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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.


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.

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

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.


I Need Africa

 “I Need Africa More Than Africa Needs Me” has become more than just a saying at African Leadership. It’s a phrase that embodies the philosophy we’ve come to believe: It’s not that Africa does not need our efforts. It absolutely does need our partnership. But for me, I’ve come to understand that I need Africa more than Africa needs me. Why? Because it is Africa that has taught me that possessions in my hands will never be as valuable as peace in my heart. It’s brought up an issue we’ve wrestled to the ground here at African Leadership. Do we operate in the mindset of training African leaders, or is it more about serving African leaders? Is it simply the education that they need so much or is it that we need to figure out how to better serve them?

In twelve years of experience with our leaders on the ground, we’ve concluded that it’s most often the latter. It’s shown in leaders like Irene Tongoi, the head of New Dawn Educational Centre in Kenya, with her “indomitable spirit.” Leaders like Cherry Friedmeyer, founder of Women at Risk, whose “relationships and faith provide joy.” Leaders like Peter and Monica Odero, directors of HEKO, exuding a “love is sovereign” mentality.

“I Need Africa” is the outpouring of James 2:5, “Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith?” It’s the reason African Leadership maintains an African-led approach, and it’s the foundation of our relationships and partnerships with our African counterparts. For we’ve discovered the greatest rewards come from serving leaders who matter in the hard places.

Read the full “I Need Africa” text and see the video here, courtesy of Mocha Club, African Leadership's monthly giving campaign.