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The Oliji Refugee Settlement changed James’ life.

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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...

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In The News: Democratic Republic of Congo

What does "community" mean when "home" is ever-changing? In the Democratic Republic of Congo, almost three million people are refugees, internally or externally displaced due to war. One of them is Denis, our Country Director, who was forced to flee to Goma in 1994. Twenty years later, people are still fleeing violence. Just this month, 10,000 people led to the opening of a new camp for DRC refugees in Rwanda. And some 60,000 residents of a country most of us have never heard of until recently - the Central African Republic - have fled to places in the Congo that were themselves overrun by violence just a few short years ago.

Displacement brings challenges. It is always abrupt and involuntary. "Home" becomes a memory. "Community" becomes uncontrollable and uncomfortable - even life-shattering. Parents worry about their child's education. Pastors work to foster order and peace. Families try to create an environment that will do as a home for now while dreaming of a home for the future.

Here is where community matters most.

Early in his career, Country Director Denis Hangi was sent to a village and a church that were "falling apart." From this "failing" core grew 15 churches, a farm that funded housing for each family, a coffee company to support the church, and cows, goats, and sheep to provide pay for the pastors. 

In this village that was "falling apart," "community" was found in a life-giving, vision-sharing, Gospel-centered local church. The church was at the center; it was the common ground that gave life to the community.

As we work with Denis, his pastors, students, and communities to build Common Grounds with Congo, we invite you to help create community for a country of people robbed of home - the 10,000 people moving into the new refugee camp, the 60,000+ pouring into DRC from CAR, and thousands more.

So, what does "community" mean when "home" seems lost? It means everything.

Find your Common Ground: You can read more about the new refugee camp here; about life as a refugee in DRC here; and about Common Grounds with Congo here. To be a part of Common Grounds with Congo, please email johnw@africanleadershipinc.org.

Common Focus: Democratic Republic of Congo

Get to Know: Denis Hangi, Country Director

Denis began pastoring in the village of Bambo in 1977 before attending Bible college in Kenya. While in school, he mentored an underclassman named Mezack Nkundabantu, who would later become African Leadership’s Rwanda & Burundi Country Director. After graduating in 1985, Denis was sent to rebuild a church in a local village that was falling apart. The church grew and became a mission church, creating 15 new churches under Denis’ leadership.

The war forced Denis and his family to flee to Goma in 1994. Here, seeing fellow refugees having to live in a school building, Denis was overcome with compassion and began a church in Goma. In 2002, Mezack recruited Denis to African Leadership, and three years later Denis was confirmed as the DRC’s Country Director.

In his time with African Leadership, Denis has graduated 1,214 pastors and currently oversees 20 classes with a total of 487 students. He is known for his dedication to reconciliation and trauma-healing outreach. He has helped rebuild homes of his pastors in war-torn areas and has had graduates go on to minister to other countries or start churches of their own in struggling villages. “The war has provoked tribalism hatred, but only God’s Word can heal,” he says.

Today, Denis lives in Goma with his wife and ten children. He is both African Leadership’s Country Director and a senior pastor at his church as he lives out “his work to build the capacity of God’s people."

To follow stories of Denis' ministry in the DRC, read more here.

Common Ground: Democratic Republic of Congo

A Note from the President

Four years ago, on my first trip to DRCongo, we traveled to a remote town in the far northeast, close to the border with Central African Republic (CAR) and what was then Sudan. At that time, the town of Dungu's population had swelled with people escaping the murder and mayhem caused by Joseph Kony's LRA militia. Staying overnight wasn't possible. Though the church leaders we met and ate and prayed with were overjoyed to know someone from outside cared, they insisted we leave before nightfall.

Earlier this month, I returned to the same place. Four years later, peace seems possible. The widows and orphans and church members who didn't have enough to eat made sure that they planted some of what we sent to eat. Today, they have three 20 acre farm plots. They are feeding themselves and their neighbors too. Did I mention they also started several churches? Once displaced, this group of women who had nothing are now the core of a new community.

The eastern part of Congo still smolders in a 20-year old war. And through much of this troubled region, Denis Hangi nurtures his teachers and students, leaving behind men and women of the Bible who speak truth and love into towns and villages. Truth and love are needed here - many homes in the town of Kitchanga were burned in a firefight. Some of our teachers lost their homes and lives of church members. These words from the Psalms mean more to me after each visit to Congo: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1 NIV)

Common Grounds with Congo will begin in 2014. Let me know if you'd like to be part of helping us teach truth so love spills out into the streets and towns of the region.

