A team from Thompson Station Church in Thompson’s Station, TN is on the ground in Rwanda visiting our Country Director, Mezack Nkundabantu, and seeing our work across the country. Duane Murray, Executive & Missions Pastor at Thompson Station Church and an African Leadership Board Member, is leading the team and shares some thoughts below.
We are seeing the evidence of an ongoing training process of leaders is multiplying ministry throughout this country and into neighboring countries. Today, we visited a church in Karambe that was started by Pastor Lameck and Mezack. Here’s the ripple effect of one caring act:
In 1998, Mezack was helping an 11 year old boy get reunited with his parents after the Genocide. After extensive research, they were able to find his parents and return him to them in Karambe. When they got there, they were approached by many people in the community who said that they needed a church in their community. Pastor Lameck and Mezack started a church together, which later became the church we visited today.
Pastor Tom is now the Lead Pastor and that church has started two other churches in the area (Matunguru and Rwasama). He drives from Kigali two to four times each month (2.5 hours each way) to preach the Word and train leaders. Each church has an associate Pastor or someone in training in African Leadership Rwanda’s theological training program (Pastor John, Marcline and Elisha), who is preparing to lead the congregation. There are over 200 people growing together and ministering to their communities through these three bodies of believers.
We saw a church today enthusiastic about worshiping the one true God and eagerly waiting to hear what He would speak to them through us (Acts 10:33). We were able to distribute Bibles purchased for them, for which they were deeply grateful. We watched Marcline, the leader in training for Karambe, overwhelmed with tears of joy because the people she is leading were receiving Bibles.
The first stop of the day was in Matunguru, one of the two satellite churches started by the original Karambe church. 90 people meet here to worship weekly. They just bought the building below last year and they are already ready to expand it. Who bought the building. The congregation contributed two-thirds of it and Pastor Lameck sent the remaining third through Mezack from his new home in Antioch, TN. What? Yes. He’s working just to get by in America and helping build a Kinyarwanda speaking church in Antioch, but he took precious resources and sent them back to Rwanda to continue the work he began so many years ago.
Tomorrow we get to go to Mugera to visit with believers who are ministering in the refugee camp on the border of Congo. Thursday we return to Muhanga to see how the believers there are continuing to develop a thriving community. I look forward to sharing more stories with you from these two days.
Grateful to be leading this team of sent ones. Mezack was moved to tears today that we were with him in Karambe. So were we.
Interested in seeing our network firsthand or taking a team from your church? Contact Tammy at email@example.com for more information.
You’ll notice that a few of the things on our list for 2018 involve trauma-healing. And it may give you pause. Isn’t that what professional counselors are for? Why would our Country Directors want their students to learn about trauma? If our goal is to strengthen communities, isn't teaching orphan care, education, healthcare, or a tangible intervention more vital?
All good and valid questions. But here’s why our local leaders choose this as a means of equipping their students to strengthen communities: Trauma-healing is healthcare. It is orphan care. It is education. It is tangible development.
How is it all those things? Take our Congolese Country Director. In 2017, Denis taught a group of church leaders how to identify and address trauma in children. Then those leaders went back to their communities and implemented what they learned — one is a director at a primary school who began “healing clubs” for the kids in his school, one lives near an IDP camp and created a support group for traumatized children in the camp, one gathered a group of police and soldiers and taught them how to better identify and respond to the children they encounter in their jobs.
The children at that primary school now have access to mental and emotional healthcare that will be vital to their ability to develop and continue their education in a school environment. The children in that IDP camp may be orphans who have witnessed unimaginable violence and now have a “family” to support them. The children who come into contact with these members of the police force will benefit from someone in a position of authority who understands them and can see past their actions.
All of these are necessary to strengthen a community — to grow a generation of children capable of flourishing despite their trauma and becoming compassionate adults actively rebuilding their communities, economically, spiritually, and emotionally. These church leaders, through their trauma-healing education, are growing a generation of disciples that will speak the Truth of their healing into the very fabric of their communities.
As a part of African Leadership, you are a force behind this process. When you support an African Leadership student, you reach far more than just that student — you reach children, entire communities, all the people that student comes into contact with. You yourself are growing disciples across the world through this process. And for only $29 a month, you can support another student through their training this year. Will you resolve to make that commitment in 2018?
(And don’t worry — part of training these local leaders is helping them recognize the limits of their abilities as lay leaders and know when to turn it over to professionals to avoid doing any harm.)
In 2017, African Leadership had over 5,500 active students across the continent, including 1,420 graduates of our core two-year theological education program. Nearly 200 local leaders took our community development course, and nearly 300 leaders were trained in trauma-healing.
But what does that actually look like in the field?
It looks like Bahizi in Congo who used his education to start outreaches for traumatized children in his church and community.
It looks like Henry in South Africa who now goes into the townships to work with and mentor alcoholics.
It looks like Budete in Rwanda who coordinates cooperatives with women living with HIV/AIDS, helping them grow their financial security and independence.
It looks like Mtendere in Malawi who has since trained and mentored over 15 more pastors, taught courses in church planting, and mobilized youth leaders in local churches.
