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Training

Helping Farmers in Malawi through Environmental Crises

By Farming, Malawi, Training

Rev Lloyd Chizenga leads New Life Christian Church and has been an APF partner for nearly 40 years. With funding from Operation Agri and support from APF, he teaches conservation agriculture with a gospel message in villages across southern Malawi. Here’s Lloyd’s latest update.

I am Pastor Lloyd Chizenga, General Director of New Life Christian Church, a network of about two hundred churches across southern and central Malawi. We also have some congregations in Mozambique. With my small team from Blantyre, we continue to use New Life’s strong reputation in rural communities to provide training on conservation agriculture to village groups.

The last few years have been very tough in Malawi. Erratic weather conditions driven by climate change are becoming a problem all over the world, but especially here in Malawi we are seeing huge impacts. In 2022, Tropical Storm Ana destroyed many crops, left thousands homeless and damaged infrastructure. Then early this year, Cyclone Freddy hit. This affected the Shire Valley area very badly as flooding and landslides washed away many homes. Six months’ worth of rain fall fell in just six days, ripping up roads and drowning farms. The government estimated that over one thousand people lost their lives in southern Malawi during the storm.

When you look at the annual statistics, you might see normal amounts of rain for the year and think everything is fine, but this is not the case at all. The rain used to be predictable and reliable. Now we are finding that we get all of it in torrential storms and then nothing in longer and hotter dry periods. We blame climate change for these shifts which have contributed to a serious decline in food availability.

This year’s maize harvest saw a fifty percent decline in some areas and a corresponding price spike. Prices in Nsanje, in the far south of the country, for example, shot up 400 percent during March. This might sound profitable for a farmer looking to sell surplus crops, but most smallholders cannot do this. They rely on high interest loans to buy food for their families until they harvest, but without crops to sell and with debts to pay, life becomes very precarious.

Changing weather patterns are just one of the reasons we continue to work so hard on our conservation agriculture training programme. Soil degradation is another challenge. Where fields are not protected with a good mulch cover, heavier rainfall and longer, hotter dry periods mean that soils are being washed or blown away. The Shire River basin is a hotspot for this problem. While soil erosion is a challenge for an individual farmer, it is causing knock on problems across the entire country. Nearly all our power is generated from hydroelectric power stations on the Shire River and Lake Malawi but the sediment running off the fields is reducing their capacity and means power cuts.

These are just some of the reasons that the training programme we provide in villages is even more important now than when we started in 2016. This year, with further funding from Operation Agri and support from African Pastors Fellowship, we are working with a new cohort of villages in Nsanje, Chikwawa, Blantyre Rural, Ntcheu, Balaka, Mangochi and Machinga Districts.

The training we give has adapted with our experience and the changing pressures on farmers. We still focus on good soil management, such as creating planting stations rather than following the traditional practice of earthing-up which damages soil structure, and mulching. As the price of fertiliser has doubled, knowledge about making thermal compost is a lifeline.

Now, however, we also promote ‘climate smart’ agriculture by teaching about trees like the acacia tree Faidherbia albida which add fertility to the soil and protect crops. We include more about managing farm finances, helping farmers to think carefully about borrowing, saving and marketing surplus crops. We also think it is important to create opportunities for communities to come together and discuss the traumas they have faced over the last few years and begin to heal.
One of the most exciting aspects of the training is that we now include teaching about animal care. This is because farmers who follow the training make a profit which they invest. Livestock provide an excellent income stream as not only can the young be sold but they also produce manure for compost. One important aspect of our training is linking our faith and farming practices to our responsibility to care for creation. It is so important that Christian farmers know that caring for the land God has given them is central to their faith.

Over the past seven years, the Growing Greener project has seen so many changes in the lives of people and communities involved. As soil fertility and yields have grown, lives in the villages have changed.

