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The Common Ground Handbook

When asked about what he prays for those who graduate from Uganda’s Common Ground Academy, Geoffrey Ocan’s answer says it all: that they would live quality Christian lives, that they would be relevant in their communities, and that they would be a light to the nations. On this side of the ocean, we couldn’t agree more. And that’s why we created the Common Ground Handbook. The Handbook is a step-by-step approach to locally-led community development. It builds on what church leaders learn during their core two-year education in the Common Ground Academy and applies a Biblical worldview, combining the fact that these local leaders know what their community needs much better than we do with a strategic framework for successful implementation of a sustainable solution.

This fall, Geoffrey will begin piloting the Handbook in three of his classes. Each student will receive an iPad loaded with the Handbook in interactive iBook form. This allows the process to be more applied than academic, more active than passive. It tracks their progress and helps organize thoughts and strategies along the way – mapping assets, noting results of listening surveys and social analysis, and pulling together a workable action plan.

We look forward to keeping you updated on the pilot through the fall and into the spring and invite you to pray alongside us for Geoffrey as he leads this process, his students as they walk through this process, and for the Gospel to be present in their communities because of this process.

Leader Spotlight: Geoffrey Ocan

http://youtu.be/I-Lhfc4yGFE Geoffrey is African Leadership’s Country Director in Uganda. He is the pastor of Bridgebuilders Church in Gulu, northern Uganda, where he lives with his wife Jennifer and six children. Geoffrey serves 18 teachers and 265 students across his country -- a country that has seen decades of instability and violence.

With the high prevalence of trauma resulting from the unrest, the church faces an interesting challenge in Uganda. Aside from those who lost homes, family, and more, those who were abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army often encounter rejection from society when they try to return home. But Geoffrey sees an opportunity here – “it is my firm belief that the church, wherever it is, is to be the salt and the light.” So just how can the church be an effective light and speak to a population that has experienced such unthinkable darkness?

One young man in particular stands out to Geoffrey. James* was abducted by the LRA and forced to fight. When he was able to return home, Geoffrey says, “he had lost hope because of the things he had gone through, some of the people he had killed haunting him. He wanted just to die, to commit suicide.” But Geoffrey’s church stepped in. They accepted him. They prayed with him. “Being there with him as a church, we have given him hope, a purpose to live, and he’s very happy that God has seen him through all that, and God protected and preserved him to manifest who He is.”

Now a “very vibrant youth,” he has since gone on to Bible school and is deeply involved in the church’s youth ministry. Because of servant leaders like Geoffrey – and pastors and teachers in the Common Ground Academy across the continent - Africans like James are finding new hope, unconditional acceptance, and, ultimately, common ground with the Gospel.
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*Name changed for confidentiality.

Focus: A Well on Common Ground

Jonathan Titus-Williams, African Leadership’s Country Director in Sierra Leone, has a Common Ground Academy class in a village called Magburuka. Ninety percent of the students in this class come from Magburuka’s neighboring villages, including the nearby Moyatha community. Moyatha is a Muslim-dominated town of 1,000 people. The community faces several local challenges, revealed in their 2012 hospital records – staggering child morbidity and malnutrition rates and the effects of extremely limited access to sanitation facilities. Sixty percent of all illness in the community is caused by inadequate water or sanitation during the rainy season.

One of Jonathan’s students saw this as an opportunity. While Jonathan led the class through the Common Ground Handbook, a student from Moyatha suggested the class focus their Handbook efforts on his community. The Handbook is a practical tool that walks a local leader through an effective, step-by-step approach to creating a solution for their community that combats the challenges they face.

So the class got to work.

Under Jonathan’s leadership and the Handbook’s guidance, the class conducted a social analysis and listening survey. What they noticed confirmed the findings of the hospital records. The core culprit appeared to be the poor quality of drinking water. Three out of five people reported experiencing water related diseases in a year. Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources envisions “water and sanitation for all always,” but so far only 32% of the rural population has access to clean water. With the lack of government action, there was definitely room here for the local church to step in.