It looks like Hana in Ethiopia who became the women’s ministry coordinator in her local church and is opening an African Leadership center to train 15 more potential local leaders.
It looks like 224 kids in Congo that were able to spend time reconciling the trauma they’ve experienced with a God who cares for them more than they can understand.
It looks like new local boards of directors in Rwanda and Congo that will steer direction and ownership from the U.S. to Africa and grow local support.
In 2018, our goal is to add 2,700 new students to our core program, train 610 more local leaders in trauma-healing, and add 190 more leaders to our community development program. That’s 3,500 more potential Bahizis, Henrys, Budetes, and Mtenderes out making disciples and restoring their communities spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
Now’s the time to get involved – your gift before the end of 2017 will be matched, up to $100,000!
The Oliji Refugee Settlement changed James’ life. But probably not how you imagine.
James fled South Sudan in 2015. He fled violence, a job as a banker, and a life he calls “bad and of no help to others.” Arriving to a refugee camp in Uganda made things worse. “I became frustrated and hopeless. Things were hard for me since I was without Christ.”
But James was slowly noticing a change – “something began to shape me, a new hope and destiny.” Shortly after James received Christ, he heard of African Leadership through a local pastor. Pastor Taban, one of our teachers, asked James if he’d like to learn more about God. James said yes.
In September 2016, Pastor Taban started an African Leadership class of 16 people in the camp. James was one of them. As he was taught and discipled by Pastor Taban, James felt his life change even more. “I got transformed spiritually. It has renewed my mind, organized my words, improved my behavior and response to anybody.”
James won’t officially graduate until June 2018. But that hasn’t stopped him from making statements of hope in a place he once considered hopeless. “I realized that only a changed life can change more lives. I developed a sense of humanity and began to help others who are hopeless. My neighbors have wounds created by war in their hearts so I began counseling and teaching the people. I created a Bible study at my home where my neighbors got saved and now follow us to church.”
Now serving as a secretary in his local church, James sees the bigger picture. “God opened for me an opportunity to be with every kind of people, to give them the Word of God. I have helped many in my camp to come to Christ and develop strength and hope, even when they lost dear ones in South Sudan. I thank African Leadership for helping me become instrumental in the community.”
James is just one of many disciples making statements of hope across the continent through African Leadership. Stay tuned for more stories...
In early August, 24 Ethiopian women gathered in Addis Ababa to participate in the Sheba Summit, a “storying” workshop for local women faith leaders. They were leaders in their churches and communities – some lead women’s ministries, some are counselors from a local program that rehabilitates sex workers, some lead Bible studies, youth groups, or other outreaches in their communities. They were all there to learn the technique of “storying” – a way to engage with other women who might be outside the reach of the typical church, through telling Bible stories in a relatable but accurate way.
A joint effort between the International Mission Board, Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee, African Leadership U.S., and African Leadership Ethiopia, the Sheba Summit was incredibly impactful for those in attendance…and is already starting to make an impact as those women journey back to their homes and share what they learned with those around them.
Hear from some of the women involved:
Director of Donor Engagement | African Leadership U.S.
How many Bible stories do you know? I mean, really KNOW?! If you’ve been in church for any amount of time you’ve no doubt heard a teacher speak about popular figures in the Bible. But can you share a Bible story in an accurate, simple and interesting way?
What I recently learned alongside a group of 24 Ethiopian women from areas all around the country is that sharing a Bible story can be a beautiful way to love others and bring them to Jesus. How? By engaging their hearts with questions like, “what did you like about this story?” or “what does this story teach you about God?”
The ladies who were part of the Sheba Summit, a trauma-healing workshop held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, learned to listen well to others and how to share a Bible story that meets others in their places of hurt, loss, sin, shame, suffering, and trauma.
I listened in as the ladies shared what they learned about God from these stories. They have been reminded of God’s love for them! From the story of Joseph they saw that God is present with them in all situations. Through the Creation story they learned that God is a God of order and creativity, and from the story of the Fall they learned that God doesn’t give up on us even when we fail. The story of the bleeding woman had great impact in this group as they learned of God’s great compassion. And from the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, they learned that God keeps his promises and that He loves us enough to send His Son to die for us.
The women who attended the workshop are servant-leaders in their churches. They are teachers, preachers, evangelists, women’s ministry coordinators and Bible study leaders. Many of the people of their villages cannot read or write so they see this approach as a way to affect positive change in their communities. During the workshop, they shared each of the 7 stories they learned with others simply by making phone calls at the end of each day. We heard testimonies of siblings who had fallen away from the Lord willing to return to church as a result of what they heard and learned. Of the Muslim neighbor who is eager to hear more stories of Jesus. Of families gathering together waiting hours for the call to come in so they could hear the story of the day!
As African Leadership continues to invests in Africa’s servant leaders so that every African can discover common ground with the Gospel, trauma-healing has become part of our program. My passion and hope is to learn this method for myself… and to share it with others! Even as the 24 Ethiopian ladies are putting together small groups to train, I’d like to do the same right here at home. And I believe God will use this knowledge to further His Kingdom both here, in Africa, and around the world!
