“The Moment I Believe”: The Story of an African Mission – Pr David Kayumba
Jan 7, 2016 1400
It was a month-long missionary journey, to Africa but I can think of no better title than “The Moment I Believe”. A month in a moment? It was summarised by the young soldier from Bihanga barracks: “You mean to say that the moment I believe, I am declared righteous? Just like that? That moment? Right here? The way I am?!”
It was as if I, too, were hearing the gospel for the first time, reminded of the wonder of its message, as we spread the word in Uganda, in roadside markets, at fuel pumps, hotels and in homes. We preached the gospel to about 310 people on this missionary journey, and 42 people surrendered to Christ.
In July I visited Uganda with Pr Eliezer. It was while we visited people, hearing their pleas for the gospel, and learning more about the need, that we began to discuss ideas for taking the gospel to Uganda and the neighbouring African countries. Everyone—Pr Eli, Evangelist Duncan Wood and I—could see that the people had little understanding of the gospel, but that they desperately needed it. From these discussions came a bold Africa strategy for GNU.
We drew up the plans for an active evangelism programme in rural areas of Uganda: from Kampala to eastern and western Uganda. Uganda is a large country, and there are great distances to be covered (it is 332km from Kampala to Bihanga and about 90km from Kampala to Kangulumira). Transport is always a challenge.
We turned to our new gospel partners in Uganda for advice, and prayerfully selected the areas for our initial focus.
Kangulumira Pastors and Leaders Gospel Training
Our first assignment was in Kangulumira, where we had a very fruitful training seminar for pastors and leaders from various churches. This meeting was organised by Springs of Hope, a non-government organisation, which is involved in the care and education of physically handicapped people. The leaders of Springs of Hope had approached us when Pr Eli was in Uganda. They begged GNU to come and help them spread the gospel in eastern Uganda, beginning in Kangulumira.
The main objective of the training course was to train pastors and leaders in the true meaning of the gospel. They would also receive practical training in how to run an evangelistic crusade. The course was to run for five days.
Most of these leaders have had no formal training in ministry. In spite of this, they do their best to be true shepherds of their flocks, and they have a genuine desire to learn and share the truth of the gospel. They each have a humble and teachable spirit, and are thirsty to learn about the Word of God. We saw immediately how great was their need to understand the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
One of the concerns that Teresha (from Springs of Hope) had about the churches in this area was the lack of discipleship. She felt that the pastors lacked good gospel content, their messages to their people being a confusion of ‘prosperity gospel’, miracle working and some ‘half-cooked’ gospel. She believed that an understanding of the true gospel of Jesus Christ would enable these people to be better ministers in their churches. She told me that she understood their need, because she felt the same need herself for the gospel.
We Have Been Born Anew By The Gospel!
This was a most powerful event. These brothers and sisters had their eyes and minds opened to the gospel—a gospel that is rarely preached in most churches in Uganda, and indeed, in most African countries. Such was the power of this truth that a few pastors left in anger. This made us very sad. Pastor Kibwita said: “What a loss that our colleagues who went away have made! I wish they had remained and listened. We have been born anew by the gospel!”
The Entire Group Was Moved To Shout The Name of Jesus in Unison
By the end of the course, these wonderful people expressed their joy and gratitude for the opportunity GNU had provided them to understand the truth of the gospel. At the final ceremony we gave each participant a copy of Jesus Only. It was such a joyful occasion that the entire group was moved to shout the name of Jesus in unison, with Teresha acting as our choirmaster!
Then followed a most wonderful testimony meeting, as various pastors and leaders expressed their gratitude to GNU and Springs of Hope for the opportunity to learn more about the gospel. “Thank you for this full gospel,” said Pastor Kibwita, “we look forward to another opportunity such as this.”
They left with the promise to take the gospel back to their home areas and share it with everyone who would listen. They also expressed the desire for more training.
The Pastors Recommitted Themselves to Christ and His Gospel
The partnership between GNU and Springs of Hope has already born fruit. The pastors and leaders who completed the course have now committed themselves to lifelong learning and preaching of the gospel, to carrying out practical ministry for the needy and the handicapped in their communities.
Teresha has taken the lead in organising the pastors into geographical groups so they can meet regularly and study Jesus Only together. This suggestion was met with great enthusiasm, and this will provide a source of encouragement and inspiration to these leaders. Teresha promised the pastors to continue working with GNU to equip them with greater skills in teaching the gospel and to assist in evangelistic work. The pastors were excited about this great prospect and they recommitted themselves to Christ and true gospel.
Our Encounter with Soldiers from the Congo
We spent two wonderful days sharing the gospel with Congolese soldiers who are refugees in Uganda. Thirteen of them surrendered their lives to Christ while we were there. These are high-ranking officers in their country’s army, but they are isolated in Uganda, unable to return to the Congo, and reduced to the status of beggars. They experience a worse kind of poverty as well: they had virtually no understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the assurance of salvation.
