From February 12 to 17 2023, a group of leaders from the Sword of the Spirit conducted a conference on community formation at the Emmaus Centre in Katimaku, Uganda, about an hour and a half north of Kampala. This was a follow up to a conference conducted in the same location last year by Jean Barbara, the International President of the Sword of the Spirit, and Romeo Fernando, founder of the Community of the Good Shepherd and a Missionary Coordinator from Vasai, India. Both conferences were through the invitation of Fred Mawanda, the Charis representative for much of Africa.
The conference was attended by some 90 African leaders most of whom came from Uganda, though there were also groups from Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and French speaking Côte d’Ivoire, and Burkina Faso. One man from Zambia drove 4,000 KM (2,500 miles) and three people from Zimbabwe took 5 days and 4 nights on buses to get there! The groups present ranged from large prayer groups, ministry centres, and already existing communities. All were very keen to learn about how to form community and form the individual members of their communities while continuing to support the mission work they are all involved in.
The focus of the five days of teaching centred on being Communities of Disciples on Mission and described our approaches to community life, formation and pastoral care, the “youth bridge,” community leadership, charismatic worship and the exercise of spiritual gifts. In addition to teaching sessions, there was substantial time dedicated to Q&A and discussion groups. In addition, there were daily times for exuberant praise and worship, very lively singing, and even dancing in keeping with the African settings! And, of course, there were lots of enjoyable dinner conversations and other times of fellowship.
The experience for me was profound. I saw simple living, deep faith, profound love of the Lord and huge welcoming love of others…yet still people with normal fears and concerns.Andy Pettman, London, England
I had never before been in Africa and I was very excited to see what the Lord was doing in that continent. There was great receptiveness from the groups there to receive what we had to offer, and we saw this opportunity as a way to widen our tent pegs and to be generous with what we have learned in 50 years of community life.David Mijares, Monterrey, México
This article was originally published in The Sword of the Spirit. Article and photos © 2023 The Sword of the Spirit. Used with permission.