will be done!

The present circumstance is an opportunity for God to manifest the life of Christ in us. We need not rely on ourselves but on God who brings life out of death. The more we realise our dependence on God, the more we are changed into the image of his Son, Jesus.

A similar account is recorded by Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:1-2 about some challenges that a newly planted church in Philippi faced:

“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”

The Macedonian believers, despite their extreme poverty, found they were able to give out of the joy they found in the grace of God. Amidst affliction, their joy in the grace of the Lord turned their poverty into a wealth of generosity.

As we see many in our community in huge need, giving is the only thing we can do in this time of uncertainty, locusts and lockdown.

Please pray

Giving thanks that although the lockdown restrictions have exacerbated poverty in Uganda, to date there have been no Covid-19 fatalities and relatively few confirmed cases

Atirir Bible School offers Certificate level theological education to rural pastors from Baptist and other denominations. We pray for that Atirir Bible School becomes a regional centre for leadership development

For Francis as he combines many responsibilities and travels to other regions, including Kamuli and Karamoja, to train pastors and leaders

African Christianity and the Environment

By Environment, Malawi, Uganda

APF’s Project Coordinator, Geoff Holder, describes some of the finding of his research project which formed part of an MSc in Sustainable Development at SOAS, London. The university has suggested publishing the finding.

Most charities, mission agencies and international development organisations now recognise that it is essential to account for environmental factors when designing projects and initiatives in Africa. At APF, we’re led by our African partners, aiming to strengthen and support the good things they are already doing. But what do grassroots African Christians believe about the world around them? What value do they place on ecosystems? Could charities and mission organisations like ours achieve more by working in partnership with the African church when it comes to environmental resources?

African Christian theologians describe a unique and distinctive approach to creation. By combining Christian biblical theology and traditional African cultural understandings, African theologians like Lauenti Magesa see a spiritual connectedness within creation. Obaji Agbiji views the African community as a “bondedness with each other and with nature”. For B. Bujo, the foundation of African ecological ethics is the “cosmic community” which includes all beings.

Diane Stinton describes how many African Christians view life as functioning through “participation with God within a hierarchy of belonging”. Because God is the source of life, water and soils, everything is viewed as intrinsically sacred. Kalemba Mwambazambi goes further to see God manifest in trees, rivers, mountains and animals. He equates separation from nature with separation from God. “The forest is as important as the skin of a human which, if removed, results in death,” he writes.

While these writers provide a fascinating and perceptive insight into how African theologians conceptualise the world around them, I was interested in exploring how widespread this sort of environmental theology was outside of academia. What do ‘normal’ African Christians believe, and what might this mean for mission and development organisations like APF?

To find out, I sent African church leaders from across the continent a questionnaire and held group interviews with Christians from rural communities in Uganda and Malawi. Their responses were revealing.

Firstly, it was clear that environmental concerns feature highly in the lives of African Christians. But issues like deforestation, drought and extinction are understood primarily through the lens of their faith. The Bible, for example, guides opinions around burning environmental issues like population pressure.

Droughts and floods are seen as signs of God’s displeasure in human behaviour. Healthy soils and reliable rainfall on the other hand are blessings direct from God. Secondly, by undermining traditional cultural practices that used to help protect the environment, the growth of Christianity has been a cause of environmental degradation in Africa.

Mountains, forests, rivers and trees were once believed to be sacred, the home of spirits and ancestors. As the wild places were no longer feared, they were no longer protected. One pastor explained: “Our ancestors believed that because there was a spirit there, they would keep the trees. Because we Christians do not believe there is a spirit there, we cut down the trees.”

Despite this, Christian faith is the most powerful motivator of environmental action in Africa. African Christians frequently view themselves as stewards of God’s creation, tasked to care for what God has made. “God gave us a mandate,” one pastor told me. “He took us and put us in a garden. Now, we have left our responsibility to take care of the garden.”

This helps to explain why so many African Christians are interested in environmental action like tree planting. It also explains why you might read so much about environmental issues in Impetus. Creation care is simply very important to the African church and environmental concern a direct consequence of Christian faith in action.

So, from camels helping pastoralists adapt to climate change in Kenya, to solar power in Tanzania and Rwanda; from sustainable agriculture in Malawi to tree planting in Uganda, exciting opportunities exist for those, like APF, who work alongside the African church.