“My expectation was to do some translation and to help people to understand some of the things the trainer would teach them. But I found it to be very interactive. I didn’t expect that I would receive a lot from this workshop for myself. But I am learning about trauma-healing, about story-telling, how I can make Bible stories short and simple so that I can go and share it with others.
I am relearning again and again some lessons about God. This week I learned again that I am loved.”
Ethiopian Translator for the Workshop
“What I like most is that we learned to tell stories in a very simplified but accurate and interesting manner.
Because our way of living is communal, I believe this can have a positive impact in the community.”
Women’s Ministry Coordinator for Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church
“When I counsel the women in the program, I often open the Bible and read stories. But sometimes this offends the women because they believe they will be preached at about religion. Now I am able to share Bible stories without ever opening the Bible. I believe this will help me serve the women more with love and care.”
Counselor at Ellilta Women at Risk ministry
Several years ago, Irene Tongoi was inspired to start a school in one of Nairobi’s poorest slums. She saw the number of children missing out on an education because of finances – a missed opportunity that would impact them for the rest of their lives. She decided to act. She founded the New Dawn Educational Centre and has since seen hundreds of children graduate from secondary school in Kenya.
Also several years ago, a ten-year-old in Tennessee was inspired to start a 5k race at home. She heard about the number of children – people just like her and her friends -- who were missing out on the chance to receive an education in Africa. She decided to act. She dreamt up Ellie’s Run for Africa and has since raised over $500,000 to support New Dawn.
Over the years, Ellie went to New Dawn. Irene came to Ellie’s Run. And as Ellie’s Run wrapped up after its 11th annual race, Irene was inspired once again. She got to thinking -- there’s a park in Nairobi; there’s a community of people who love New Dawn in Nairobi; and there are runners in Nairobi. Maybe this was an idea that could work across the ocean and raise local funds for the school, helping it become more self-sustainable. So this October, the very first Ellie’s Run in Africa will take place.
New Dawn’s inaugural “Run for Hope” is scheduled for October 28th. Irene and the New Dawn board are currently busy seeking sponsorships from local businesses and churches, booking Nairobi’s Karura Forest for the event, and getting all the little details of hosting a race nailed down. Kenyan Olympic runner Paul Tergat is even championing the race!
As Irene and New Dawn work to grow local income and ownership of the school, will you pray for the success of this event with us?
Why It Works
You’ve probably heard us talk about several different aspects of our program – accessible theological education, community development, trauma-healing. You’ve seen updates about providing zinc roofs for South Sudanese refugees and student ministries in Uganda.
You’ve probably also wondered how in the world all these things fit together. Isn’t African Leadership a pastor training organization? If I’m giving to the development of church leaders then why am I seeing stories about water wells, primary schools, zinc roofs?
It’s because African Leadership’s strategy is different. And it works. Here’s how:
Biblical Foundation: Our belief in God is the foundation of all that we do.
Our local Country Directors create their own strategic plans each year. The first step of this is to engage with their communities – to hear about people’s concerns, needs, and dreams. Then they filter it all through a Biblical worldview – what does the Bible say about these things? What is my role as a local church leader? How can the church be the salt and the light to these people, these communities, and this country? How can I use this opportunity to show the Gospel to those who might not otherwise experience it, to those who need it most, to grow the Kingdom in my own backyard?
At the core of African Leadership is the development of church leaders. The church in Africa is growing rapidly and the number of trained church leaders can’t keep up. That’s why African Leadership’s program is based on a core, discipleship-driven theological education. And from this Biblical foundation, we have found that building the church involves more than theology. That’s why we don’t stop at offering a theological education. Local church leaders also have options through African Leadership to learn trauma-healing techniques, community development strategies, how to engage with Islam, and more.
We seek to elevate Him in every interaction. And in doing so, we work to prepare Africa’s church leaders for the range of complex issues they’ll face as the African church body – to ensure they process those issues through a Biblical perspective and identify solutions and responses through a Biblical lens.
Meaningful Impact: We focus on quality over quantity in all our processes, relationships, and outcomes.
African Leadership has been around since 2001. We’ve had a presence in over 25 countries. And we’ve graduated over 60,000 students. But those are just numbers – they don’t impress us and they shouldn’t impress you.
What we’re far more proud of is what happens after a student becomes part of that 60,000 number. Because our program is based on a discipleship-driven approach, each course is taught by a local teacher familiar with the community, able to disciple and mentor students in their home churches. And each student, as they make their way through a curriculum designed to equip them to lead spiritually, physically, and emotionally, develops into a disciple-making leader themselves, able to understand the Gospel so they can share it with others and bring it to life for those inside and outside the church.
What does this look like from an impact standpoint? Sometimes it’s a graduate that starts new Bible studies in her church; sometimes it’s a pastor planting a new church himself. Sometimes it looks like a church community building a water well as a way to reach out to a mostly-Muslim community or a pastor starting a nursery school to prepare children for primary school since their parents can’t do so after spending their own youth surrounded by war instead of in school.
If all those graduates do is put their certificate on their wall then go back to normal life, we haven’t done our job. Instead, this is the impact we aim for – local leaders who know how to lead their churches, care for those who have experienced trauma, and dream and build their communities for tomorrow. Not impact for the sake of numbers, but impact with meaning.