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Jonathan’s class did some more research. They mapped local resources and identified local stakeholders. Then they developed an action plan. The plan included constructing a water well, building a community water committee, and distributing mosquito nets to further protect from malaria, a waterborne illness. Their plan was approved for one-time funding by African Leadership and was put into motion earlier this year.

Now completed, what we’re most proud of here at African Leadership is what we didn’t do. We didn’t identify the location, the problem, or the solution. We didn’t investigate local opinions or existing resources. And we won’t be paying for ongoing expenses or maintenance of the water pump as local pump caretakers are being trained to maintain it and make needed repairs in the future. This solution was and is owned by the African community around it – not us.

Want to hear the story in Jonathan’s words and learn how this community – a community of Muslims – responded to the Christian church building them a well? Join us in August for Coffee and Conversations with Jonathan!

Leader Spotlight: Jonathan Titus-Williams

Jonathan Titus-Williams serves a country recovering economically, physically, and spiritually from 11 years of civil war. A country of 6 million people, a majority of them Muslim. Jonathan is a servant leader in Sierra Leone.

Born into a Muslim home, Jonathan was raised by his grandparents. When he reached school age, the school he was sent to required him to attend Sunday church services. It was here that Jonathan became a Christian. Now his dream is to see his country well-evangelized. Says Jonathan, “The Lord will use me as an instrument to reach out to this vast majority of people who do not know Him. That’s my heartbeat and what I pray in whatever I do.”

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As African Leadership’s Sierra Leone Country Director, Jonathan oversees 323 students currently enrolled in the country’s Common Ground Academies. His pilot of the Common Ground Handbook led to the successful completion of a water well for a rural community in the Tonkolili District in central Sierra Leone. This initiative not only opened the door to the church in a Muslim-dominated village, but Jonathan also says that it challenged the norm that “pastors are there just to preach.”

Jonathan’s servant leadership is constantly on display. Join us August 7th to meet him in person and hear it firsthand!

Focus: Quality Growth

One of the core values of African Leadership is impact assessment. If Dennis Omondi’s 168 students are merely showing up for class, listening for a couple hours, then making the trip home, we are not carrying out our mission. To ensure program quality and impact, African Leadership has developed surveys to track student progress on predetermined outcomes and indicators throughout their time in the Common Ground Academy. A recent program assessment created an ongoing dialogue between Africa-based and U.S.-based leaders. The result was a comprehensive teacher development program — something that will help Dennis and our other 14 Country Directors assure that the teachers they serve are being invested in well, so they can in turn invest in their students. Dennis has spearheaded the charge to bring consistency to this teacher development program across the continent of Africa. He and his local team, along with other African Leadership Country Directors, are currently continuing the important work of revising this program — crafting a plan that provides existing and potential teachers with the practical skills they need to be catalysts of transformation in the communities in which they live and serve. With Dennis' help, workshops have already been held in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. These workshops have proven to be a platform for teachers to weigh in on course materials, student retention, and practical discipleship methods. The effect is already evident -- as a result, new class guidelines have been introduced and a renewed focus on quality growth has permeated the Common Ground Academy at the foundational level.

Meet: Dennis Omondi

http://youtu.be/lgIzA7Zl2Hg Investing in Africa’s servant leaders means partnering with those men and women across Africa who exemplify Christ-like leadership within their families, the church and their communities.  African Leadership includes a unique group of these African leaders who represent a population of over 763 million people across the continent.  Dennis Omondi is one of these leaders.

Dennis is African Leadership’s Country Director in Kenya. Based in Mombasa, Dennis oversees the 15 teachers and 168 students currently enrolled in African Leadership’s Common Ground Academy in his country. He attended Denton Bible Church's Missionary Training Institute and worked at Denton Bible Church in Texas before returning to Mombasa, where he met his wife and became the lead pastor of South Coast Community Church.

