June 2019

‘There is simply lots to be grateful for.’

My relatively short but intense trips to East Africa are a good barometer of BUILD’s development and pick up threads from previous letters. Much of the work I do in between leads up to them and then flows from them in helpful ways.

There are always surprises, often stressful ones, but all the unexpected things seemed so encouraging. The Uganda Martyrs Seminary based diploma cohort returned in strength for a third block of their training, despite the distances and difficulties (see photo above). It was encouraging to see real progress in their assessments and the way they approach learning together. And there were real steps forward in their preaching, which is assessed as a course within the course. It was moving to listen to one student, Joram, preach in English for the very first time: his parish covers multiple churches in a remote area and his ministry is entirely in the vernacular. It was extraordinary to hear him explain and apply a passage so powerfully in what is his third or fourth language. And the local team of trainers is going from strength to strength so it was a joy to turn up and help out where I could. Pray for the students back in their home areas across Uganda, in South Sudan (and South Sudanese refugee settlements within Uganda), in Burundi, and in Congo as they implement their learning and work on assignments.

Encouragements at UCU

Staying nearby at Uganda Christian University (UCU) was also really encouraging. I am a trustee of UCU’s partner charity in the UK, but a rather underperforming one, so it was gratifying to be there with that hat on and in a way that tied in so well with BUILD.

First, it was fascinating to listen to two of a handful of Kenyan students who have gone on from doing a BUILD based in-service diploma in western Kenya. As a result of the difference it has made they have been selected to study theology at a degree level at UCU. From a BUILD perspective this builds on their knowledge and equips them further, plus it was interesting to hear how well they are doing as a result of their foundation. On the biblical studies front they felt they had already done more comprehensive and more detailed studies at the BUILD diploma level and the other aspects of the course had served them well.

Second, we are beginning to look at a BUILD based post-graduate diploma that would serve to not only refresh and strengthen theology graduates in their learning and ministry but which would enable them to train others using the BUILD curriculum. Again, from a BUILD perspective, it would up the level of our trainers in the region. It was helpful to talk with different members of the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology about this and to work on a concept paper with them. We are now looking at how best to progress this, not least in terms of the resources and support that is needed. Please pray for this to move forward and for the work that needs to be done in developing the course for post-graduates.

Developing the work in Kenya

In my last letter I mentioned the way in which God has moved a key BUILD leader from western Kenya to Nairobi and the new possibilities that might open up within the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK). Benjamin is deeply committed to BUILD work not only in Kenya but across the Great Lakes region, despite other possibilities he could pursue. Please continue to pray for us as we work out how best to move forward with this in partnership with the ACK in the light of limited resources.

On that topic, Ben came over to UCU while I was there to continue to work on a paper with me. We had been working remotely so it was lovely to burn the midnight oil together and to get the paper into better shape. It has the title, ‘Growing the church through in-service theological education: BUILD training in Butere Diocese, a case study’ and will be one of a number of papers in a conference book for a unique ACK gathering in August. For the first time, certainly since the ACK has been at its current size, all the clergy in the church are gathering in one place around the topic of church growth. This is a wonderful opportunity to sensitise the wider ACK to BUILD. Please pray for the impact of the ACK conference.

Space precludes mention of at least one other significant breakthrough in the Church of Uganda, but more on that at a later date, Lord willing.

God’s hand on other aspects of my ministry

Finally, it was good to experience God’s hand on another aspect of my ministry. As is often the case I was concerned about landing back in the UK after a night flight on the Friday, shattered, before preparing to preach on the Sunday back in the parish I am licenced to in Bath. I shouldn’t have worried. On the flight out I sat next to someone called Seth, who also helps to lead a church in his spare time. He noticed me studying my text in 1 Samuel, and we spoke at length – the men’s group he leads has been working through the book: I could not have had a better kick start to my preparation.

It reminded me of the time I had to preach shortly after landing back in South Africa one time. Caught up in thought about the sermon I accidentally wandered into the women’s toilets in Johannesburg. There was a fair amount of noise and panic from everyone involved, but it provided the perfect opening for the sermon for various reasons…

With gratitude for your partnership in the gospel and your continued prayers,

Jem

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