Update from South Sudan

The past month has been a hard one in South Sudan. Following an alleged coup attempt, the President, Salva Kiir, accused the former Vice President, Riek Machar, of fomenting rebellion against his rule. From the middle of December until now, the UN has estimated that there have been over 1,000 deaths and 201,000 internally displaced people. Since we last updated you on how the violent outbreak has affected Tito, our Sudan & South Sudan Country Director, we have received more news from the field and wanted to share:

Tito ended up evacuating his family, taking his wife and children to stay with friends in Uganda. Tito himself has been in Nairobi, Kenya for the past week and a half working on his Master’s degree program and will go to Uganda to be with his family today. He plans to take them back home for the next few weeks unless the violence increases or circumstances worsen, but all have remained safe and for this we are thankful. Please continue to be in prayer for the protection of Tito, his family, and all African Leadership students and teachers in South Sudan.

2014: A Letter from the President

The important work of providing Bibles and affordable, accessible theological education has helped thousands of local church leaders across Africa better serve their church communities. It’s given us stories of hope from places like the South Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where despite ongoing violent conflict, pastor graduation ceremonies still persist as joyfully as ever. Or in rural Malawi, where poverty rates run notoriously high, but African Leadership students and graduates are planting new churches from scratch and experiencing promising growth, numerically and spiritually. This success has certainly been transformative inside the church community. But our graduates and church leaders aren’t looking for limited transformation – that’s not what the Gospel they’ve come to know represents. They’ve decided, and African Leadership as a whole has decided, that it’s time to move outside church walls and respond to not just the church community, but the entire community. The Common Grounds Initiative is that response.

Common Grounds represents the link between spiritual needs and physical needs. It represents pastors moving out from behind the pulpit and into the fabric of their communities. It is the Rwandan graduate who took his pastoral education and turned it into pastoral action – creating a community-based orphan care program to fund school fees through his church. Or the Kenyan graduate who connected the message of Gospel healing with the realities of physical healing – organizing support groups and outreaches for people living with HIV/AIDS in an overlooked slum.

2014 will see the introduction of several Common Grounds communities. We’re excited to be able to share the unique vision of each one – a vision distinctively determined by the community itself. I hope you’ll join us this year as we, the church in America, work to secure a “common ground” for the church and its people in Africa.

Sincerely,

John Walter President | African Leadership

P.S.: In the meantime, we’ve put together a short “who we are” video as we move into this next season. I think it captures the spirit of where we are headed and hope you will take a minute to watch.

Pray for South Sudan

Earlier this week, fighting broke out in South Sudan following an unsuccessful coup attempt. In the days since, gunfire has continued, sending around 15,000-20,000 residents to seek shelter at local UN facilities. Estimates suggest that 400-500 people have been killed and reports now state that fighting has spread beyond the capital of Juba. For a brief overview of the situation and continual updates, you can check BBC here.

We have been in contact with our South Sudan Country Director, Tito Iranga. On December 18, he reported that some residents have been able to leave their homes to access food and water today, but rebellions are emerging in several areas. Depending on the progression of events over the next few days, Tito may take his family to the border while he stays behind. His specific prayer request is as follows: "Pray for this young nation to be stable so that the peace of Christ reigns in the land."

As the political in-fighting continues, please join us in prayers of protection and peace for Tito, his family, and the country of South Sudan.

Timeless Lessons

 

African Leadership places a high value on the applicability and sustainability of knowledge – ensuring that our students are using and reusing what they learn in the classroom. One way this is done is through a focus on the relevancy of the material. In addition to a study Bible and ten-course curriculum, students also have access to additional course studies on issues such as HIV/AIDS and Islam – two things that are prevalent in many of their communities.

The HIV/AIDS course in particular has proved pertinent. In a three-lesson manual, students (or church members, small groups, etc.) learn how to combat the falsehoods and stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. It also applies a biblical worldview, detailing the issues Christian leaders may face in their communities: from how to deal with questions about AIDS being a curse from ancestors to how to help those struggling with feelings of guilt and seeking God’s forgiveness.