We see food security, livestock purchased, school fees paid, and homes roofed with iron sheets. We are especially grateful for the additional support we received to help farmers in the Lower Shire Valley buy seed to replace the crops lost to flooding after Cyclone Freddy.

Thank you for all your support.

Lloyd

Raising Christian Leaders in Malawi

By Malawi, Training

Central Bible College of Malawi (CBCM) was founded in 2007 by Pastor Goodwill Logeya while he was studying for a Diploma in Biblical Theology. He was motivated to provide training to the thousands of rural pastors in Malawi who had not been able to access training as he had, due to training centres being so few and fees so unaffordable. Pastor Goodwill writes:

I experienced a difficult life in college. I was expelled from class, thrown out of dorms, chased out of the kitchen and denied access to an exam. All because I missed school fee deadlines. At one point, I found employment at the school as a computer administrator and my wage was credited to my school fee account. This, in addition to buying and selling various goods at school and typing projects for my fellow students, just about kept me going.

Once I was stranded in town after being chased out from Bible school owing school fees. I went to some leaders of a Pentecostal church to ask for help but they refused. Then I went to Capital City Baptist Church in Lilongwe and explained my ordeal. The pastor gave me a cheque of 10,000 kwacha (about £8). A concerned Muslim also gave me K10,000 which meant I could return to study.
Eventually, I completed the diploma and was able to study for a master’s degree in theology at the University of Malawi. During this time, I joined forces with leaders from Baptist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Adventist and other denominations to offer basic training in the Bible and in ministry to rural church leaders. We would hire a venue and invite the pastors to come and stay with us in cities like Blantyre. We used our own money to pay for the training.

Finding this approach cost too much, we decided to move from the city to rural areas, basing our work in Chikwawa and bringing the training to the people. Chikwawa is a rural district in southern Malawi and its accessible location meant it was easier for us to meet with Christian leaders from village churches in both Malawi and Mozambique.
This is how Central Bible College started, offering affordable training to rural church leaders from Malawi and Mozambique. Things were going really well with a growing number of pastors graduating. Then, in 2020 we were interrupted by Covid and Cyclone Anna. In 2022, Cyclone Gombe hit. Then, in February this year, Cyclone Freddy came. The storm swept through the whole building leaving us completely stranded. We agreed that we could no longer continue in Chikwawa because the area is so vulnerable to flooding. So recently we reestablished our training programme in Blantyre.

We have tailored the curriculum to the needs of the local church, responding to the trends in society and with a practical emphasis on mission. More precisely, the formational and ministerial training we provide combines with mission and evangelism outreach during weekends where students demonstrate and practice what they learn.
The curriculum is rich in content, enough to impact the head with knowledge, touch the heart with passion and give ministerial skills to the hands. Towards the end of their studies, each student presents a research topic which they put into action in their church after graduation.

As we continue to provide affordable training that really helps untrained rural pastors, we have learnt that there is huge spiritual hunger in Malawi. There are many unreached areas especially in remote village communities, but churches are clustered in towns. We must take a risk and equip leaders for ministry in rural areas.

Then, we know that untrained Christian leaders are spreading errant messages. Sadly, Bible verses can be used to damage and hurt if they are not well understood.

We have also found that churches in Malawi struggle to work outside of their denominations. For example, it is hard to go to a Presbyterian church with an advert while you worship in a Baptist church. We work hard to break down these divisions.

There is a very big misconception among many people. When you give personal funds to support ministry, some assume that you are sponsored by Western donors. This misconception has led to many Christian leaders envying each other for no reason. Funding is desperately needed for ministry but without openness and transparency, relationships can be damaged.

From everyone at CBCM, thank you!

