This month, seven men and women will ascend Mt Kenya in order to change lives. Inspire discovers what they are climbing for …
The saying goes that if you give a person a fish, he or she will eat for a day, but if you teach a person to fish, they will eat for a lifetime.
But if you can teach a person to teach a person to fish – or better yet – teach groups of people to teach groups of people, then what you have is community transformation.
It’s with this kind of community transformation in mind that a team of seven people will ascend Mt Kenya this month. They are raising money for much-needed leadership training in Africa.
Sheep without shepherds
Across Africa, Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds. But such rapid growth presents huge challenges – who will disciple and lead the thousands of new believers?
Unfortunately leadership training has not kept pace with the growth of the Church in Africa. In some parts of Sudan, for example, 95% of pastors only get a few weeks’ training.
Dr Beverly Haddad, African Christian leader and senior lecturer at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal, says: “What you are getting is a very untrained church leadership. The Church is ill equipped to deal with the immense challenges that our continent is facing.”
These challenges include poverty, HIV/ AIDS, illiteracy, healthcare and trauma. With its recent growth, the African Church is in a prime position to tackle these issues, but thousands of African Christians need specific skill training.
African alumni in action
Several years ago, it would have been par for the course for people from other countries to intervene, but it is becoming increasingly believed that the best people to make a difference in Africa are Africans themselves. But they need skills training and the closer to their own community, the better.
In April 2006, over 90 men and women from such diverse places as Ghana, Congo, Sudan and South Africa gathered together in Uganda for a week. All had one thing in common: each had received skills training thanks to sponsorship from CMS. The group assembled included pastors, Bible teachers, youth workers and community health professionals.
Notable examples include Benjamin Barnaba, who set out to lead a church in a refugee camp in Northern Kenya, but quickly discovered he needed training. “I tried my level best,” he says, “But I couldn’t cope with the enormous challenges – my congregation needed everything from toilets to trauma counselling and HIV/ AIDS awareness.”
After Benjamin got the social work and youth work training he needed, he has made a great impact on the community: improving sanitary conditions, increasing education programmes and utilising his trauma counselling skills.
“There is widespread violence … because people have just come out of the bush. A lot of them are soldiers and have experienced traumatising situations … Because of my counselling skills, I am helping those who are traumatised and I want to make all the other leaders aware of these skills so they can help people, too.”
In the DR Congo, war and AIDS have ravaged the population. A few years ago, the health work of the Anglican Church of Congo was crippled without a leader to coordinate medical efforts.
In 2001, Albert Kadukima got the training he needed to lead the Church’s efforts in Public Health. With his new skills, Albert rebuilt the Church’s HIV/AIDS office, opened several testing and counselling centres and started a public education programme. He also helped construct new hospital wards and started a programme that assists hundreds of orphans who have lost their parents to AIDS.
Albert has also trained others in HIV/AIDS work – and those who’ve been trained are now training more people to serve.
Commenting on how important it is to invest in Africa’s future by supporting African leaders, Dr Pauline Wanjiru says, “When you train a Christian leader, that person does more than just impact the church. He or she impacts the whole society.”
Throughout the continent, Africans echo this sentiment. Recently, the CMS office received a letter from Africa that read, “Our pastor, Isaac, is a very good pastor and a good teacher but there is nothing in his head for him to teach. We are tired of the same sermon every week so we have given up going to church. We really want to learn more. Can’t you take him for training and put something into his head for him to teach us?”
The answer is yes – and the seven people climbing Mt Kenya this month are determined to help make it happen. “A couple of the climbers are from Africa and so they know firsthand what an urgent need this is, “says Sarah Thomas, the challenge coordinator, adding, “They’ve also seen that raising up leaders makes a long-term difference.”
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