Servant leadership and discipleship are key parts of Dennis’ ministry and were nurtured through example as he was growing up.  Having had a missionary, Ms. Louise, invest in him at the early age of six, Dennis gave his life to Christ during his teenage years while attending a camp. “The pictures from Ms. Louise’s lessons began playing in my mind. God used her in an amazing way” says Dennis.

It is with this understanding of pouring into the lives of others that Dennis spends his time reinvesting in other leaders throughout Kenya. His desire is to “see Africa transformed for African people through African people,” and he is up for the challenge: “Africa is big but I believe this can happen” with the right people. And those people are plenty in Kenya.

To help us continue to invest in servant leaders like Dennis, click here.

African Leadership and Know Think Act Announce Strategic Partnership

African Leadership and Know Think Act Announce Strategic Partnership

African Leadership, Inc., a Brentwood, Tenn.-based non-profit organization dedicated to investing in Africa’s servant leaders, announced an official partnership today with like-minded Know Think Act of Nashville, Tenn.

Under the agreement, this partnership keeps the name, mission and work of Know Think Act (KTA) intact while dissolving the organization’s legal status and bringing its assets under the operations of African Leadership.

“When two organizations share such similar missions, a partnership like this simply makes sense – most importantly for those in Africa whose lives are changed,” said John Walter, president of African Leadership.  “We look forward to this new era for both African Leadership and KTA.”

Both African Leadership and KTA carry a track record of working alongside community leaders in Africa to break the cycle of poverty through faith-based, sustainable solutions that originate in the communities they impact.

“This is the right next step for KTA,” said Travis Gravette, founder and CEO of Know Think Act.  “Our shared, deep passion for the kind of work that originates in a local community and fuels change will allow our projects to continue to thrive.”

Affirming the mutual benefit, both African Leadership and KTA board members unanimously approved the asset purchase agreement, paving the way for the closing, which took place on June 12, 2014. KTA joins Mocha Club as a member of the African Leadership family.

Current KTA donors can continue their support of current projects in the same way they always have, now through African Leadership.  Tax-deductible statements will come through African Leadership Inc. Anyone with questions may contact African Leadership’s Chief Community Officer, Curtis Stoneberger at 615-595-8238.

About African Leadership

Based in Brentwood, Tenn., African Leadership is a Christian development organization investing in Africa’s servant leaders. Working to find common ground for the African church and the communities it serves, the organization provides pastoral education at Common Grounds Academies and solution-oriented, Bible-based community development education through the Common Grounds Handbook, helping local churches love their neighbors and delivering superior education and abiding love in hard and overlooked places. For more information, visit www.africanleadershipinc.org.

About Know Think Act

Know Think Act is an online community that connects members with the needs of people living in extreme poverty. KTA partners with local leaders who are working to end the cycle of poverty in their community through faith-based, locally led initiatives.  At the same time, KTA raises awareness of these needs among members who can become an ally in this work. For more information, visit www.knowthinkact.com

About Mocha Club:

The micro-giving arm of African Leadership, Mocha Club brings together a community of people giving up the cost of a few mocha coffee drinks a month to fund development projects in Africa.  Since 2005, Mocha Club has focused on funding five core project areas: clean water, education, economic freedom, health care, and orphan care. For more information, visit www.themochaclub.org.

 

Common Grounds: Malawi

“ I have learned to make believers become disciples rather than converts.” Malawi is one of the least developed, most densely populated countries in the world. That’s why African Leadership graduate Pastor Beston’s focus on making disciples in Malawi is both crucial and a major aim of the Common Grounds Initiative. Explore Common Grounds Malawi with us below and see for yourself.

Common Grounds in Focus: Malawi

Population: 17,377, 468

Capital: Lilongwe

African Leadership classes: 79

African Leadership students: 1,039

Get to know: Leonard Chipangano, Malawi Country Director

Leonard felt God call him into ministry in the late ‘90s. After graduating from Zambezi College of Ministry, Leonard planted churches in a Muslim-dominated area of Malawi for six years. He then began teaching for African Leadership become becoming Country Director in 2012.