Creative Solutions: We value the exploration of ideas, resources, and problems to enact creative solutions in an ever-changing landscape.
I can’t take credit for our strategy being different than most other organizations – it isn’t my strategy to take credit for. African Leadership’s organizational structure isn’t built that way. You won’t find any westerners on our in-country leadership teams. You won’t find any in-country programs, plans, budgets, or timelines stemming from someone other than a local African leader.
In most cases, our work is even overseen on the ground by a local Board of Directors. The Board shepherds the Country Director as he assesses the needs of the church in their specific country each year. They work to establish their own plan of action in response – exploring which of our available programs to employ, identifying where to employ them, and executing when it’s time to employ them. They build in ways to contribute local income and resources to their plan and budget. And they get creative when problems arise or budgets come up short.
This strategy of working through local Boards who can enact specialized solutions for each individual community mirrors our commitment to ensuring the honest stewardship of your gifts, too. When you invest in the process of educating a church leader in a way that has been locally designed, vetted, and proven, you reap unimaginable dividends – not just a church leader who leads his church better on Sunday mornings, but a church leader who leads his community all week long. The result is a church leader who holds Bible studies in local prisons, a church leader who starts trauma-healing groups for children who have been orphaned by war, a church leader who opens a piggery to grow local income – a church leader who grows and strengthens the local church in creative ways unique to their surroundings and circumstances, ensuring long-term viability and ownership rather than short-term results.
We are confident in this strategy and vision, and we are so honored that you have chosen to invest yourself through the resources God has given you – your energy, your prayers, your finances – in this work to which God has called us!
President | African Leadership
One of the core tenets of our program is a focus on wholeness — recognizing that things like food, water, and an education are only pieces of a puzzle that must also include a focus on spiritual growth and emotional care.
So far this year, African Leadership has held trauma-healing workshops in the Adjumani and Koboko refugee camps in northern Uganda. In these workshops, local church leaders learn how to identify, respond to, and care for those who have been traumatized by what they’ve experienced in South Sudan — and they often end up being healed themselves in the process. Pastor Salah James, a participant in the Koboko workshop, shared:
I thank God for this wonderful training. It has changed my life in that when all my properties were taken by the soldiers, I was left to suffer until I became a beggar, begging people to help me with money for survival. On top of this suffering, my child died suddenly. Because of all these pains, I was traumatized badly and I became angry with the people who caused this war which brought this suffering to me. As an overseer of my church, the trauma has affected the way I preach and teach. Even the way I relate with people had changed negatively. The training became like a mirror to me, realizing all my weaknesses.
During the trauma training, I learned the lesson of the three villages. When crisis happened, there is grief and forgiveness. Let God also forgive them. With these great lessons, it has touched me and changed me. I am now free.
Thank you so much for rescuing me and others with this great training, especially with such conditions and hard times of civil war in our country. May God bless you.
After the training, Tito, our South Sudan Country Director who oversaw the workshops, reflected on the way the time together changed the hearts of those involved, and will therefore change the hearts of all those they minister to:
These men and women discovered the importance of trauma training which is redeeming to their lives, families, and ministries. It became a turning point in their lives as they expressed their experiences. Indeed, they were all traumatized as a result of war in South Sudan that forced them to seek refuge in Uganda. I was encouraged when most of them said they were healed and freed from pain. Their ministries will never be the same again as a result of the training.
The need is huge. It looks like a drop of ink in the ocean. But the Word of God will never go in vain; it will always achieve the purpose intended for. That is where my encouragement is found.
You may remember last month we told you about how you and Tito, our South Sudan Country Director, were providing zinc roofs for refugees in Uganda. But of all that Tito could’ve requested for these refugees, why roofs? Don’t they need food, water, medical care?
African Leadership works through local leaders like Tito for this very reason. He knows what it feels like to send his wife and his children to Uganda for safety while he stays in South Sudan for work. He knows how it feels to wonder what the future looks like for his family amidst the most uncertain circumstances. So when we asked Tito how African Leadership could best serve the refugees fleeing South Sudan, he explained how the UN and other organizations were working to provide basic needs for refugees like food and water -- but no one was focusing on their hearts.
Throughout Adjumani, he heard over and over a longing for something “sustainable and long lasting” in the midst of near constant uncertainty. They saw zinc roofing as a guarantee that they could protect their families from the rains for as long as they had to be there — be it a year, ten years, the rest of their lives.
And now, with solid roofs over their heads, Tito moves on to mending their hearts through trauma-healing. Throughout this year, Tito is holding trauma-healing workshops in the camps, helping refugees process what they’ve experienced and begin to heal. The workshops also help local church leaders learn how to handle the trauma they encounter in their congregations and communities — much like you’ll see through the next story of Pastor Salah James.
Our Rwanda Country Director, Mezack Nkundabantu, visited the States in May and got to meet several of our church partners here in Nashville. Below, Duane Murray, the Executive & Missions Pastor of Thompson Station Church, shares what the experience was like for him and his community.
