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Changing lives in Africa

EMPOWERING OTHERS: Clockwise, from main, front row, Lisa Adjei, Tolu Adepegba and Pastor Susan Graham, and back row is Angie Le Mar and Marcia Dixon

I RECENTLY joined a group of Christian women – comprising comedienne Angie Le Mar, Premier Gospel presenter Tolu Adepegba, business woman Claudine Reid and Pastor Susan Graham, Head of Children’s Ministries for the Church of God of Prophecy – on a trip to Uganda to observe first hand the impact of projects supported by Tearfund, a Christian development charity.

The visit was jointly led by Lisa Adjei, Tearfund’s UK Churches team administrator and a pastor, and Seth Pinnock, head of Tearfund’s recently formed African and Caribbean engagement department.

AWARENESS
Seth’s aim is to raise awareness of development issues and Tearfund’s work among Britain’s black Christian community.

With this in mind, he’s taken church pastors to Ethiopia and youth leaders to Brazil to see the impact of Tearfund’s work. This time, it was the women’s turn.

Uganda is a country of amazing natural beauty. Its landscape is reminiscent of the mythical city of Wakanda, featured in Black Panther. It’s that incredible.


SCENERY: Marcia soaking in the stunning landscape

And like most countries, it has challenges. These include climate change, accessing clean water, poverty, managing HIV/ AIDs and families growing enough food.

During our time in Uganda, it was evident that the church has met some of those challenges head on through its Church and Community Transformation initiative (CCT), developed and run by the Pentecostal Assemblies of God in Uganda, south west region and supported by Tearfund.

The CCT trains church leaders, via bible studies, to harness the skills of members, to implement solutions to community issues and empower communities to help themselves.

Vincent Atwijukire, the CCT regional programme officer, showed us the impact of CCT initiatives, which included the Kigezi Diocese Water and Sanitation Programme.

Tearfund have been supporting it since its start in 1986.

Through this programme, several communities have developed their own water action plan and installed water storage units – sometimes in mountainous terrain – so they can access clean water.

They are also taught to conserve water, grow their crops more effectively and shown how to stop soil erosion.

This sanitation programme is so highly regarded, it is recognised by the Ugandan Government and meets the World Health Organisation Standard.

The CCT programme has also encouraged individual transformation.

We met Pastor Johnson who oversees eight church plants in the Kigezi district.

CCT training transformed his approach to ministry and changed lives.


Angie Le Mar smiles with school children

One person changed by the programme was Loy, a widow with two children, who contracted HIV/AIDs from her late husband.

She only found out she was HIV positive when she gave birth to her second child, after undergoing a hospital test.

The CCT programme gave Loy hope and made her realise HIV/AIDs was not a death sentence.

It also helped her overcome the stigma and the inferiority complex she had developed.

The CCT programme transformed her life so much she is now an AIDs advocate and example to women. The church also paid her children’s school fees and helped her buy land, upon which she built her house. They also taught her how to eat healthily – and from following the advice she received, along with the drugs she takes, she is managing the disease and is able to live a full life.

RESILIENCE
I heard similar tales of transformed lives and communities.

Victor shared, that unlike other NGOs in Uganda, Tearfund supported and trained natives to help themselves.

Other initiatives run via the CCT included projects that helped orphans and vulnerable children, a savings programme, a food security programme and an HIV and AIDs initiative.

In one village, the CCT programme inspired the building of a school.

In the course of my six days in the country, I met Ugandans that were strong, hopeful, who made little go far and what they lacked in finances they more than made up for it in their faith, resilience and strength.

It also became apparent that it is important that Britain’s black Christians community makes a commitment to support organisations that help their counterparts overseas.

The Bible does state ‘we are our brother’s keeper’, and we are impelled to support those transforming lives and communities with God’s word. Visit tearfund.org for more information.

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