With two pastors conferences done and one more to go, we have stood in amazement as over 3,000 African church leaders and pastors have flocked to our conferences this year and more are still coming! These church leaders hear from 4-5 keynote speakers on topics that span righteousness and justice, mobilizing the local church to respond to the vulnerable, and the biblical view of women. This year’s theme is particularly timely, a theme chosen by our key partners in Zambia – Liberating the African Woman.
Visionledd founder Jim Cantelon crafted an exceptionally powerful message that called on male leadership to embrace their sisters in Christ as equals, to do away with cultural practises that keep women in a place of inferiority, and to protect women from abuse and mistreatment. Jim stressed how Jesus provided the ultimate example of how men should treat women; with respect, equality, dignity, and inclusion. Jim made it clear that “any man who diminishes a woman diminishes himself.”
Conference attendees in Zambia also had the privilege of hearing from Theresa Malila, a Malawian chief by birth, and founder of Somebody Cares, Visionledd’s partner ministry that mobilizes community transformation and the care of orphans and widows. Her strong and God-inspired voice fell on captivated ears as she discussed the wildly successful “Silent No More” gender-based violence program in WOW communities and the importance to include traditional leadership in any transformation program.
Of course, the sensitive topic of HIV/AIDS played a significant part in the conference as well. Ten years ago, churches would ostracize HIV positive persons, much like society did. Now, an exciting movement is taking shape in the pastors and churches we come across. A movement in which the church is the “first responders” to the criss, where the church conducts home-based care programs, support groups and brings the sick and ill into relationship with Jesus.
To set an example of how important it is to know one’s status, 173 church leaders opted for Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) at a mobile clinic we set up outside the conference building. Of those tested, 23 were found to be HIV positive, a ratio just shy of the national average.
From these conferences, some church leaders choose to take part in a program called Community Health Evangelism that offers in-depth training about mobilizing a church to serve the vulnerable. It is from these conferences that Visionledd forges relationships with local champions and begins longer term interactions that guide and mentor these African leaders. So far this year, Visionledd hosted a conference in Pader, Uganda and Kabwe, Zambia. The third pastors’ conference is happening in Chililibombwe, Zambia next week and a large Malawian youth conference takes place in August.
Each year our conferences keep expanding and we welcome your support to keep this essential ministry going! Consider donating to our conference fund today!