Piggery Project in Uganda

By Uganda

Pastor Silver Masiga is Senior Pastor at the House of Transformation Church in Entebbe, Uganda. House of Transformation is a network of independent African churches with congregations in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa as well as in Uganda. He writes:

“In May 2019, God, by His grace, connected us with African Pastors Fellowship. We heard about what APF do to support church leaders in many ways including finding out about eVitabu, a mobile app that contains volumes of electronic books, literature, videos and audio files. eVitabu has proved to be a valuable resource to us at the House of Transformation Church.

“At that time, we were looking for ways to help our youth leaders, many of whom are unemployed. Together, we designed a piggery project and sent an application to APF. We were so happy when APF said they would support this project.

“With APF’s funding we first rented and repaired an old, dilapidated structure to be the sty. Then, we purchased a big sow and got her inseminated. By mid-April she will have her first litter.

“These piglets will be reared, bred and sold and will bring a good income. We are so grateful to APF for their support of youth leaders and thank you to all who support APF with generous donations. You really are changing lives in Africa.”

Youth leader, Pastor Tom Patrick, with the pig purchased with funding from APF.

More than 75% of Uganda’s population is below the age of 30. At 13.3% – the number of youth actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labour force – Uganda has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Please pray

For Pastor Silver overseeing numerous House of Transformation churches around Entebbe and throughout Uganda.

For Pastor Tom’s diligent use of eVitabu as a training tool for his peers.

For Pastor Daniel (Pastor Silver’s son) who uses eVitabu in Somalia where he chairs the Church Leaders Bible study within the Mogadishu International Airport green zone.

For the piggery project to both educate and resource the ministry to young people.

Refugees Returning Home

By South Sudan, Uganda

For many of the millions forced to flee their homes due to conflict, returning home concludes an often traumatic time in exile. But often, rebuilding lives and livelihoods is far from easy. Huge challenges await many returnees.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but life in the world’s youngest country has been marred by internecine warfare, atrocities against civilians, ethnic cleansing, sexual violence and the use of child soldiers. Since 2013, when President Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup d’état, a conservative estimate places the number of people killed in the fighting at 400,000. The actual number may be considerably higher.

The conflict displaced over 4 million people with about 2 million fleeing to neighbouring countries, especially Uganda. Fighting in the southern agricultural heartland led to famine and 6 million facing starvation. According to the IMF, real income has halved since 2013 and inflation peaked at well over 300% per annum. In February 2020, Riek Machar was sworn in as first vice president of the new unity government by President Kiir, formally ending the civil war. For

Pastors Alex and Harriet Sokiri oversee New Nation Church, a small network of South Sudanese Pentecostal congregations. We were delighted to hear that earlier this year Alex and Harriet had been able to leave their refugee camp in northern Uganda and return to South Sudan. Rebuilding their lives, however, has not been without some serious challenges, as Alex explains:

“It was in 2016 when the war in South Sudan reached our area and we fled to Uganda. We lived in Morobi refugee camp for three years. An agreement was signed between pro-government forces and the rebel militias and some peace has now come to our country. So, we have left the camp and returned to South Sudan.

“But coming back to South Sudan has not been an easy thing for us. Last December, our child Josiah became sick. He was having seizures in the night. So, instead of going directly back to South Sudan, we first travelled to Uganda’s capital city Kampala to seek medical advice. APF gave us a pastoral care grant which helped us with the cost of travelling there and getting a good diagnosis. Josiah is now being treated for epilepsy.

“We finally reached South Sudan in January 2020. When I visited our church in the capital Juba, however, I saw that the building was badly damaged. The roof sheets and timbers had been stolen. We worked hard, raised some funds locally, and rebuilt the church structure.

“But soon after this work was completed, the owner of the land told us that he did not want our church on his land anymore. He gave us until the end of June to leave or buy the land from him. We are praying for a solution.”

New Nations Church has congregations in Juba, Kajo Keji, Yei and Wudu in South Sudan and Morobi in northern Uganda. Whilst many of South Sudan’s refugees are glad to be returning home after years living in camps, returnees like Alex and Harriet often find living outside the camps brings new problems.

Please pray

For Alex and Harriet readjusting to life and ministry in South Sudan.

For an accurate diagnosis and treatment for Josiah.

For practical needs, like church building and infrastructure to be resourced.

For other returning refugees recovering from trauma and starting afresh in South Sudan.

Giving thanks that the political situation in South Sudan has improved.

That the fragile peace would hold and a long term and sustainable political settlement would bring lasting peace.