Take a look around: Kauma & Lizulu

One of the biggest challenges facing Malawi is its one-million plus orphan population. But our Common Grounds local leaders are taking action. In Kauma, the Adziwa school works to minimize the stigma of being an orphan. And in Lizulu, African Leadership partner Everton Kamangire oversees the Lizulu Orphan Care project, serving orphans with food, medical care, education and more. The unity between the project, local church, and local chiefs – a focus of Common Grounds – has been a great help “in the smooth running of the project,” says Everton.

Get a first hand account of Adziwa’s impact on the community through this video from Mocha Club, our micro-giving arm. You can also take a look into Lizulu here.

Find your Common Ground: A Note from Malawi

Leonard is the driving force behind Common Grounds Malawi. He works tirelessly to fuse the work his pastors do inside the church with the work they do outside the church. “It is bridging the big gap between trained ministers and the majority of untrained ministers, changing the affairs of the Malawi Church,” he says. Leonard sees Common Grounds at work through his student, Pastor Mtendere. Before his African Leadership education, he was just a church elder. Now graduated,  “God has used him mightily to impact the lives in his community. Now he is a pastor. And he leads a Pastor’s Fellowship where different churches come together for worship and counseling. He is transforming his community.”

Want to be a part of Common Grounds Malawi? Give here or email info@africanleadershipinc.org for more information, including opportunities to travel to Malawi with us.

 

They made it!

We're excited to report that the shipment of medical supplies — x-ray machines, generators, lab equipment, basic hospital supplies, and more — has made it! The shipment arrived in Malawi and was delivered to three previously undersupplied rural clinics: Dzuwa Village Clinic, Kabudula Community Hospital, and Lilongwe Private Clinic. Take a look back at what used to be, then celebrate the delivery with us below. Thank you to all who made this shipment possible!

 

 

Tis the Season

Give your Christmas shopping a whole new meaning. African Leadership’s community-giving arm, Mocha Club, has a couple of opportunities to give back this holiday season while you check names off your gift list. Shopping Mocha Club’s online store is the first way. With new products just launched for the Christmas season, you’ll find great gifts for those with a heart for Africa on your list. Scarves handmade in Ethiopia by women in our Women at Risk program, coffee and coffee mugs, decorative prints made exclusively for Mocha Club, t-shirts, totes, and more are available and new deals will be offered each day this week. Best of all, these are gifts that give twice as the proceeds benefit African Leadership’s Community Investment projects. Start shopping now at store.themochaclub.org!

Second, Mocha Club teamed up with an organization called Pure Charity for the month of December to raise money for a very special campaign. African Leadership’s Country Director in Rwanda, Mezack Nkundabantu, has a unique graduating class this year – it is a class of 30 inmates in a Rwandan prison. To mark their graduation, Pastor Mezack would like to give each graduate a personal study Bible to encourage them as they continue their walk with God both inside and outside prison walls. Pure Charity allows you to make regular donations, but also allows for a percentage of your regular online purchases to be designated to this project. Learn how to get started here. You do your shopping, and Rwandan inmates get Bibles – it’s as simple as that!

Life without a hero

A Statement from African Leadership President John Walter

A while back, my family hosted an African leader in our home. Over the course of several conversations, it became clear that our friend didn't have a hero in his life. People he looked up to - sure. But a hero? That seemed a step too far. Maybe too many disappointments? It's hard to tell, but I wish he had been with us the other night as news broke about Nelson Mandela's final hours so that together we might reflect on the passing of a great man. 

Nelson Mandela, resilient and exemplary, humble and gifted, jailed yet free. He charted the unchartered, marked up the blueprint, became the dictionary entry for "leadership in hard places."