African Leadership graduate Monica Odero is a prime example of what can come from such targeted and relevant lessons. Monica and her husband voluntarily moved to Kibera, a Nairobi slum suffering from the devastation of HIV/AIDS and a lack of food security. The government was providing anti-retroviral treatment to victims, but then leaving them stuck at that – victims. Monica’s vision was to offer nutritional and spiritual counseling to enable those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS in Kibera to lead healthier – and therefore, more symptom-free – lives. She has seen her vision come to fruition through the creation of HEKO, Heritage Kenya Organization. Because of Monica and HEKO, 475 people were served through spiritual counseling, sports outreaches, nutritional education, and peer groups in just the third quarter of 2013 alone.

Monica’s education moved her from student to advocate. Now Monica is moving her community from victim to victor.

A prescription for action

Kenya’s slums are home to 3.9 million people. [1] Huruma, one of these slums, is on government-owned land, but it is less than governed – the area has been largely ignored in terms of the availability of basic human services.

Irene Tongoi took this as an opportunity, a chance to offer a new dawn for those in the slums. In 2007, she opened the New Dawn Mji Wa Huruma Clinic to serve Huruma and the surrounding communities. It was the only provider of medical care services in the slum.

In the time since, the clinic has been in consistent operation, serving everyone in the slum community – malnourished children, the elderly, and adults with needs ranging from respiratory illnesses to rheumatism to malaria. In just the first half of 2013 alone, the clinic provided a total of 10,581 treatments, including caring for 1,265 children in the child welfare system, providing preventative care for 1,790 mothers and children, and providing 494 patients with regular medical dressings and injections. This span of time included a three-month national nurse strike, meaning the clinic’s staff received an increased flow of patients, but still upheld their high standard of care with the extra work.

One of the nurses reported that she recently had the chance to care for an elderly patient who needed counseling and treatment after the amputation of her left leg. The nurse stated, “We have been able to monitor her blood sugar and blood pressure with much success, she has greatly improved. She happens to be a widow with no children of her own thus was very depressed, she is a very happy person today.”

In situations like this, Irene says she “thanks God so much for enabling us to serve his people.” In return, join us in saying thanks to Irene for her humble service to an overlooked community for the past six years, especially for a very busy - yet very successful - 2013!

If medical needs are an area you’re interested in supporting, we currently have a unique opportunity to do so here.

 

[1] Homeless International, available http://www.homeless-international.org/our-work/where-we-work/Kenya.

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.

 

Nigeria’s War… on Culture

Culture is up for grabs. And the forces competing for the coveted prize – fear, hatred, violence,…hope – are making it quite an ugly battle.

The force seemingly in the lead in Nigeria? Terror.

Since independence in 1960, Nigeria has seen instability in one form or another – a three-year civil war, multiple coups, low literacy, staggering poverty. And now it is gaining international notoriety as home to Boko Haram, the newest name on the United States Foreign Terrorist Organization list.

The name Boko Haram means “western education is a sin.”[1] Their very name rankles our sensibilities.  But simply labeling this organization as the enemy masks a lot of other complexities and issues that also cause suffering and block the spread of God’s good news to millions in Africa’s most populous nation.

James Verini, in the most recent edition of The National Geographic captures this complexity brilliantly. He writes:

“The insurgency’s gravest toll on Nigeria isn’t physical. It’s existential. Boko Haram has become a kind of national synonym for fear, a repository for Nigerians’ worst anxieties about their society and where it’s headed. Those anxieties touch on the most elemental aspects of Nigerian life—ethnicity, religion, regional inequities, the legacy of colonialism—and not least is the anxiety that Nigerian leaders are wholly incapable of facing this insurgency, indeed unwilling to face it, much less the social fissures beneath it. Or worse, that the leaders are no better than the insurgents. That the state is Boko Haram.

It’s not an entirely unreasonable supposition. Of the more than 4,700 killings associated with Boko Haram to date, almost half have been at the hands of security forces, according to Human Rights Watch. Many of those killed have been civilians who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”[2]

For some of the survivors, there are surprising acts of kinship: a man left unconscious in an attack on the city of Kano woke up to find himself being cared for in a hospital. A stranger had picked him up and carried him to safety.[3]

That “Good Samaritan” in Kano has the same opportunity to influence society as a Boko Haram recruiter does. African Leadership’s Common Grounds Academy[4] is a new name for a long-running program that equips the culture-makers of the church to infuse society’s moral underpinnings with the truth of the Gospel. With your support of $108, one student can receive one year of pastoral education, and together we can raise up leaders who matter in towns across Nigeria, and in the battle against the “existential threat” exposed – not posed – by groups like Boko Haram.