Pastor Mezack is the definition of meekness – power under control. His words are humble, gentle and kind, but when you know the works that God is doing through him, you sense God’s powerful presence. This disciple makes disciples who make disciples. He’s raised and released over 5,000 disciples of Jesus Christ in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Uganda. The men and women he disciples share the gospel in word and deed including projects like:
• Prison ministry — one of his disciples teaches in the Kibungo prison and has seen disciples grow and churches planted there.
• Orphan Care - Theophile was a graduate of Mezack’s who started an orphan care program in his home church that funds scholarships and helps with living expenses for children who have been orphaned.
• People at Risk - Jean-Marie is a graduate who started cooperatives that offer job training to help women and men leave prostitution and find restoration through Christ. Emmanuel Gatera, another graduate, started a program that feeds over 600 children, established a group savings and loan association with 45 adults, and works with people living with HIV/AIDS.
These are only a small sample of the stories resulting from students trained through Mezack’s ministry.
It was our privilege to host Mezack at Thompson Station Church during his recent visit to the U.S. He came to specifically encourage several men he had trained that are now resettled here in the U.S. including Pastor Lameck. Lameck was a disciple that started the first church plant from Mezack’s church in Rwanda. Lameck launched two other churches from that church plant. When he was relocated to a refugee camp in Uganda, Lameck started another church there that grew to over 1,300. Now he’s starting a church in a community of Congolese believers near Nashville. Lameck exhibits the heart for discipleship that Mezack is able to inspire in so many who are part of his ministry.
That’s what we love about the leaders we meet through African Leadership. They invest in men and women who love people so much that they not only share the gospel but their lives as well (1 Thess. 2:9).
Executive & Missions Pastor, Thompson Station Church
Father’s Day always reminds me of the sacred responsibility that comes with being a parent – the responsibility to shepherd hearts and point them to Jesus. This past weekend, as I celebrated with my family in the States, I thought of each of our Country Directors on the ground in Africa. I realized how much they carry the weight of that responsibility – not only for their families, but for their congregations, their ministries, and their countries.
I watch them continually mentor their teachers. I see how those teachers in turn patiently shepherd their students towards a rich interaction with their Savior. I hear those student pastors stand before their congregations and speak of the love of a God who uniquely made and called each one of them. And when I remember that our Country Directors intentionally and knowingly carry the weight of this entire cycle, I am in awe of the way they understand their relationship with their Heavenly Father.
I also have the privilege of connecting with our in-country leaders in Africa each week. This week, I spoke with our South Sudan Country Director Tito. Tito, always full of life, mentioned how little sleep he gets these days. He and his wife Edwina just welcomed their new baby boy, Benjamin – and amidst the sleepless nights and busy days, he is already dreaming of the ways he will teach his son the passion of his heart and expose him to the depths of the love of God. And soon Benjamin, too, will join the ranks of the thousands of other hearts Tito has shepherded towards their Father.
I am grateful for fathers and mothers, for the men and women who work diligently across Africa to train up a generation – both in their homes and in their work. And I hold to the promise that those they point towards their Father will not depart from Him.
We’re kicking off the new year with an announcement that Emily Blackledge has been promoted from within by the Board of Directors and will now serve as the organization’s new President.
Blackledge most recently served as the Vice President of International Program. She has been part of the staff since 2010 and involved with the organization since 2005. Originally from Boulder, Colorado, she completed her undergraduate degree in International Political Economy at Belmont University, then spent time in Washington DC working with the President’s Initiative for Workforce Development. Blackledge received her Master’s degree in International Relations and African Studies from Boston University before returning to Nashville in 2008. She has taught international development and international politics at Belmont University and was the Sam Walton Fellow in charge of international projects for the Belmont chapter of ENACTUS before joining African Leadership in 2010. Emily and her husband Rob live in Nashville with their son Fletcher.
“Emily has played an integral role in our international operations since 2010, and the Board and I are confident in her leadership capabilities. We look forward to working with her in this capacity,” says Chairman of the Board Jerry Heffel, formerly the President of The Southwestern Company.
“My previous role allowed me to travel and see first hand the great impact African Leadership is having in communities across Africa. My new role will allow me to share those stories even more here at home, to tell more people about the very real impact of their everyday generosity – something I’ve seen and experienced up close the past several years. I couldn’t be more excited about that going forward,” says Blackledge.
On Wednesday, January 25, 2017, we will host an Open House at our office in Brentwood. The public is invited and encouraged to come meet Emily and learn more about the future of the organization.
Donuts & Mochas Open House
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 • 7:30am – 9:30am
500 Wilson Pike Circle, Suite 117Brentwood, TN 37027
I was born on 11th November in Githogoro, Kenya, as the third child in a family of five. My parents lived in Githogoro for many years and were both laborers in the coffee estates that surrounded the region. It was a task that did not require any credentials, therefore a job that attracted the most underprivileged.
When I was eight, my mum died from an unknown disease. My two elder brothers, Nicholas and Phanuel were in classes three and four, respectively, while the two younger siblings, Freedom and Philip, were in pre-school at the time. It was apparent that my parents valued education and took initiative to ensure all of us attended school. From what I remember, life was relatively good until Mom passed away.
Following Mum’s burial, things took a negative twist. Dad bore the sole responsibility of fending for all five of us from a daily wage of KES 90 (slightly under $1), which was hardly sufficient to place a single meal on the table. Basic items such as clothing became a luxury alongside anything else. A day with one meal was considered an extremely good one.