Helping Uganda’s pastors through a hidden crisis

By Training, Uganda

Peter Mugabi is a former General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Uganda. He knows far better than most the pressures dedicated pastors in Africa face as they try and balance huge ministry demands with simply making ends meet. Peter now runs Cephas Leadership Foundation, an organisation that supports grassroots Christian leaders with leadership coaching, spiritual direction and mentoring. He writes:

There is a gap in psycho-social help for pastors in Uganda who are serving in a very difficult social environment. Stress, depression and mental health challenges are becoming more common among pastors and young Christian leaders. God has called Cephas Leadership Foundation to answer this need by providing a wide range of services that support those who are called to lead the church in Uganda. These include leadership coaching, mentoring, workshops for married couples, skills and business development programmes, leadership hubs and schools ministry training.

Last year, we worked with 158 pastors equipping them in discipleship, biblical counselling and training in good governance across four districts. In addition, we helped 54 young leaders through training on ministry competencies and best practice. Young leader trainings were held in schools, camps, and conference sites located in Mukono, Jinja and Kampala districts.

We met with over a hundred couples, and provided mentoring and support. Church ministry takes a heavy burden on relationships so we work to help them rekindle relationships and balance the pressures of ministry and family life besides breaking down traditional gender stereotypes.

“I have found these prayer breakfasts helpful because of peer learning. In these discussions there is openness and I find many solutions to my issues as I hear from the trainers and from my peers.”
Naphtali Makosya

“As a young couple we struggled with communication. This communication problem was also present in our leadership in church. But after our counselling sessions with Cephas, we have mastered the art of listening well and not only is our marriage thriving but our leadership in general is better. We are grateful for Cephas.”
Jacob and Lillian Eyeru

“The Lord has inspired me and given me guidance in my career and ministry path through Cephas. May God bless this ministry and allow it to touch many more young people like me who are growing without parents.”
Bridget, Kampala (pictured above)

“Our students really needed to hear what you had to say about dysfunctional relationships in homes between parents and students, students and their step siblings.”
Teacher at Kyambogo College School

“I lacked knowledge on team formation. I didn’t know which parameters a good leader used in selecting, orienting, and preparing new team members. I had made many mistakes and entered conflict before… After training, I have been equipped in team member selection, I have applied this knowledge, and now I have a very solid team that is making a difference.”
Pastor Thomas Kigeyi

I’d like to thank African Pastors Fellowship and all of our faithful partners for your support that has enabled us to make a difference among pastors and emerging leaders in Uganda.

So many lives have been touched and many more have been impacted beyond the conference halls and office meetings. This all would not be possible without your generous support.

The battle for healthy leaders today continues and we must stay the course. Every pastor and emerging leader needs and deserves training, coaching and help. Thank you, again, for your generosity.

“Thank God for Google Maps”

By eVitabu, Training, Uganda

At time of writing, APF CEO, Revd Dave Stedman, is in Uganda where he’s been working with the Church of Uganda, Somali Christian Fellowship and other long-term APF training partners. He reflects on the exponential growth in digital technology in Africa and the opportunities and challenges it presents for ministry.

Delegates arriving for the APF African training partners conference at Papaya Guest House announced happily on arrival, “Thank God for Google Maps!” The couple had travelled from Mukono to get there, a distance of less than 20km all within the Kampala metropolitan area, yet they found the venue with digital assistance.

I immediately reflected that in nearly twenty years travelling the length and breadth of East Africa – on tarmac highways, maram roads, dusty tracks and dodging potholes – I’ve never seen my driver or fellow passengers refer to a roadmap for directions. We just head in the general direction of our destination and make friends along the way.

I’ve been lost in urban centres and sugar cane plantations, I’ve broken down ‘deep in the village’ and deep in the Rift Valley. Finding the way or mechanical assistance was always a social event, accompanied by smiles and a lot of indiscriminate arm waving. “Just branch at the big tree and continue!” We always reached our destination, sometimes several hours late, but we got there.

It struck me as significant that even in Africa some are now seeking a digital solution in preference to asking their neighbour. At another conference the wife of a senior official passed the time taking ‘selfies’ during a rather dull Zoom presentation. ‘Michael’, a Somali convert to Christianity living as a refugee in Kampala, has launched a YouTube channel targeting Somali youth with the gospel. In Rwanda, churches and Bible schools that remain closed due to government regulations have found creative ways to continue using digital platforms to teach and for fellowship.

