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.”