We had a few remaining copies of Jesus Only in Kinyarwanda to give these soldiers. They accepted these gladly and I promised them more as soon as we could provide them. Their need for these books was so humbling and brought me almost to tears.
We Don’t Have Any Means of Acquiring Bibles
Major Karangwa, a church elder, made a passionate plea for 100 copies of Jesus Only in Kinyarwanda and some Kinyarwanda Bibles. He told me, “As you can see us here, we are refugees. We don’t have any means of acquiring Bibles and hymn books. We want to use this time in our exile to reach out to our fellow soldiers with this gospel of God’s love. Help us! No one has ever thought of giving us books such as these.” We took his plea to heart and sent out a request for help, praying to God that he would direct the right people to respond.
On our second day, we encountered an angry church pastor. Sadly, he believed that he had been sowing good seed, as the man in Jesus’ parable, but while everyone was sleeping, enemies had come and sowed weeds among the wheat. We were that enemy, and he saw the book Jesus Only as full of dangerous error, because of its author. He tried every argument he could think of to try to make the soldiers give up the book, but they simply became more curious about it. They had never seen this pastor, who was usually calm, become rude and angry. We were sad to see this situation, but I felt that Jesus was on trial in front of us all. It was the soldiers themselves who challenged the pastor to study the book for himself before he condemned it.
Opposition Helps the Work of the Gospel Grow
We returned to the soldiers later in our visit to discover that the opposition had helped the work of the gospel to grow in the soldiers’ camp. We were reminded that, as with the experience of the early Christians, and indeed, our Lord Himself, the gospel grows through adversity.
Our second visit was amazing! We met people full of questions and ready to open their hearts to Jesus. Just imagine this: every one of the officers in attendance except one, surrendered anew to Jesus and his gift of eternal life; this was in addition to the thirteen who had already accepted Jesus during our first visit. The leaders of this church have now committed themselves to work with GNU in evangelism, which will be extended beyond the military barracks as it is possible.
We had returned laden with more copies of Jesus Only, but discovered that our opponents had not been idle. They had done everything possible to frustrate our meeting, which had been scheduled to take place inside the army barracks. Instead, a nearby school offered a hall for our meeting. This turned out to be a wonderful meeting where we had the opportunity to answer many questions about salvation and the gospel. We had the joy of seeing great burdens lifted from the shoulders of many of the men as they realised what the gospel really means.
At That Moment the Entire Room Was Filled With the Power of the Resurrected Lord
I praise God when I think of a special soldier, who was an officer in a church nearby. He is the young man who gave me the title for this report. At first, he was very defensive about about how he believed a person can obtain salvation. But gradually he came to admit that his beliefs had never brought him any peace with God. For a time, he struggled to give up all and simply receive Jesus and his gift of salvation through his work on the cross. But finally, there came the time when he looked at me in complete surprise: “You mean to say that the moment I believe I am declared righteous? Just like that? That moment? Right here? The way I am?”
I assured him: “Yes, the moment you believe in the atonement of the Cross, here and now, you are declared righteous and these blessings will remain yours as long as you believe and trust in the merits of Christ.” At that moment the entire room was filled with the power of the resurrected Lord.
Those were the words I had learned from Pastor Des Ford many years ago when I first stumbled across his writings in Zambia.
From there, these soldiers’ enthusiasm for the good news spread all around and became contagious. Many others of the Ugandan army sought us out, asking about the good news of the gospel and requesting copies of the book Jesus Only. It seems that, during our absence elsewhere, this town had been polarised by Jesus Only. However, the work there has been just amazing. For the first time, people received free books and they heard the gospel of righteousness by faith alone. They came to understand that just as the book was free, so God’s salvation through Jesus Christ was also free.
Some people spoke to me, explaining how hopeless they had felt about their prospects for salvation, and their attempts to try to earn salvation for themselves. These were people who belonged to Christian churches, and who understood their church doctrines, but they were completely hopeless about their salvation. Even some of the people who had accepted the gospel during our first visit had been persuaded that they needed to earn their salvation. By the time we returned a week later, they felt hopeless again. God gave us the strength to help them understand the truth.
Most People Do Not Need Sermons
Olivier Tureng said this:
Now that we have discovered the best news ever, we have no reason to perish, we now have every reason to live for Christ, even though this might mean having to make decisions that may have consequences on our professional life as soldiers. I have lived a hopeless life and I have experienced confusion and uncertainty throughout my religious life until now. It is clear that every accusation that was made by our pastor was merely a hate campaign. I have failed to find any bad intention from every message you have shared with us. I have failed to see anything wrong in the book Jesus Only. On contrary I have discovered what the pastor hates: he hates the thing that brings us perfect peace.
I have learned from this experience that most people do not need sermons, they simply need teaching, and they need help in dealing with issues and misunderstandings that prevent them from seeing the glorious gospel. We shall continue working with these soldiers of Christ to establish them on the rock Jesus. We need to disciple these people, because they are potential witnesses for the gospel.