It is estimated that by 2025 there will be at least 685 million mobile phone subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa. That means, statistically at least, there will be a mobile subscription for every adult.1 Urban youth in Nairobi spend more time ‘on screen’ every day than any comparable group globally (7 hours, 40 minutes).2

The mobile phone banking service Mpesa has transformed how business is conducted throughout Kenya. In 2019, 87% of Kenya’s GDP was transacted using Mpesa and similar mobile banking platforms.

Africa is changing and the change is rapid. The changes also have huge implications for mission and ministry. What does it mean to be an African pastor in the smartphone era? How is APF responding?

Digital Tools

When we launched eVitabu in 2018, little did we know that a pandemic was coming that would accelerate the use of digital solutions globally to enable communication, training and church online. eVitabu continues to position APF ahead of the curve by offering a digital tool to resource African pastors across the continent. eVitabu currently reaches an estimated 1.5 million believers with contextualised materials that enrich faith, resource ministry and contribute to healthy Christian communities.
Increasingly APF receives requests for phones, tablets and laptops to be used as ministry tools and we invite you to consider donating your used devices to help us respond to such requests.

Digital Training

Having a device is one thing; using it effectively is another matter. For example, at our conference for Church of Uganda clergy in June, two major training needs were identified. First, there were leaders who wanted to learn how to unleash the full capacity of the phone in their pocket. They wanted training on using office apps, advice on protecting themselves and others online and help developing a digital strategy for their church or community organisation.

Another group needed much more basic support such as learning how to navigate a touch screen or discovering that a smartphone can be used for much more than just Facebook, text messaging or mobile money. As APF seek to identify and release African Training Partners in every African country we work in, the ability to teach such skills is an increasingly important pre-requisite.

Digital Theology

We are all being shaped by the rapid advance of digital technology, and it has become an important topic for theological reflection globally. Theological reflection around the use of technology is arguably even more vital in Africa, however, where society has leaped from an oral tradition into the digital age so fast. How does technology impact our understanding of who we are in Christ? What does this mean for our sense of belonging to the Body of Christ? How can we share the love of Christ with our neighbours both physically and digitally?

As a simple example, look at the cartoon (above) and reflect on whether what you see is good or bad (or both). I find this cartoon provides a wonderful discussion starter in APF’s ‘The Smart Pastor’ digital theology workshop which has been very warmly received in Bible colleges, universities and amongst networks of Christian leaders in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda recently.

Thank God for Google Maps? Maybe. What is certain, however, is Africa is changing as the internet becomes ‘embedded, embodied and everyday’4 across the continent. APF is uniquely well-placed to seize the moment and continue its pioneering ministry to enable effective ministry in the digital age.

People for Jesus bringing hope to Maasailand

By Kenya, Training

Between 2019 and 2021 Pastor Tom Opiyo, founder of People for Jesus Ministry (PFJM) in Kenya, received an APF scholarship to study for a bachelor’s degree in theology at the Pan Africa Christian University in Nairobi. He graduated in July of last year and recently sent a very full and encouraging annual report.

PFJM is a registered Kenyan non-governmental organisation. It is based in Narok County in the south of the country and works in Maasailand in practical and pastoral ways. Tom’s report ran to nearly twenty pages so here is a brief except and a few of the highlights:

Adult Literacy Programme

PFJM churches are being encouraged to address the education gap experienced by many Maasai women and girls that drop out of school due to early marriages. The classes combine basic literacy with income generation skills and advice to enable adults to earn as they learn. Although the overwhelming majority of pupils are female, around 15% of the cohort is male.