Because of the intensified hardships, my four siblings and I dropped out of school. Each turning to the endless search for a meal. The ‘meals’ were scavenged from the garbage bags of the neighboring affluent Runda suburb residences. Dad spent a lot of time away from home, sometimes taking a week searching for something. His prolonged absence gave us children a lot of freedom to do whatever we wished. There were disappointing times when he came back home empty handed. This got us even more desperate. The street life became normal, until four years later, when the government of Kenya introduced free primary school education.
I had grown taller than my peers. My stature gave the impression that I was older than I really was, so I was not placed in the class where I deserved to be. The school authorities did not care whether or not we would catch up with the rest of the children who had been in school. The objective was to ensure that children went through the system, irrespective of performance. On the other hand, the school provided lunch—beans and corn—and that was a great incentive for us. We ate us much as we could at school because supper back at home was never guaranteed.
I managed to get a B+ average by the time I finished class eight. I actually qualified for admission at a national category high school. I yearned to go, but my dad’s salary would not meet the cost required for school fees. At the realization that I could not afford school fees, I despaired of ever attending high school and joined my brother in collecting scrap metals and used plastics for recycling, which we sold to get ourselves simple meals.
Not long after, Dad came home with some news of a high school that was being started in the neighboring Huruma village. He informed my brother Nicholas and I that he wanted us to join. Even thought I knew there was no way he could afford the secondary education fee, I decided to check it out and visited the school. Many who had been out of school for years and could not afford the secondary education were interested when it was confirmed that the school was offering free education. This was music to our ears! The only requirement was for students to bring to school a bundle of firewood for cooking of our lunch. I was in high school at New Dawn Educational Centre with no fees required, no school uniform necessary and as if that was not enough, there was free lunch provided. A miracle of miracles!
It did not matter that the classroom was a bare-floored church hall made from rusty iron sheets. The same hall served as a classroom on one end and a staff room on the other end. We sat on benches without any writing space. Our laps served us well. Despite the fact that there were not enough qualified teachers (most were volunteers), we were proud students who were eager to learn and had the opportunity. That was all that mattered.
My experience at New Dawn transformed me totally. I came in hopeless, but I was filled with hope. We found a mum in Mama Irene, the school director. She was so assuring that a lot of good would come out of our lives. Mama Irene ensured that we received a holistic education; intellectually as per the curriculum, socially by meaningful and impactful interaction amongst ourselves and the community around, as well as spiritually through the word of God. We had regular devotions and sessions of what was known as ‘vision conferences’. These spiritual forums provided opportunity to be affirmed and assured of God’s love and purpose for our lives. Our confidence was boosted and the sense of hopelessness gradually faded away. Where else would students be treated to good meals and even offered food to carry home for the next meal for the family? We were loved.
The love of God was so evident at New Dawn; I decided to give my life to Jesus Christ. For the first time, I felt whole. How I thank God for having denied me resources to join a fancy national school, just to have a chance to be at this place where he used circumstances to show that He truly exists! Like His word says, God raises His own from humble beginnings and makes them kings. This became a reality not only for me, but I can also testify to the fact that none of the students in my class left New Dawn the way they came in. Thanks be to God who was the real founder of a school in close proximity to these two villages, in the right time, to transform many lives.
To my greatest amazement, upon completion of high school, I topped my class and qualified to join public university. By this time, I had matured and made much progress in my walk with Christ. New Dawn had taught me how to relate to God as my father and therefore I enjoyed a great son-Father relationship. I stayed home another year due to lack of fees to pay for university. This time was different, however, in that I did not engage in hustlers’ businesses but volunteered to teach at New Dawn, as I trusted God to come through.
Mama Irene contacted me with grand news: a donor had showed up and was willing to pay the university fees for anyone qualified to join university from our class! God again provided the resources in my time of need.
I was enrolled in a five-year degree course at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Geomantic Engineering and Geospatial Information Systems. All this was accomplished with the help of that scholarship.
Today I can confidently stand and say that if it were not for the Lord on my side, I could be nothing. I appreciate God’s work through the ministry of New Dawn and all those who contributed towards the transformed life that has become mine. You did it not only for me but for the many others that have walked along the same path. My journey has brought me to a point where I desire to sow the same love I have received. I believe that God will enable me to transform another life. To give them a chance to be loved, to be thought of, and to be considered. I want to educate a needy person all the way through university, as was done for me at New Dawn, because I believe God would have me do it.
Give me bread today and tomorrow I will ever be at your door knocking, but give me education, the key to life, and you will have transformed the world.
Years of ongoing conflict in and around the Congo has led to thousands of refugees. Life in a refugee camp is often a struggle — but several church leaders are also finding it to be an opportunity to build the local church.
Denis Hangi, our DRC Country Director, recently visited a group of church leaders and refugees who are part of African Leadership’s Common Ground Academy. His letter below offers us a glimpse into how impactful educating a church leader really is — what may seem like an intangible investment to us bears more fruit than we can imagine when put to the test in the face of some of Africa’s toughest challenges.
