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Uganda

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.

‘Oktoberfest’ training in Uganda

By Training, Uganda

During a two-week period in mid-October, APF sponsored three major leadership development conferences in Uganda that together reached around 500 pastors, youth workers, church leaders and entrepreneurs.

1. Role Model Leadership Academy (RMLA) is delivered by APF partner Next Leadership. This was the second of three sessions and was attended by more than sixty delegates from Uganda and Kenya. RMLA requires delegates to commit to three intensive training weeks spread over a year and involves study by extension and peer mentoring groups between the main conference sessions. Those who graduate will receive a certificate of leadership accredited by Bakke Graduate University, Texas. Ivy Kabagambe, who manages the New Beginnings Foundation said, “I am excited by the energy and clarity of vision RMLA generates. I always leave feeling spiritually stirred up and on a high!”

2. Jewels in His Crown was the inspiration of Rose Mugabi, Director of Women’s Ministry at Pastors’ Discipleship Network (PDN), who are also based in Kampala. The conference attracted more than 200 women clergy, pastors’ wives and lay leaders from all over Uganda. Inspirational leadership lessons were drawn from biblical texts including the stories about Hagar, Jairus’ daughter and the call of Moses. “The conference touched many women leaders across our nation,” Rose explained. “It would not have been possible without the support of APF. Every delegate was encouraged to hear the words, ‘God calls you for who you are not in spite of who you are.’ Learning that the issue of leadership is about wisdom and not knowledge was a big take-home for me. We shall continue to shine as Jewels in His Crown because of your partnership.”

3. Over the last five years, APF has sponsored senior leaders from the Baptist Union of Uganda (BUU) to visit isolated communities, taking basic theology and pastoral training to grassroots pastors in remote regional associations. Last October, over 80 local pastors gathered for four-day pastoral training in Lamwo, a town in the far north of Uganda, near the border with South Sudan. APF also arranged for Bibles in Acholi and other regional languages to be distributed to everyone at the training event.

4. As I was in Uganda during October, I was able to participate in some of the training events, bring greetings, preach and oversee how APF training funding was being used. During my stay I also had productive meetings with the new BUU President, Revd Abel Sseringiya and Ben Mutgeki, Managing Director of PDN.

Abel was keen to know more about the BUU’s long-standing partnership with APF and he shared his vision for the Baptist movement in Uganda. Ben and I discussed the possibility of APF sponsoring one of PDN’s field training events later in 2020. I also spent a day with leaders from House of Transformation (HoT) churches in Entebbe and spoke at an evening celebration for church members. The network of churches, which has congregations in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa as well as in Uganda, is keen to explore further partnership opportunities with APF. Two HoT pastors are already eVitabu users and following our discussions, that number is likely to grow quickly.

Jubilee Trees

By Uganda

Geoff Holder, APF’s Project Coordinator, updates readers on Jubilee Trees, an exciting new APF partnership with Climate Stewards and the Baptist Union of Uganda:

Trees have a special place in African culture. As the biggest plants on the planet, they give oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife. They also provide people with food, medicines and wood for tools and shelter. In many traditional African cultures, trees have a spiritual connection to the supernatural world of the ancestors.

Recently, I’ve been researching the role faith plays when African Christians think about the environment. My study demonstrates that trees still retain a very special place in African people’s thinking.

From Malawi to Uganda, from Cameroon to Ethiopia, Christian leaders responding to the research made a direct link between climate change impacts (changing weather patterns, increasing droughts and floods) and the dramatic loss of trees the continent has suffered over the last 50 years. One pastor put it this way: “Trees and African people are one. You cannot separate us.” Many expressed a sense of regret around the continent’s deforestation, but the reasons behind it are complex. Rapid population growth, demand for charcoal, poverty, and the erosion of traditional value systems which protected forests: none of these have helped.

Although responsibility for climate change undoubtedly lies primarily with industrialised nations like the UK rather than in Africa, Africans are showing how we should respond.  The African church is at the forefront of action on climate change. In Uganda, the Bishop of West Buganda, Rt Rev Katumba Tamale recently announced his support for Ugandan school children joining the famous Fridays for Future global school strikes.

Decrying that so many trees had been cut down and not enough planted, “The lives of our children are now at stake,” he said. Most Rev Thabo, Archbishop of Cape Town, says people of faith must walk the walk when it comes to climate change: “We depend on this beautiful web of life God created…  The challenge now is for us to become healers because we have failed to be stewards.”  After all, Africans are collectively the most vulnerable people in the world to climate change impacts whilst having the fewest resources to adapt to and mitigate for these.