Support for Flood Victims

During 2022 there were severe floods in the Kandaria area. Many local residents were housed in the compound of Kandaria Secondary School, a PFJM foundation establishment. Even after the floods subsided some people remained due to food and economic insecurity with more than 350 people displaced from their homes that were lost to the flood.

Outreach to the Nations

During March 2023 PFJM teams were visiting Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Iganga in Uganda for short term missions. The outreach involves evangelistic crusades and intercessory prayer gatherings, as well as support to local projects and churches. Closer to home two churches have been planted at Loita, near the Tanzania border and Nyang’ande in Kisumu County in the far south west.

Care for Vulnerable People Groups

In Nyang’ande, People for Jesus Ministry is giving a helping hand to more than 80 children living with disability through socialisation activities and around 40 senior citizens at the Bigoma Community Centre. The community is not connected to the national grid and lacks power, lighting and access to clean water. Tom hopes that once the power supply is installed a well can be drilled if resources allow.

In addition to these ministry needs Pastor Tom requests prayer for his family, especially his wife Eunice who shares much of the ministry burden in church and managing the many women’s projects, and their children: Joy (studying Public Health at university), Joshua, Deborah and Peter who are still at various stages in their school careers.

The PFJM motto for 2023 is Isaiah 40:31. Let us pray with them as they reach out to the hungry, thirsty, helpless and oppressed that, waiting on the Lord, Tom, Eunice and all the team will “mount up with wings like eagles … run and not grow weary … walk and not grow faint.”

Team ministry in Africa’s Great Lakes Region

By Burundi, eVitabu, Rwanda, Tanzania, Training

Victor Imanaturikumwe and Heavenlight Luoga met at an APF event four years ago and have stayed in contact ever since. Recently, with APF’s support, they met up once again to run training workshops for rural pastors in western Rwanda. Victor explains what happened.

Many local churches in rural Rwanda are fragile as pastors have few opportunities for training. This makes tackling the spiritual needs of the community a constant struggle. As I am a beneficiary of APF theological scholarship support, I am now committed to spending my time contributing to effective ministry here in Rwanda by running pastors’ conferences and trainings in rural contexts.

Recently, Pastor Heavenlight and Kesia Luoga from Deeper Life Church in Karagwe, Tanzania, travelled to join me in Rwanda and together we led a training conference for rural church leaders. Some of the leaders had received almost no in-service training so this is vitally important work.

I found APF’s eVitabu app a very helpful tool when I was studying for my theological degree. As textbooks are so hard to find in Rwanda, all the materials used during the conference came from eVitabu. Pastor Luoga and I selected and adapted resources on eVitabu and developed a conference programme to equip the pastors with skills in teaching and preaching the Word of God and in leadership.

We also trained the pastors on how to set up small income projects and adapt their farming practices to meet the challenges of a changing climate and poor soil. The overall theme of the conference was ‘Being a Good Shepherd’ and the leading Bible passage was John 10:1-21.

The conference hosted forty pastors and church leaders from different churches and communities in western Rwanda. We are already registering a lot of impact in their communities and churches and we want to continue to invest in them so they become agents of spiritual and community transformation.

I first met Pastor Luoga in Uganda at an APF regional leaders’ conference in 2018. Since then, he has become like a spiritual director to me. He is a very experienced pastor, ministry trainer, teacher, preacher and mentor. I believe APF is helping to break barriers by encouraging fellowship with other pastors from different backgrounds and cultures. We all benefit from one another’s insights and expertise when we work together in partnership.

I would like to thank all APF donors, friends and supporters who give generously of your money and your time in prayer to support APF and its partners in Africa. Know that your gifts are being used well and are making a big difference here in rural Rwanda and across Africa.

After training in western Rwanda, Heavenlight travelled south into Burundi to work with groups of untrained pastors serving in churches near Gitega. Gitega is the new capital of Burundi and it is the newest capital city in the world, replacing Bujumbura in 2019.

