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Christianity Explored in Uganda and Kenya

I have just returned from two weeks in Uganda and Kenya, assisting Jim McAnlis of CMS Ireland and Craig Dyer, training director of Christianity Explored to equip and train pastors and church leaders in Uganda and Kenya to use CE as a tool for evangelism, discipleship and leadership development.

The visit also coincided with the launch the first ever African CE translation – Luganda – a joint partnership with the Kampala Evangelical School of Theology (KEST) and the Bible Society of Uganda. My role on the team was also to help teach the Gospel of Mark as the foundation for expository preaching and inductive Bible study.

The aim of the CE training is to equip hundreds to train thousands to reach millions. The strategy is based on: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

The main conference was held at Kiwoko Hospital. Kiwoko which is about 50 miles north of Kampala is at the centre of the Luwera Triangle – the area of Uganda devastated by war in the 1980s. Between 1982 and 1986 over 250,000 people were killed in the civil war between the forces of Milton Obote and Yoweri Museveni. Piles of skulls were often left at the road side. We visited one of the war graves while there. A further 500,000 people became refugees forcibly removed from their homes and villages.

In 1988, Dr Ian Clarke, a young Irish Physician found himself at the scene of devastation of two civil wars, surrounded by evidence of recent genocide and the despair of people robbed of the means of rebuilding their lives. The land was rich in fertility but the people poor and weak. Challenged by what he had seen, Ian resigned from his Medical Practice near Belfast and returned to Uganda to become the only doctor to tens upon tens of thousands people in an area half the size of Northern Ireland.

He began with a clinic under a tree but the seed was soon to grow and gradually, with the help of Christian friends and various capital grants, a modern hospital took shape and with it a whole community recovered hope and the means of survival.

The complex now includes adults’ and childrens’ wards, a T.B. ward, an Obstetric Unit, Operating Theatres, Outpatient Building, and a Laboratory as well as a Nursing School for 150 students and staff accommodation. Regular outreach clinics are held, including an AIDS support programme in the community. We saw a new maternity unit being constructed.

Kiwoko hospital is built on a strong Christian foundation, with evangelism and medical help going hand in hand. The Kiwoko Mission Team led by Shadrach Lugwago, the hospital pharmacist, and made up of other hospital staff, leads missions in the surrounding villages. There are also strong links with the Pentecostal as well as the Anglican Church of Uganda and the local church, St John’s runs a primary school for 1,000 pupils.

During our stay in Kiwoko, we visited the New Hope orphanage nearby, founded by Jay and Vicki Dangers, which now cares for 600 children. Together with the Kiwoko Hospital they are helping to rebuild community life in war torn central Uganda.

The medical staff at Kiwoko advised that average life expectancy is around 45. 10% of the population are HIV positive. 30% live in poverty. 50% are under 15. 50% of women are abused. Most people survive by subsistence farming. A significant proportion are malnourished. Malaria is the chief killer of children. Polygamy is common. Witchcraft is the norm. Instances of child sacrifice are prevalent enough to be a news item in the media. One in 20 women die in child birth. At Kiwoko Hospital 70% of the patients have HIV and without adequate protection, such as proper surgical gloves, the medical staff place their own lives at risk to care for their patients.

The conference was based in an open field nearby the hospital and was hosted by the 40 strong Hospital Mission Team. They have already taken 3,000 people through CE in the past five years and the conference drew 800 pastors from a wide area.

Two further smaller conferences were held. The second, in Bweyale near Masindi, 100 miles further north is an area with 56 different affinity or ethnic groups and hosts refugees from Kenya, Sudan and the Congo.

The third conference was held in Nairobi at Carlile College, the Church Army training institution. Located in Kibera, one of the world’s largest slum communities on the outskirts of Nairobi, Carlile College also has an extensive urban ministry training programme, preparing ministers to serve the fast growing urban populations of Africa. Students and faculty who attended the two dasys CE training came from 14 different countries including Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Congo, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, besides many from Kenya and Uganda.

During the two weeks, over 1,000 pastors and evangelists were introduced to Christianity Explored and trained to teach others in how to use the course to lead people to Christ, build them in the faith and equip them to do the same.

Teaching in the open air, on the equator, under a burning sun, for six or seven hours a day, without PowerPoint, cross culturally, and through translation was exhilarating if a little exhausting. From the first night we learnt to sleep under a mosquito net and coating of insect repellant spray. From the second night, we learnt to live without hot water and to sluice the toilet manually with water we’d previously washed in. From the seventh night we learnt to live with flying ants, cockroaches and spiders and without running water and only occasional electricity. I began to identify a little with those who had travelled up to a hundred miles in the back of an open lorry or on a bicycle, and were happy to sleep 40 to a room and eat basic food cooked on an open fire, to be a part of one of these conferences.

Someone once said rather sarcastically that Christianity in Africa is a mile wide and an inch deep. I agree with Ben Byerly that “The depth of faith I have seen in many Africans – East and West – puts any other Christianity I’ve seen to shame – especially the petty Christianity I’ve seen portrayed by so many “deep theologians” of the West.”

You can read the full report here.

Photos are accessible here.