New Bible app helps South Sudan refugees plant church
A pastor who fled the civil war in South Sudan has been equipped to establish a church plant in the Morobi refugee camp across the border in Northern Uganda thanks to a mobile phone app, developed and launched by African Pastors Fellowship (APF).
Rev Alex Sokiri and his wife Harriet fled an armed raid on their town in Kajo Keji in South Sudan in July 2016, leaving all their possessions behind. They travelled over 30km on foot to the Morobi Refugee Camp in Northern Uganda where they, and people from their own church and community, struggled to adapt to life in the camp which has now been their home for the past two years.
Harriet explains: “When we came to camp, life was too hard. Some came to us wanting to commit suicide because they had left everything. We could not forget our members in church. Being leaders we had to gather them and tell them what to do. First we began fellowship under trees from there we started collecting simple, simple logs and we put them together and put [up] small structures for us to do the worshipping.”
Rev Alex quickly drew together other pastors from across the camp and small church plants were established to help people gather into supportive communities. Alex explains that there were a lot of mental health issues and suicide rates were high.
“They came here without anything, no food, no shelters, they were sleeping under the tree, so they were completely traumatised and discouraged. We encouraged them with the Word, restored their hope.”
Having fled with no possessions Alex has found the loss of his theological library challenging, however APF’s eVitabu app, which is loaded on to a solar-powered tablet, is enabling him to access a wide range of theological resources and Bible versions from which he can teach, prepare sermons, and inspire and equip fellow pastors in the camp.
Alex comments “When I was in South Sudan I had a library which I used to prepare my sermons. Then I came to the refugee camp where there are no books. APF has supported me with the eVitabu app which helped me because it has very many books. It gave me guidelines to prepare my sermons for the members of the church. We started developing very many ideas through reading that app, because we can read about counselling, we can read about farming, we can read about church planting. So, that app brought very many changes in our life and life in the refugee camp.”
The app has also provided himself and his wife Harriet with ideas for youth ministry projects. Alex explains: “On eVitabu we started reading how we can bring communities together, and how we can do outreach. We formed two clubs in the refugee camp bringing all youths together who are traumatised. They have no work to do in the camp and they were involved in criminal activities, so we brought them together through sports.”
Currently around 100 youths attend the programmes being run, which now has both a girls and a boys football team.
Growth and provision
Harriet has reached out to women in their church community and by using some of the practical teachings on the app, they have created a small market garden (see right). Harriet is passionate about the project she leads: “After getting the information about farming on eVitabu, I decided to mobilise women. We came up with a project of growing tomatoes, first to supplement our food and we are planning that if we get something we can sell, we can get money to buy our children books so they can go to school."
Geoff Holder, APF’s Programme Manager recently met Harriet and Alex at the Refugee Camp in Uganda and commented: “Alex is one of almost 100 pastors across East Africa who are already using APF’s eVitabu app to help reach out to remote and rural communities around them and change lives. eVitabu has the potential to enable thousands of rural church leaders to access great quality training material possibly for the very first time. Excitingly it also provides a unique platform for the voice of the African Church. African leaders can use eVitabu to upload and share their own material with other church leaders, so everyone benefits.”
It is estimated that more than three million churches in the developing world are led by people with little or no qualifications for that responsibility. In Africa, it is reckoned that as many as 90% of pastors have never received even a single day’s training. eVitabu, which means books in Swahili, is a pioneering tool designed specifically to support the African church.
The eVitabu app includes studies on personal, spiritual and pastoral growth; audio Bibles in local languages; theology courses from internationally renowned centres; video lectures by top Christian leaders; community development toolkits and guides on family healthcare, leadership, advocacy, peace-building, and sustainable agriculture.
To support the work of APF, to learn more or to pray for its mission in Africa visit: www.africanpastors.org