Digital Theology in Africa

By eVitabu, Kenya, Training

Transformational Compassion Network (TCN) is responding to the rapidly changing context in Africa. Revd Walter Rutto explains why Digital Theology is so important in Africa and introduces the pioneering work they’re doing.

We live in a digital age. That is true in Africa as much as anywhere else in the world. Mobile technology has changed the way we interact, do business and live our lives. Here in Kenya, we send and receive money by Mpesa, we text to get information on market prices, we speak to our family on WhatsApp, we get our news through Facebook.

Christianity in Africa is not immune to the consequences of this digital revolution. Digital Theology is the study of the connection between digital technology and theology. It reflects the digitisation of our society and the implications of this for our faith and worship.

Like many different religions practiced in Africa, the Christian Church is changing through its engagement with social media, its conversation through websites, and the growing use of digital resources in worship, pastoral practice, and evangelism. The primary premise of Digital Theology is engaging with this new virtual tradition and reflecting on the new context the Church finds itself in. It demands sparkling theological conversations and new approaches.

With the support of APF and our partners, TCN aim to be at the forefront of this revolution. We are formulating a digital curriculum for our certificate-level pastor training programme. This is critical in preparing leaders for ministry in the digital age. It covers topics such as theology and technology, reading the Bible digitally, theological thought in digital culture, online worship, living ethically amidst digital technology, online liturgy and online church.

In July, we organised a workshop as a fact-finding mission for the Digital Theology programme. It was attended by 60 participants in-person and over 100 online. APF helped us facilitate the training. The sessions underlined the huge need for Digital Theology training in the Africa context. With the majority owning a smartphone, they already have the key tool they need.

TCN are grateful to APF for their support in this endeavour and invite any other interested party help develop the curriculum with us. The members of the team may be from any country as we can easily meet together online.

Training in Burundi

By Burundi, Tanzania, Training

Heavenlight Luoga is a key APF training partner from north-west Tanzania. Alongside Kesia, his wife, they use eVitabu to run workshops for untrained pastors from rural communities such as the recent programme they provided in Burundi.

The training was an amazing time. My wife, Kesia, and I based our training on resources from APF’s eVitabu app. eVitabu was a great help in preparing the programme for the pastors and wives. The key resources we chose on eVitabu were from Next Leadership and written by Revd Dr Kate Coleman.

Revd Kate’s material covered many important aspects of family life and marriage. We explored together how marriage was designed to reflect the God who created us in His image, both male and female, and who is recreating us to be like Him in loving relationships, deeply connected with each other and in partnership through agreement and cooperation in a way that honours the marital bond.

We looked at how unresolved issues can wreck marriages and destroy families and discussed problem solving and conflict resolution in marriage.

We also talked about repentance and forgiveness within family and married life. At the end of the training, there was an opportunity for husbands and wives to renew their marriage covenants together.

So many pastors told me that this teaching was completely new to them. Wives were praising God and even during breaktimes they gathered into groups to continue to discuss the teaching. Pastors were so happy to sit down side-by-side with their wives. This is not a normal thing!

Altogether, over 60 attended the training. We had hoped for 50. But success is not just about numbers, it was found in seeing husbands and wives together, repairing and building their relationships and hearing their testimonies after the training.

One of the pastors at the training was a Church of Burundi pastor called Revd Maendeleo. He enjoyed the training so much that he made a call to Bishop Evariste Nijimbere from the local Buhiga Diocese. I then received a voicemail from the Bishop asking me to come and join him in June to lead some seminars for the Diocese.

In more good news, a wider door has been opened for the next year. All pastors in the training programme agreed to sponsor themselves for three days of training next year if I can cover the transport cost for Kesia and myself. Kesia will facilitate the pastor’s wives training and I will facilitate the pastors training, then in the evening all of us will come together. We are told to expect 100 or even 150 for that training. I am not the one who asked to do this but the idea came from within the group themselves. Of course, for me this is a great fruit.