Photo by Allan Tannenbaum

Where is it written that leaders like Mandela have to be "one in a million?" After signing a new Constitution into law in 1996, he declared that "amongst Africans, Coloured, Indians, and whites there are good men and women without exception . . . The duty of the real leaders of South Africa is to identify those good men and women in all these formations to create an environment where they can pool their talents, their knowledge, their skills, the expertise to pool it so that we can as South Africans benefit from those skills."[1] Words are easy - but Mandela did his best to match his reality to his rhetoric.

Perhaps the answer to these questions - "What? No hero?" and "Why is Mandela so rare?" - can also be found in Mandela. "I am," he said, "an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances."[2]

So what would I say to the African leader with no heroes? Maybe he and those like him don't realize that they in fact are living in extraordinary circumstances, circumstances that need ordinary people of courage and conviction like them. Heroes like Mandela paved the way for them.

And why so rare, leaders like Mandela here and abroad? Maybe, just maybe, Mandela really believed he was just an ordinary man, but we know that in the extraordinary circumstances of his life, he drew strength from an unshakeable conviction, and from that, shook the world.


[1] Speech given December 10, 1996. Available nelsonmandela.org/speeches.

[2] (2013, December 6). Editorial: Nelson Mandela: a man of magnetic dignity, was an inspiration to all. Montreal Gazette. Retrieved December 6 2013 from montrealgazette.com.

 

Orphans: Symptoms or Systems?

"Symptoms or Systems" is an occasional series that delves into the general complexities of life, particularly as they relate to the role of the church. The phrase “symptoms or systems” mimics the natural and ongoing dilemma faced by those active in the world’s hard places, of which Africa has more than its fair share. Like many organizations, we find we need to exist somewhere in the awkward middle – called to respond to the suffering of the overlooked and undervalued (those who suffer the symptoms of a fallen world) while at the same time being committed pursuers of biblical justice (going upstream to take on the systems that perpetuate the symptoms). This series serves to examine and embrace the tension that lives in that awkward middle. Ready for a big number? Okay, here it comes… 90%. That’s the percentage of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS that live in sub-Saharan Africa [1]. In Zimbabwe, 16% of those under 17 have lost both parents due to AIDS [2]. Look around your kid’s school -- in a typical classroom, four kids of the 24 would be without parents because of a preventable scourge. If ever there were a classic symptom/system conundrum, this would be it.

Orphans occupy a special place in the Bible. They can work on the hearts of even the most jaded. I’ve seen so many people go to Africa simply to explore, but then come home with a baby or a child. They see the symptoms of a broken world surrounding them and they react with compassion. They rail against a system they cannot change, even while they revel in the joy of sacrifice and love that is becoming a parent.

This juxtaposition reveals undeniable value in taking a step back to identify and address both the symptom and the system. As an organization, we have learned firsthand how important it is to keep kids in families. When such intrinsic community is combined with accessible education and caring teachers, you can begin to heal the hole created by the symptoms that linger long after the child’s parents are gone. Knowing this, we have to participate in their lives; God put them in our path and put resources in our hands.

While this may be true for the symptom, perhaps it is not our participation that best reshapes the system. Just as we’ve seen how important it is for children to stay in family units, we’ve seen how important it is for local leaders, be it pastors, teachers, or mentors, to speak into the systems that bring the symptoms to bear. African pastors discipling eager young pastors, African teachers discipling eager young students – children and young adults, orphans and non-orphans, learning to live out of the life-changing and live-saving truth of their adoptive Father - so that they become the agents of cultural change, going upstream of the symptoms to amend how we live, act and love.

This is the African Leadership approach. It is practical and strategic, building faith and future, addressing both the symptoms and the systems of an untethered world – one we may not be able to fully comprehend, but one we can certainly work to change.

Come with us to Africa, won’t you? And see for yourself why you might need the continent more than it needs you.

 

[1] It should be noted that sub-Saharan Africa is the predominantly Christian part of the continent.

