In 2021, as the United Evangelical Mission (UEM) celebrates the jubilee anniversary, African churches report a positive impact of the UEM Budget support to the services of churches. UEM funds support different activities. The UEM has worked in a special way to support members to maintain their mission in the African society and play their role in improving people’s lives.
Botswana is a very rural country and has to fight with droughts, which place a heavy strain on people whose lives are dependent on agriculture.The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana (ELCB) has 22,000 members and 31 local pastors. The church has three church circuits, each led by a Dean and 43 congregations. For the ELCB congregations, financial self-reliance is very important and all efforts are produced to ensure sustainable development.
In the last 25 years, the following major areas have been supported by UEM: Theological education implemented in the ELCB training Centre, Woodpecker Seminary, Youth Programmes and Christian Education, Administration Diaconia (incl. Kang and Sehitwa HIV/AIDS programs) and due to Covid-19 in 2020 a new supported project of “Care and Share Support”. There have been other community supported areas by the UEM project committee: in Evangelization, education, health, reconciliation, social work, etc. I will focus on the following two impressive projects which are mobilizing the youth for church activities: Youth Programmes, Christian Education and their impact. Through UEM support, the church is seen as fulfilling her mission to lead young people to become fully involved in the church life.
The department organized a mini Bible School. For example in 2020, about 25 youth attended the first group of mini-bible school which was for one week and the second which happened virtually had more 120 participants. The Collaborations between the youth department and the Music department was witnessed when the Music department visited some youth choirs, mobilizing them for the music festival which as one of the major church fundraising activities.
Each year it is organized a bible short course for out of school youth of ages from 18 to 25. About 200 youths from all the circuits attended this course; 120 were females and 80 were males. The course outline was mainly on the Bible teachings (knowing God, Jesus’ life), Evangelism, Christian relationships, environment stewardship and prayer.
Also there has been a Sunday School Teachers workshop in Woodpecker. Participants were drawn from Congregations in all the Circuits. About 220 Sunday School Teachers (130 women and 90 men attended. The main objective was to empower the Sunday school Teachers on teaching programs/activities and curriculum for each year and beyond. The learners also shared work experiences with suggestions/recommendations and possible solutions for future.
There has been collaboration with the ELCB Music Department which ran a music workshop, which attracted 20 participants (4 women, 16 men) from the three Lutheran Churches in Botswana, i.e. ELCB, ELCSA-Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa - Botswana Diocese, LCSA - Lutheran Church in Southern Africa. The meetings are an effort which aims to unite these different denominations. It is believed that this activity is vitally important for the growth of Christianity and the Christian church to be united in Southern Africa. The ELCB Bishop Mothusi J. Letlhage writes: “We thank UEM for always strengthening our spiritual uplifting and capacitating our people through our programs. The number of people in our churches is increasing as many now, especially the youth are being enlightened”.
Youth enjoyed organized activities, music/singing, drama and sports activities which are mainly done during youth camps as part of learning, recreational and team building activities. It is realised that there is a need for an open Evangelism which can have impact in drawing people to church, especially youth.
Unfortunately since April 2020 due to the Covid-19 and related hygienic restrictions, there is a huge decrease in the number of youth members taking part in Youth activities. The numbers of people allowed in meetings, trainings and church services is generally reduced.
The UEM member churches continue to pray for God to intervene to stop the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19. We pray that the numbers of those infected would decline rapidly. Let us all pray, trusting the Lord to intervene with his loving care.
Rev Dr John Wesley Kabango, Executive Secretary Africa Department of UEM
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