Growing leaders from the grassroots

Joseph Chandia’s story illustrates how BUILD can grow exceptional leaders from the grassroots, leaders who can then go on to influence and equip others far more widely. Joseph has been mentioned in this blog before (here for example), but the story behind the story is well worth recounting.

From BUILD’s perspective the story begins over a decade ago, when Joseph was working as a security guard in Kampala at the headquarters of the Church of Uganda. Joseph had travelled there from his home near Arua, in the north of the country, looking for work. Life was far from easy on a number of fronts, and it was hard for Joseph to hold down a job. Joseph shared:

“I was about to lose my job because of a problem with drink. I was given several warning letters and then suspended. Stephen, the BUILD Coordinator, noticed me. He drew me close to him and we became friends. He shared the word of God with me, which changed my life and I became involved with BUILD. I had little formal education, but BUILD helped me even in that. Several BUILD training events empowered me with skills of how to preach the gospel, and gave me a foundation for further study.”

Joseph later returned home where he was welcomed back and began to serve in the church. He continued to be involved with BUILD from there. “I gained a lot of experience through the BUILD programme and was encouraged to serve not only by word alone but also in action. As a result I established a faith based organisation, helping those who were suffering from HIV and AIDS, which also empowered my church in their mission and outreach.”

Joseph grew in his leadership, was ordained, and was sent by his bishop to study for a diploma in theology at Uganda Martyrs Seminary. During that time he began to lead his churches in their outreach to refugee settlements in his local area – for example by organising and mobilising the local churches to gather together clothes and food to help those in need, despite their own challenges and poverty.

Joseph has since been able to take his studies further, and having now completed a degree in theology part-time he has a vision to serve the church in South Sudan through the training of local church leaders, both in the dioceses there, as well as among the many in exile in Uganda. Recently he brought some of these leaders from one of the settlements to the formal BUILD training-of-trainers course, despite the sacrifice involved. He is now studying for a masters in development studies in his spare time.

For Joseph and for BUILD things have gone full circle.  Joseph was brought to faith, nurtured and equipped through the various levels of BUILD, and he is now helping to select and send South Sudanese leaders for BUILD training. In turn, those leaders are now taking the training downwards, in the opposite direction: from the formal training they are receiving, to the local non-formal groups in the refugee settlements that they are developing and leading themselves. And through the informal teaching and discipleship those groups are engaged in more widely, they are now more serving those in the congregations in the settlements more effectively.

As a result many at the grassroots are being influenced by BUILD’s biblical, theological and practical training, so that, in time, a whole new generation of leaders will emerge to build the church and impact their communities.