[2] UN AIDS Global Report, 2010, p.114

Making a Career in the Hard Places

Let’s face it. Most people who grow up in poverty want to get far away from it as quickly as they can. Not Everton Kamangire of Malawi. He grew up with a different aspiration: make a difference in the lives of those immersed in deep poverty.

Everton began by doing what he could, providing a blanket or meal here or there. He pursued a degree and was driven by mentors who challenged him to dig deeper. After graduating, Everton began teaching at a local school and then launched the Lizulu Orphan Care Project.

Lizulu is a rural Malawian community that is no stranger to HIV/AIDS or generational poverty. Consequently, it is no stranger to orphans. The average Lizulu family lives on less than $0.75 a day, making the ability to support orphans seem far from possible. Yet, about 3,000 orphans call Lizulu home. Many call Everton their role model.

The impact of Everton’s aspiration has been colossal. Nearly 500 children in Lizulu have completed secondary school, a feat that without the support of a family would typically be impossible for an orphan. His holistic approach, built on the concept of community-based care, allows children to live in the comfort of a real home with a real community – a built-in family - surrounding them. Five community centers in the village provide meals, and local leaders offer tutoring and counseling to ensure school is more than just going through the motions and life is more than just getting by. Blankets, clothing, medical services – all provided.

Everton has turned a community previously defined by poverty into a community defined by God. It’s an environment that doesn’t allow feelings of abandonment or worthlessness to stand a chance. It’s clear in the children’s excitement as they share their dreams – dreams very much alive despite tragic circumstances. Take for example Joy*. At 16, after losing both of her parents, Joy moved in with her grandmother. Two weeks later, she lost her grandmother. But Joy sits with confidence as she tells her story. Instead of speaking of sorrow, she speaks of her aspirations to become a midwife.

This is the story of a leader who matters in the hard places – a leader who dared to step into the stories of those around him and embrace them where they are. A leader who changed both the perception of the orphan and of the orphan’s community, enabling each to confidently see themselves the way God sees them. And every day, it grows a little more into the story of future leaders that matter in the hard places.

*Name changed for confidentiality.

The Other Peace Talks

UPDATE: This round of peace talks concluded at the end of September with mixed reviews. Comments from M23 and the Ugandan mediator seemed favorable, but towards the end of the month attacks broke out and the same old blame game ensued. But we were blessed to hear from Denis, the DRC Country Director, on October 1 with much more positive news. He just held a graduation ceremony for pastors completing their training in the South Kivu province. Said one of the graduates, "We discovered many things especially our old mistakes done by ignorance and to know how to defend our doctrine as we are surrounded by many religions: Muslims, Bahai, Kibangu, Jehovah Witness and so on."

They had a guest at the celebration, too — the Archbishop Mastajabu. His words encouraged the graduates: "To train one pastor is more important than 100 believers of a church having a pastor not trained and this is the problem we are facing nowadays." He sent this picture of the ceremony.

 

Africa in the News: Democratic Republic of Congo

Just as the debate about intervention in Syria hinges on the effectiveness of agreements made in peace talks between the United States and Russia, the stability of the Democratic Republic of Congo similarly hinges on the effectiveness of a new round of peace talks between DRC government leaders and M23 rebels.

The Big Picture The DRC has been in varying stages of war since 1996 and has seen an estimated 5.4 million people killed. In April 2012, the situation was further complicated by government forces clashing with a group called M23, a reference to a March 23 agreement that rebels feel has been unfairly disregarded by the government. A mainly Tutsi group (you may recall the Tutsi are the ethnic group that was largely targeted in the Rwandan genocide of 1994), M23's uprising has left hundreds of thousands of Congolese displaced and created communities full of refugees that have witnessed unthinkable crimes.

From Our View The city of Kitchanga knows this story all too well. Fighting here left 200 dead and 570 houses destroyed earlier this year. The city is home to some of African Leadership's Applied Education students, and their teacher, Bulenda Placide, lost his home in the conflict. Country Director Denis Hangi, with the backing of African Leadership, helped Pastor Bulenda rebuild his home, but the larger picture, Denis stressed, is that tribal hatred is resurfacing as a consequence of the ongoing violence.