I was invited by AOG church at Masisi, about 80kms from Goma city, where the wars took place for a long time between Mai-Mai groups and FDLR and so on.
There at Masisi, I met with my students who were displaced during the wars, in about 2008. Being in different camps, they had a leaders’ meeting. On that occasion we shared the stories about being refugees and I tried to encourage them. They were so happy to see me and to share their stories, then they told me about their encouragement, which came from God’s word.
They have used some manuals given from African Leadership. It was a great help. During the evening they could sit together and discuss in order to get something to preach in their small groups in the camps. Each pastor had his group.
So during the whole time in the camps, those manuals were their resource to learn new ideas, and people could get saved and accept the Lord as their personal Savior. Thanks for the supporters of the ministry.
The students have confidence that the whole world is praying for them in facing their afflictions.
They feel that in sharing the word in the camps, they began as familiars, then became best friends.
Though the lives were in bad situation, God’s Word made some young men not to be involved with the rebel movements; it made them to be mature spiritually. Praising God for that.
Still need your assistance in training and equipment, manuals, and so on. When someone is running, everything is left behind to save lives, so they have no Bibles.
The trauma healing is most welcomed. Many have lost their relatives, close friends, parents, and properties.
Prayer request for our country. The elections are still not planned.
In His name,
Pastor Dunia has been serving the people of the DRC for 13 years as the leader of the pentecostal church in Kitchanga. Like a lot of the region in the DRC, he serves those living in war-torn places and has been a witness to people dying right before his eyes. He says he “trusts in God for his protection day by day”. He has enrolled in the Common Ground Academy through African Leadership.
"It has been a great help to expand his mind in biblical knowledge, grow spiritually, and to increase my capacity in teaching.” “ It is very powerful and a great help for our churches in training the church leaders and to equip them in my areas because there are no other bible schools.”
His prayers are for different parts of the country to have access to this same learning since most are no where near a college or biblical institute. He also wishes for his fellow pastors and leaders to have training to deal with the trauma that is prevalent among these communities where war have been a part of their situation for a long time.
“Thank you for the training and be with us in prayer."
Shalom Africa is a ministry based in Uganda that desires to create lifelong transformations in individuals through spreading God’s original intent for His creation, and teaching people to reconcile with one another, and with God. In order to facilitate these transformations, Shalom Africa focuses its training into specific programs, which include: Family and marriage, pastors and church leaders, students and student leaders, community and community leaders, and women and children.
Pastor David Ocira Geoffrey is the County Director of Shalom Africa, and a current student of the Academy, learning from the BTCP courses. He was also a student of Handbook training in Gulu. Pastor Geoffrey was kind enough to share with us a testimony of the accomplishments of Shalom Africa in the past year, and what the ministry plans to do in the future.
At Gulu Central High School, Shalom Africa was able to minister to students who were candidates for S4 and S6. These students were taught about the importance of stewardship, that we should work to protect and preserve on another. In terms of ministering to students and young people, Pastor Geoffrey says, “in our hearts, we feel that if true transformation is to happen we need to look at students, because after a few years, they will become opinion leaders, business people, and influential people in their society. So, if they are guided when they are still willing to change, then our community will change.”
Shalom Africa conducted ministries that pertained to marriage, and the hardship that can be experienced in a married relationship. In some cases, non-Christian men were brought by their wives to listen and learn, and Pastor Geoffrey says that these men felt very encouraged by the message. These ministries were conducted in the community of Arut in the Paicho sub-county, and the community of Kidikal in the Bobi sub-county. The topics covered included: spousal demands and what causes marriages to weaken, marriage and gender-based violence, roles of men and women in relationships, and how to work together as a married couple.
Shalom Africa was able to minister to pastors and leaders in training in Acet Odek Sub-county of the Gulu District. These future religious leaders were ministered to the importance of living in God’s way, and the character of a leader. Pastor Geoffrey said, “In this one meeting, we were able to bring together pastors and church leaders from different denominations, and they were able to connect with one another and embrace unity as the body of Christ and promise to work together as the body of Christ.”
Pastor Geoffrey recognizes that there are true, deep needs in many communities in Africa, and especially in Northern Uganda. He acknowledges that the need and problems that arise in North Ugandan communities stem from the brokenness caused by war, and the damage war inflicts on moral values. The first task in providing healing and moral repair is to convince these people that their is hope when they decide to give their lives over to Jesus. However, Pastor Geoffrey realizes that there must be a place for these people to gather together in community with others going on the same journey, and place where they can pray, ask questions, read the bible, and learn. Shalom Africa seeks to provide this community total healing from God.
Through the training and ministries conducted this past year, Pastor Geoffrey and other church leaders have truly come to realize the need for these types of training is overwhelming in their community. Pastor Geoffrey says, “We are so grateful to God and to African Leadership for the common handbook training and the excellent community engagement training on developmental initiatives.”
Shalom Africa plans to reach out to the same communities to continue to minister and guide them, and to follow up on the effect the training has had thus far. They also plan to reach out to even more villages and communities in Northern Uganda, hoping to help more and more people through the ministry of God’s word.