[1] Boyle, Joe. (31 July 2009). Nigeria's 'Taliban' enigma. BBC News. Retrieved 26 November 2013 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8172270.stm.

[2] Verini, James. (November 2013). Northern Nigeria Conflict. National Geographic. Retrieved 26 November 2013 from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/11/northern-nigeria/verini-text

[3] Verini, James. (November 2013). Northern Nigeria Conflict. National Geographic. Retrieved 26 November 2013 from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/11/northern-nigeria/verini-text

[4] More on this in the weeks to come. For now, consider this a “sneak preview” of our ever-increasing focus on “leaders who matter in the hard places.”

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.

Home Sweet Home!

As Country Director in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Denis Hangi is responsible for ensuring teachers are teaching effectively, students are receiving the highest quality of education, and classes are supplied with the appropriate curriculum materials and Bibles. Responsibilities he must carry out in a war-ravaged region, home to violent outbreaks and grinding poverty. After a devastating rebel attack left the city of Kitchanga in ruins, Denis quickly found his way to our local teacher, Pastor Bulenda Placide. It turns out there is no pastor-training chapter on what to do in the event of a town being caught in the crosshairs of war. There is no “how-to” on handling homes burned to the ground. There is no “how-to” on how to counsel families torn apart.

Pastor Bulenda, a graduate of our two-year program, and Denis, a leader in that program, both see through the lens of the Bible – trust in the Lord, gratitude for His gifts large and small, faithfulness amidst chaos. Leadership in this situation looked like picking up the pieces and restoring the community that is home to several of our students.

The community voted to rebuild the teacher’s home. They raised some funds locally and asked African Leadership USA to help. We agreed, and Bulenda’s house was built.

Says Pastor Bulenda, “though you are not seeing me, the tears of joy are flowing in my eyes for this miracle God has done to me. What I feel in my heart and mind is to be convicted that we can miss parents, brothers, relatives, but GOD will still be our father who takes care of us. In seven months of troubles God provided to me food, clothes, now I have my own house.”

This is what we mean when we refer to our core teaching program as “Applied Education.” This is learning that moves beyond the classroom, learning that can be applied or related to any circumstance, learning that stems from a heart not only opened by theological education, but transformed by the Holy Spirit.

The effect of such education stretches far beyond Denis and Bulenda. It is present across the continent: Mr. Chete and Mr. Chirwa serving orphans at a school in Malawi, Pastor Abebe embracing his role in the community by supporting children being raised by single mothers in Ethiopia. The transformative process is alive and at work in all of these cases and in all of these leaders – leaders who matter in the hard places. 

M.D. Malawi

“I woke up in the middle of the night in a lot of pain. It was dark and hard to focus, but I will always remember the sight of this tiny Malawian nurse. Her hands were folded. Her eyes were closed. She was praying for me.” – Dr. Phil Renicks

Have you ever wondered what it is like to live in a place where getting emergency medical treatment is a challenge? Phil Renicks, Ed.D, known to our African Leadership staff as “Dr. Phil,” found this out the hard way. Our Chief Education Officer, Dr. Phil was in Malawi in early October leading a retreat for the teachers, administrators, and board members at The Adziwa Christian Primary School.

As his time there was drawing to a close, Dr. Phil began suffering severe abdominal pains. Having spent nearly a half-century traveling internationally to support Christian education, he was experienced enough to know something was very wrong. After being turned away from two clinics, staff from the school got him to a local hospital. He was put in a small room with two beds - a single mattress between them – and a bare bulb dangling from the ceiling, providing only faint, flickering light. This room… was the emergency room.

His pain was acute. An EKG showed his heart was not the culprit, but the ultimate diagnosis took days. When it did come, the doctors were able to prescribe the right course of medicine to relieve the pain and address the medical condition, and after several very difficult days for Phil and his family, he returned home.

Every year, a generous partner of African Leadership provides much needed medical supplies and equipment for these sparse, front-line hospitals. This year’s container includes x-ray machines, lab equipment, disposable supplies like needles and surgery equipment, and a generator to provide consistent power. The shipment has been designated for three hospitals in Malawi, just like the one that cared for Dr. Phil.