The journey from Karagwe in Tanzania to Buhiga in Burundi and back is long. We travelled by bus, taxi and motorbike and had to negotiate the Covid-19 testing challenges at the border between the countries. I was tired and suffered from fatigue at the end of training and after the journey but I had no regrets at all.

I look back to what God has done for me and for all participants and, for the sake of God’s Kingdom, I am full of joy in my heart.

Empowering Leaders for Community Transformation

By eVitabu, Kenya, Training

Walter Rutto is a pastor trainer from the highlands west of Kenya’s Rift Valley. He’s passionate about holistic pastoral training. In 2013 he founded Transformational Compassion Network (TCN), one of APF’s newest partners. He shares some reflections on the church in Kenya and describes how TCN’s partnership with APF has helped sustain them through the pandemic.

In the forth century AD, a small Christian population brought change to the entire Roman Empire. From tiny beginnings, its impact was vast. Since then, the Church has pioneered social services, schools and medical care; it has been an inspiration for art, culture, and philosophy; an influential player in politics, ethics, and law. Imagine the 631 million Christians currently in Africa, making up 45 percent of the population, taking the same route as their Roman predecessors!

2000 years later in Africa, however, while the number of churches is growing fast, numerous difficulties and brokenness remain. They cause doubt about the truth of God’s presence in the lives of his people. We have many strict religious gatherings with different convictions, ways of thinking and tenets, all aimed at responding to local challenges. But it seems the more gatherings, holy places, and Christians, the higher the degree of brokenness, poverty, and hopelessness.

I believe the problem stems from the Church being disengaged from the deep cultural, social, and physical needs of Kenyan communities. Rather than serving communities at the level of their culture, a false separation exists that pits the sacred against the secular. It means the church offers extreme spiritual care (miracles and wonders), but it lacks social compassion and the physical touch.

Regardless, the Church is still the solution. A local church in the community is the most important strategic institution for bringing holistic transformation. The key is empowering, equipping, and encouraging local African churches to fulfil their God-given role in advancing his Kingdom.

It is for this reason that Transformational Compassion Network (TCN) established the Theology and Development programme. The training challenges the separation of spiritual and secular realms, changes mindsets and demonstrates the ways faith and society interact as central to holistic community transformation.

Since we began the programme in partnership with the Kenya Highlands University in 2016, 247 learners have achieved certificate-level training. There are two programme tracks for Christian leaders who already have higher education and one for those who have not been able to complete schooling. In August, we held our fifth graduation ceremony where thirteen students graduated from Kenya Highlands University. More will graduate in November at our new partner institution, Kaboson Pastors Training College.

When the Covid-19 outbreak hit Kenya and classes were suspended, the learners asked if they could continue studying online. At first, it was hard to plan and structure online learning. We did not know how to achieve it. Then we heard about an app called eVitabu developed by APF. The app could house all our training materials and help us bring the entire training programme online. APF support worker Rossa Wanjiru came and trained TCN staff on how to use eVitabu and it has been a big help.

We can do this in Kenya because digital connectivity is at now at over 85 percent. Many programme learners and programme alumni, who are hoping to enrol for diploma- and bachelor-level courses, are now using eVitabu regularly. Experience from our Sekenani class in Narok County shows that even those unfamiliar with smartphones can access the app after the training Rossa provides. We are now discussing translating the English programme material into several local languages.

For TCN’s Theology and Development programme to achieve its goals, partnership and collaboration from likeminded institutions and organisations is paramount. TCN is happy to share the programme through eVitabu to benefit pastors, church leaders and believers from across Africa. Appreciation to all our partners as we look forward to creating a framework of working together through eVitabu.

New Theology and Development programme classes began this September. TCN welcomes you to get involved by funding scholarships for learners from poorer backgrounds and supporting the programme in hard-to-reach areas. Please contact APF for information about how you can help.