We would like to leave you with this call to action from Pastor Geoffrey:
“So, your prayers and support in any way for our activities and involvement for these communities are very important as we join hands to build the kingdom of God together. We also appreciate your continuous heart for the kingdom of God and support in any way.”
Today we welcome you into a classroom in Butembo, DRC where the lesson for the day is based around a scripture in Samuel:
The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. 4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” 5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” 7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
You are part of a class of 18 others who have come together to have an in-depth study of this text asking questions like “Who are the subjects in the text?” “What are the main things happening in this passage? "What are the important words spoken in this text?” The lesson is a simple evaluation of the text that grows the knowledge of these pastors that they will take back to their churches and communities.
The day ends and you go home. But the work continues as DRC country director, Denis, takes time to talk over how the day’s lesson went and how to reach deeper in knowledge the next time he teaches. He continues to work and perfect the next lesson to come. The flight it took to get the this class - which was the safer options while looting, kidnapping, and killings are happening on the ground - is not the thought in his head. His heart is for his students. And the congregations that will hear Truth from these pastors as a result of their studies day after day. He's a Nathan to a classroom of Davids. This is the work of the Lord. Thank you for being part of it.
We recently received a note from Denis, our Country Director in the DRC passing on a word of thanks to African Leadership and its supporters.
Denis understands that it may feel like a heavy burden in supporting African churches but it is great and joyful work to invest in the church and it’s leaders - especially in his country, "it is so very helpful."
“The body of Christ in the DRC needs to be built. But the field is too big and the builders are so few. Thank you for your commitment.”
The teachers and students are grateful for the biblical knowledge they receive through the training - their eyes and minds have been open to see the truth of the Bible and it’s teaching. To them, it is a rare opportunity & a privilege to be trained. The manuals are helpful is understanding and distinguishing the Old Testament stories of Creation and Israel’s history to the New Testament stories of God hatred of sin and reward for righteousness.
“This is our sincere thanks from Katindo center.”
I was in and out of Uganda in 57 hours… but it was as magical to me as a weekend at Disney World. You have to know that the first time I landed in Uganda was in 2006. It was at the height of peace talks between the LRA and the Ugandan government. For a girl who had studied conflict resolution and community rebuilding, it was a dream to spend a week in northern Uganda – in Gulu. During that trip in 2006, I spent the week hearing and witnessing first hand what war does to a person. I was with women abducted by child soldiers and forced to be army wives. I saw children walking down dusty streets missing limbs taken by rebel soldiers. I spent the night with 2 of Joseph Kony’s wives and the youngest of his children hearing about life in the bush.
This time around, this Uganda I experienced was a completely different place. This Gulu was filled with life and laughter – not fear and death. This Gulu had boys and girls running to school, not away from soldiers. This Gulu had economic activity and buildings, not refugee camps and World Food Program deliveries.
The difference comes from several things – but our emphasis is education. I spent my days with the men and women in our Common Ground Academy. They were sharing what they were learning, how they were wrestling with this information, and what they were doing with it. These leaders are pastors in their churches, program directors for local orphanages and community schools, and visionaries looking to make Gulu better than the 2006 version. They were completing our 2-year program and sharing about how the Bible was impacting everything. They were talking about their growing confidence to preach the Gospel, how they addressed the injustices they saw in their neighborhoods, and the solutions their neighborhoods were using to solve their own needs.
This Gulu was filled with men and women who have learned how quickly life can unravel and have learned the ways to rebuild and put it back together – stronger than before. These women were pulling out data they had collected about literacy rates in their neighborhoods and sharing with me their plans to teach English to their children – so that their children can live a better life than they have. These leaders were explaining that before this education, they felt the burden of making their churches and neighborhoods stronger on their own. And now, they know how to engage their neighbors and church members so that the plans and solutions they put their hands to are owned by every member of their community. This ownership and sacrifice ensures the success and sustainability of their efforts. And with pride on their faces, they were showing me the work of their hands.
If I ever need a reminder that education and the Gospel can rebuild people and places, Uganda is my reminder. It works. In 10 years time, life can be rebuilt. Hearts and stories can be healed. Momentum can swing from fear and silence to laughter and the hum of activity. In 57 hours I saw the hope of what can be – not just for Uganda or Africa, but for us all.
I am 13 years old, I have 3 brothers and I am the only girl. My dad died when I was 8 years old.
When my dad was alive, I was his only daughter and he cherished me. I was in a good school, well dressed, and enjoyed family time. When he died everything suddenly changed. There was no food and no money to pay school fees or buy clothes. Life became very hard. My aunts and uncles came and took all of our inheritances, sold our home for money and took my brothers and me, not to help us, but for selling. We suffered a lot. I was able to escape with one of my brothers and return to our mom. When I woke up each day, I would see my dear dad in my broken heart. I would remember a good time and I would begin to weep.
One day, I was selected to participate in a workshop about trauma healing. This was a great time for me, to get a new direction to my life. There, I met with other orphans living in the same or worse situations than me. It was a good time to heal my wounded heart. At the end they gave me a precious gift, which is now my new friend. When I feel alone my gift, my Bible, speaks to me. When I read it, it comforts me, gives me hope, and brings light to my future. It shows to me that I am not alone. I am with Jesus Christ, a great friend and a Dad for orphans.