But now, the Baptist Union of Uganda, in partnership with APF and Climate Stewards (a UK Christian charity providing carbon offsetting through carbon mitigation projects in the developing world), has launched the Jubilee Trees campaign. Funding from APF and Climate Stewards is helping local Ugandan Baptist churches plant indigenous trees on church land. Hundreds of Maesopsis, Grevillea and Terminalia tree saplings are now growing on five church sites in central Uganda.

This small pilot is only the beginning. Plans are already coming together for more planting next year. Climate Stewards has created a unique online tool called CQuestr that projects the amount of climate change causing carbon dioxide each tree plantation will capture and lock away. The projection is used to estimate a carbon price for the plantation, a monetary value for the carbon captured by the trees.

And as the trees grow, the churches will benefit from shade, timber, fruit, better soils, water retention and wildlife which will support higher crop yields. They’ll protect people, buildings and soils from strong wind, heavy rainfall and scorching sunshine.

This exciting project was conceived by Revd Peter Mugabi, BUU General Secretary. Peter has seen first-hand the impact of deforestation in Uganda. To implement the project, Peter is being supported by Bernadette Kabonesa, an expert in indigenous forestry from the Ugandan National Forestry Resources Research Institute.

With Peter’s passion and Bernadette’s expertise alongside APF’s project management experience and Climate Stewards’ CQuestr toolkit, this project has already captured the imagination. Last year, Christian Aid filmed Peter, Caroline Pomeroy (Climate Stewards’ Director) and myself as we began to put the Jubilee Trees project together. Christian Aid will use the short film as part of their campaign to coincide with the United Nations’ COP26 international climate change conference which will take place in Glasgow in 2020.

Role Model Leadership Academy

By Uganda

Over the last few years, APF have developed a growing partnership with Next Leadership, a Christian leadership consultancy founded by the former President of the Baptist Union and Chair of the Evangelical Alliance, Revd Dr Kate Coleman and Revd Cham Kaur-Mann.

APF are supporting Next Leadership to extend their outstanding leadership training programme into Africa through the Role Model Leadership Academy. As Cham reports, the first of three sessions happened in Kampala, Uganda during March.

A combination of factors meant that Kate and I were working night and day in order to produce exceptional materials and a robust programme for the first gathering of the Academy. We had very little time to pull it all together, yet we sensed God’s presence with us in so many ways. In fact, we were still printing materials on the Sunday evening before our Monday morning departure flight!

As we waited in the departure lounge at Birmingham Airport all seemed well until it was announced that all flights through Amsterdam had been cancelled due to high winds and turbulent weather conditions. We prayed, sensing that God was more invested in getting us to Uganda than we ever could be and was already making a way. Within two hours, we received news that we were to be rerouted, via Kenya. We eventually arrived in Uganda at 5am, seven hours later than expected but in time for our first meeting with the local support team.

With Christian leaders arriving from Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan, the first session of Role Model Leadership Academy started the next day. Participants included creatives such as a short film maker, artist and singer, through to pragmatic business people. There were graduates and senior church leaders from APF partners including the Baptist Union of Uganda and Pastors’ Discipleship Network. The youngest participant was 20 years old and the oldest, 80 years old, but everyone gelled quickly. Teams formed from groups and accountability developed. Obvious stratification lines dissolved quite early in the programme.

We thought that we had set the bar high, but the participants went over and above our expectations. Even though some had undertaken a whole day’s travel to get to Kampala in the first place, everyone remained engaged all the way through the programme. There was a great deal of group interaction despite many of the participants being unused to non-judgemental spaces where they could speak and share freely without criticism.

One story that particularly stands out is Hosannah’s. Growing up as a ‘house girl’, Hosannah never had an opportunity to go to school and did domestic work to get by. After teaching herself to read and write she now works in Uganda’s vibrant music industry. On the Academy’s second day, she served as a Team Manager. With the support of her peer mentoring group, Hosannah was encouraged to present her team’s outputs in front of the entire gathering. She told me afterwards that this was the first time she has ever done anything like this. Her constant refrain was, “I can’t believe I’m here and that I’ve been asked to speak”. Hers, by the way, was the most concise, focused and informative presentation out of all the groups.

During the Academy, all the participants created their own six-month Personal Leadership Development Goals which they shared with the group and presented to God. By the end of the third day, the participants went off to establish work far beyond anything we’d expected. They had also committed to pair up with ‘Accountability Partners’ and to reconnect with each other every month for six months until the Academy reconvenes in October.

We’re privileged and blessed to work alongside wonderful local partners and grateful to APF for your prayerful support of this exciting initiative.