That shipping container, holding over $400,000 worth of supplies and equipment, may be ready to go…but unless it is actually shipped, it’s not very effective. The cost of shipping, $32,000, is all that is left to secure. It will cover the purchase of a few extra pieces of equipment and then get the container from the United States to Malawi. It comes down to this: we can deliver $400,000 worth of life-saving tools for only $32,000. We can serve the medical leaders that matter in hard places like Africa’s hospitals by shipping a container.

Before you think we forgot to tell the rest of the story, Phil’s time with the teachers was remarkable. After a week spent exploring what living out of a Biblical worldview really means, five of the fourteen teachers, all graduates of a Christian college, realized they needed to follow Christ and made a public profession of faith.  Another three recommitted their lives and their service to Christ.

Already we are seeing change in the classroom from all fourteen teachers. Around 500 children were in that school each and every day before Phil arrived; now 500 children are in that school each and every day learning from teachers who first love God their Father so that they can then love, serve, and teach their students in word, in action, and in truth.

This is the African Leadership Network – leaders who matter in the hard places. Won’t you help us make sure that healing medicine can be delivered alongside the Bible’s healing words?

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Not By Bullet Or Drone

Though the physical battle at the Westgate Mall in Kenya has drawn to a close, the moral war rages on. For all the intelligence intercepts, military raids, and advanced weaponry we possess, we have to face reality – this battle will not be won by bullets and drones. COMPETING RADICALISMS

Many – but not all - observers of Islam view extreme acts of violence (such as the attack on Westgate) as radical perversions of the core tenets of that faith. There are many factors that contribute to such terrible acts (check out this interesting BBC article) but one thing is clear: the center of this ideological and theological perspective is shifting south and west, from the “stans” (Pakistan, Afghanistan) to north and east Africa.

Of course, it is also apparent that the future center of Christianity will also be in Africa, suggesting that this continent and the world to come will be more contentious than the world to date.

In the middle of this fray, we find “the church.” Hardly a monolithic “the,” “the church” is fragmented, diminished and dismissed. And it is the only hope for Africa’s future, if…

…  If the church responds to “the other” as “another,” (as in “another of God’s children, frail and fallen”).

…  If the church embodies redeeming love and perseverance.

…. If the church speaks with authority unsullied by practices.

Tall orders. A lot of conditional “ifs.” And, by the way, these same conditions apply to the US church as it struggles to adapt to a rapidly and radically changing culture all around it.

So, is it time to surrender? Or, to roll up our sleeves and get to work?

I, for one, am rolling up my sleeves. It’s why I joined African Leadership, because “the church” in Africa is asking us to help, and in so helping we too (“the church” in America) will also be made to see our own reality. We seek to contribute to one continent’s moral and cultural foundations, and end up shoring up our own. Where I come from, that sounds like a “two-fer” (as in “two fer the price of one”) and that sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

 

The Secret to Living Well

There’s an old quote attributed to Alexander the Great that so often resonates with the news and updates we receive from project partners in Africa:

I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.

African Leadership’s Community Investment program is broken down into five main project areas: Clean Water, Economic Freedom, Education, Health Care, and Orphan Care. But the more we communicate with partners on the ground and the more we witness initiatives firsthand, it becomes clear that whether labeled an education project or not, education is something that is woven into the fabric of every Community Investment project. It may not always look like brick-and-mortar primary schools or classrooms full of students, but the importance of teachers cannot be understated.

A report recently received from one of our projects in Malawi is a powerful testament to this. Emma*, a 14-year-old orphan living with her grandmother, shares her story with us:

We have new teachers at our school. They are really my parents. They listen to my problems and they help me to overcome obstacles I meet every day. Above all, I thank God for Mr. Chete who is our Head Master. I wish he was my father. I feel so safe and loved every day I see him. I am sure that he is sent by God to me to be my father. Since he came, we have been eating sweet porridge and sometimes we drink tea at school. He loves everybody as his own child. My teacher, Mr. Chirwa, is a wonderful man. I can now speak and write English. Mr. Chirwa encourages us to study hard. He always reads a Bible before us before we start learning. I like this because ever since I started learning from the Bible, I feel secured and happy with my life. Mr. Chete taught me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I now know that God loves me.