The outcome of this new round of talks could have a significant effect on our students and teachers across the country. Leading up to September 10, the first day of the peace talks, President Kabila threatened to continue fighting if a deal wasn't made, and rebels staged several attacks in eastern DRC. Please join us in prayer for a successful mediation, a peaceful ceasefire, and true healing for the entire country; the coming days will be very important to the future of peace for Kitchanga and the DRC as a whole.

If the Democratic Republic of Congo is a hard place in which you'd like to serve, African Leadership is currently looking to fund trauma-healing training at the request of Denis for pastors like Bulenda and others in similar situations across the DRC. You can donate to those efforts here.

"Why I Need Africa More Than Africa Needs Me"

REDEFINITION We recently relaunched a campaign called “I Need Africa More Than Africa Needs Me.” This statement makes sense if you’ve been to Africa; it probably sounds backwards if you haven’t.

Remember when Jesus read from Isaiah in his hometown?

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19)

After reading, Jesus sat down and said, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” The crowd came expecting miracles, expecting to witness Jesus physically restoring sight or freeing captives – the “blind” and the “captives” being people other than themselves.   Instead, they got the famous “Jesus twist.” That’s where he takes the seemingly plain message of the Bible and turns it inside out, in this case making it clear that:

  • Those without money are not necessarily the “poor,”
  • Those in bondage or prison are not necessarily the “captives,”
  • Those without sight are not necessarily the “blind.”

The crowd overlooked the extraordinary fulfillment of Scripture right in their own backyard, paralyzed by their expectations of what Jesus was supposed to do. Too bad the story didn’t continue with the crowd exclaiming, “I need Jesus more than Jesus needs me.” It makes sense to us years later; it would have sounded backwards at that time.  The central idea Jesus was trying to get across? In the midst of confused expectations, the Messiah – God himself – had arrived.

The central idea of “I Need Africa More Than Africa Needs Me?” When you remove your expectations and see yourself as “poor,” “blind,” “captive”– that’s when you discover real joy. I hope you’ll watch the video and get a taste of the “Jesus twist,” where everything is backwards but finally makes sense.

 

 

God is in the Hard Places: Sudan

Bibles and Bombs in Nuba

Always at the start of the session, I remind my students where the foxhole is situated so they could be safe in case of any danger.”

Rev. Tito Iranga is African Leadership's Director in both Sudan and South Sudan. He recently filed this report of his experiences in the Nuba Mountains, a large region along the border of the two countries.

He tells of schools that post a student outside the classroom to scan the sky for warplanes; of Miriam who lost all her children and all her property; of the large, new, beautiful mosque that dominates the border town and serves as a reminder of the full nature of the north/south conflict. In short, this is a story of an ongoing war.

And Yet… 

And yet, 37 students – men, women, and children – were present for Tito’s most recent session in this hard place. At a time when the church is needed more than ever, those who chose to stay or were simply unable to flee are ministering to their trauma-ridden communities with a deeper understanding of the Bible’s source, its message, and its power to transform – all of which our intensive education provides to them.

A Surprise 

One thing that caught Tito by surprise was the students’ insistence on using English, not Arabic, manuals. This is a community shaking off the norms, practices, and essence of their former country and present antagonist, a community that deeply desires to know and practice God’s will. So much so that people like Ibrahim are “smiling big because some of the things we discussed in class they have encountered in their ministry, and now they are happy to have gotten the methods of how to deal with them.”

Our Response

This is one of those times when our prayer and financial requests are one and the same. Carrying out this important work in a community that is isolated, under bombardment, and without even basic resources defies imagination. And yet… it continues. But it needs your prayers for Tito, for the pastors who risk their lives to attend class, for endless challenges that sap even the strongest will. Your generous financial support to this region will help answer those prayers.