Bibles for the Soldiers
The Christian soldiers meet regularly inside Bihanga army barracks. There are 143 of them—out of the 1,500 who fled Congo. They believe that they have a mission to evangelise their comrades. But they have no Bibles. Their leaders told me they needed just 10 Bibles that the men could share. When I told Pr Eliezer about this, he was moved to appeal for the Bibles. The wonderful GNU supporters gave generously, the Bibles were purchased in Rwanda and they have now reached Uganda. They will be delivered to the soldiers by the leader of one of the large churches in Uganda, who appreciates the work of GNU in sharing the gospel.
Prison Ministry in Uganda: Kigo Prison
Prison ministry in Uganda is tightly controlled, and permission is usually granted only to representatives of respected Church organisations. I happened to have a friend, Pr. Balwana Sentamu, who has been ministering in this prison under a church banner on a voluntary basis. He is also a friend of Dr Des Ford. His good relationship with prison authorities earned him respect and now he continues to serve there as a private individual. He introduced me to the authorities and they happily accepted me.
Uganda prison ministry offers a great opportunity to spread the Gospel. But the welfare officer told me that most representatives of churches who visit the prisons concentrate on indoctrination rather than preaching the pure gospel to the prisoners.
We had been given permission to preach in the prison for four days. During this time I was able to learn a great deal. We also distributed copies of Jesus Only. As our new brothers in Christ heard this gospel of grace, 29 people gave themselves to Christ. It is wonderful to witness firsthand the impact the Gospel has made in the lives of many people present on every occasion. This was a new message for the prisoners: they learned from Scripture that they were saved before they were born and that they are accepted in spite of being unacceptable, and all because of the shed blood of Jesus only.
All of a Sudden the Muslim Sheik Burst Into Joyous Laughter
A Muslim sheik who has been incarcerated in the prison for 26 years hung back and listened to our message from a distance. Gradually, however, the message drew him closer. I was emphasising that I, the prisoners, and the prison authorities, all stand in the same need for mercy from the Saviour of the world. All of a sudden he burst into joyous laughter, and said loudly: ‘I wish I had heard that great news long ago! I would not have suffered the way I have suffered. We are saved the same way!’
These prisoners, who consider themselves to be the worst of society, could not hide their joy to learn that all people—prisoners as well as those who are free—are put right with God through faith alone. I was startled by the fact that this message sounded very new, even to Christian prisoners! Freedom in Christ became a great chorus of joy.
The prison authorities asked us to organise an evangelistic crusade for prison officers. They even proposed holding this in December, but this wasn’t possible for us. However, we promised to honour their request as early in the new year as possible.
Gratitude for the GNU Books
The prison authority expressed gratitude for the donation of the books Jesus Only in both English and Luganda. The books were received, counted and registered under the department of welfare and rehabilitation. We witnessed the distribution of these books. The welfare officer, Namude Daphne, told us: “This is the largest donation of books we have ever received from a religious organization. Thank you for considering us worthy of this donation”.
Prison Ministry Challenges
Christian Baptism: We could not perform baptisms because we did not have a mobile baptistery. It is important for the prisoners, who are serving time for crimes committed, to have baptism certificates. This helps to demonstrate to the authorities that they are changed people. We need to work on a strategy for future once we have secured permission to work in prisons.
Prisoners’ Needs: In Uganda, prisoners receive almost nothing to assist them with the basic needs of life such as soap, sugar and bedding. This may sound surprising to Westerners, whose countries provide prisoners with the basics of life, but this is not the case in Uganda. We believe that our Christian ministry should include helping to provide some of these basic physical needs to the prisoners.
Official Recognition: We need to secure official permission as GNU to minister throughout Uganda prisons. Pr. Eliezer has made this formal request on behalf of GNU to the commissioner of Uganda prisons. When permission is secured, we shall have access to Uganda’s 247 prisons.
The Opportunity: Prisons tend to be neglected by churches, most especially because prisoners are in constant need themselves, and therefore unable to support churches with tithes and offerings. But this is the only place where you find people gathered in one place—a captive audience—and you don’t need to spend money on publicity or invitations. These are people who have a great need of the gospel. We remember that Jesus himself expressly mentioned the visiting of prisoners in his well-known message to “good and faithful servants”.
Word Spreads Fast—and Further
Our missionary outreach was not restricted to specific places. We received calls to share the gospel in homes, churches and two schools, at roadside markets and fuel pumps, and in hotels where we spent the night. At every opportunity, we joyfully told the story of the gospel.
Sometimes people say they are waiting for the ‘punch line’, which they believe will be an invitation to join another church. But that is not our purpose. People are amazed when they hear that we have one goal only, and that is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and the good news of his salvation.
A common thread runs through all our evangelistic efforts, whether they be in large, formal meetings, or small, individual encounters: that is the surprise and joy that the simple gospel brings into people’s lives—the moment when a person believes.