Teachers like Mr. Chirwa impart much more than just knowledge. We see it in a Kenyan Kiswahili and Music teacher at New Dawn who says part of her teaching strategy is “inculcating a feeling of equality among all students regardless of their tribe, social background, or standing.” We see it in the Lizulu Orphan Care Project when ex-orphans served by the program return to serve current children in the program.

This is the kind of education we aim for in African Leadership Community Investment programs, for it is the only kind of education that can handle the hard topics and hard places present in Africa. It is teachers, both those inside and outside the classroom, that ultimately ensure that Africa’s next generation is living well.

*Name changed for confidentiality.

 

Not What It Used To Be

Learning techniques, like most everything else, have evolved quickly over the past few years. Research has indicated that traditional learning methods - the textbook and lecture routine so often employed - have only a 5-10% retention rate. Meaning that up to 90-95% of the information taught is lost. It seems like a spurious statistic – but think about it, do you remember who the 19th President was from your history textbooks? Or the DNA structure from your science textbooks? (Don’t worry, we don’t either!) As such, we’ve been reevaluating our teaching methods. The Gospel is too transformative and too extravagant an experience to be subject to passive, traditional teaching. For this reason, African Leadership is developing an intentional and interactive learning system – one that utilizes technology by replacing textbooks with tablets, reading with doing, and theoretical examples with applicable actions.

This interactive tablet leads us into a new era of teaching. It delivers information to students through updated, pragmatic learning methods. The usability of a tablet allows students to relate with and explore the material while at home in their own communities and also opens the door to potential income-generating activities. The connectivity of a tablet supports communication and relationships between church leaders near and far and enhances the discipleship model currently used between teacher and student. The customizability of a tablet makes relevant information accessible, up-to-date, and tailored to African pedagogy.

The retention rate for such participatory-styled techniques? 50-90%. It is education combined with action. Graduates retaining more of the information they learn, preaching more efficiently, and leading their church communities more effectively: this is the future of African Leadership’s Applied Education program.

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.

The Westgate Massacre

 A Statement from African Leadership President John Walter 9-22-2013

In his statement today, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said, "Let us continue to wage a moral war even as our troops continue the physical battle."

He was, of course, speaking to a nation shocked by al-Shabaab's brazen and violent attack on the Westgate Mall and the ongoing hostage stand-off that continues into today (Sunday). The "moral war" results - all too often in a fallen world - in physical battles. In this case, it is Kenya's armed forces standing with the government of Somalia, its neighbor to the east, against an al-Qaeda linked militia.

This "moral war" (to use President Kenyatta's phrase) is not new; it is ancient. It has taken different forms over the long train of history. In the present time it seems to be between those who pray and work for a heaven best described by the prophet Isaiah, and those for whom such a picture is anathema. "They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain..." (Isaiah 11:9a ESV, emphasis added). Former enemies, the wolf and the lamb, live together in peace. Contrast that image with the carnage from the Westgate Mall to see a perfect juxtaposition of worldview between those who work for peace and justice, and an extreme few with warped visions of power and hegemony.

This battle will not be won by bullets or drones; it will be won by God's people exhibiting his boundless love and mercy. It is a war of ideas and of loving labor that stems from this radical belief: that the universe's Master loves all his creation and creatures and wants them to experience reconciliation with him and with each other.

Yesterday, that battle found its way to the Westgate Mall: nearly 60 dead, hostages still being held as I write this, a familiar oasis turned tempting target, a place known to anyone who has spent time in Nairobi.

The attack on Westgate reminds us all of the importance of pastors who find themselves on the front lines of this moral war. The more they can be equipped to explore, explain, and expose the depths of God's grace and mercy, the more the radical ideas of the Bible can soften and replace the physical war.

Most foreign policy thinkers today believe that the Cold War was won not by military might, but by ideas. My wife and I lived and volunteered in Poland in the early 1990s, taking part in the great cleanup after the collapse of the Soviet bloc. I joined African Leadership because the battle of ideas has shifted to Africa, and I am called to it. Our work isn't just about training pastors to give better sermons; our work is equipping pastors for the front lines of this moral war, this clash of visions of heaven that sadly is worked out over the lives of too many innocents.

Let us pray for the safe release of the hostages and for those families grieving today and in the days to come after the news cycles move on.