“I Only Wanted to be an Accountant”

By Liberia, Training

Grace Christian Fellowship Network of Liberia (GCFNL) is a small group of evangelical churches. The group has grown out of Central Christian Assembly Church, led since 2000 by Pastor Clinton Gbawoh. Clinton was the first pastor from West Africa registered on our eVitabu app. Recently, he wrote to us telling us about how he became a pastor.

My father had two wives but neither of them could have children with him. He was told by an elder woman that as both his wives had been married to other men before, he had been cursed. This hurt my father greatly.

Although he was not a Christian, he went into the bush to seek the face of God. He swept clean the ground under a palm tree and stayed there for a whole day, fasting and praying. He asked God to give him a son so the curse would no longer be on him. When he came home, his wives asked him where he had been, but he never told them.

One month after his fast in the bush, my mother became pregnant. I was born nine months later. I was given the name Targbasay which means ‘The story has changed’. The man who could not produce children now has a boy-child. I was also given the name Clinton. In those days there were not many English names in Liberia except for John, Joseph, Peter and James. Those were the names from the Bible that the American missionaries brought in the 1800s.

When I was young, my grandmother took me and brought me up in her home. She was a great pastor.

My grandmother wanted me to go to school so she took me to the General Overseer of an American mission. I was accepted into the school and in 1980 I was baptised there. After I graduated from school, I stayed with the American missionaries to learn how to be an accountant. In 1988, during my studies at the mission, I received the call on my life to be a pastor.

One night, I had a vision of a disabled man lying at the church altar. The General Overseer of the mission was there. He was calling for my grandmother to pray for the disabled man but my grandmother told him that I would do it in her place.

In my vision, she told me to pray for the disabled man. When I did, he immediately started walking.

After I woke, I wondered what this vision meant. Praying, I heard a voice saying that I was to succeed my grandmother in the future. I was not happy at all about this. I did not want my grandmother to die because I loved her so dearly. I only wanted to be an accountant.

Soon after, I had another dream. This time it was of a big convention hall filled with people. My grandmother was called up to preach but again she said that I would do it in her place. In my dream, I preached and the Holy Spirit fell on many people.

After I woke up, I wondered what the meaning of the dream was. Again I heard a voice. The vision and the dream meant the same thing, it said. I would follow my grandmother as a pastor.

Only one year later, our country fell into 14 years of conflict. It was during this war that my grandmother called me and told me to kneel. She placed her hands upon me and blessed me, saying that I would take her place as pastor. My grandmother died in January 2000. I became a pastor just four months later, graduating from the Wesleyan Bible College of Liberia.

From very humble beginnings in the forests of Sineo County, I now lead Central Christian Assembly in Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia. The church is part of a small network called the Grace Christian Fellowship Network of Liberia. I also chair the board of the Association of Evangelicals of Liberia. In 2019, I represented the network at the Evangelical World Alliance convention in Indonesia.

“With thanks to APF we had the financial support for our network conference. It was a worthy time and we do appreciate it.
“The conference happened for three nights with over 700 people attending each night. In total, 2,230 people attended. The theme of the conference was, ‘In Times Like These’. We used Matthew 24: 3-25 as inspiration. Pastor Sunday Gbamokolie preached the first night, Pastor Margate Wilson spoke the second night and Pastor Robert Taylor spoke on the third night of the conference.
“On the fourth day, we held a leadership workshop. This covered two main topics. The first was the responsibilities of church leaders and the second topic was ‘Tentmaker’. I led this part. We used various passages in the Bible to discuss how church leaders should seek to support their ministry and missional activities financially through the work of their hands.
“Please keep us in your prayers as we will be celebrating our network’s 15th anniversary this year. Pray for safe travels for all the delegates that are coming for the various gatherings and for the speakers so the Holy Spirit will speak through them.
“God bless you all in the precious name of Jesus Christ. We pray that our good God will continue to work through APF and ourselves in the country of Liberia.”

Pastor Clinton GbawohGrace Christian Fellowship Network Conference