Thursday, 7 January 2010

Methodist Church in Uganda - 3rd January

Robert Ssegonga took us back to Bugembe Methodist Church this morning for the Sunday service. Robert spent over 2 years in Northern Ireland working as a lay worker and now works as the circuit evangelist. His work includes helping to establish new congregations as well as a ministry in the local prison which we would visit later in the day.

Bugembe Church, which overlooks Lake Victoria, was full for the morning service. Interested young faces peered in at the open windows. The church was resounded to lively singing and dancing and I was invited by Superintendent minister Rev Amooti Bagambi to bring greetings from the Methodist Church in Britain and to preach.

After the service we visited Bugembe Prison which houses around 50 prisoners including 5 women with their 2 young children. Up to 40 men sleep on the floor in one dormitory. Members of the Church visit twice a week to lead bible studies and a weekly service in the small chapel. They have also brought sleeping mats, helped to install doors to the toilets in order to help restore a little dignity and privacy and brought meals for the prisoners on Christmas Day. We shared in worship together and again I was able to bring greetings from Methodists in Britain and reflected on the gospel lesson for the day.

3 years ago, Rev Margaret Nakaluuba, the only woman minister in the Methodist Church in Uganda and who currently has oversight of churches in the Iganga circuit, saw the need for an orphanage in her area. Throughout our travels in Uganda we have seen evidence of a large number of orphanages, a sad sign of the impact of HIV/AIDS and the relatively high maternal mortality rate in rural areas. However the Ugandan government is now actively discouraging the development of orphanages as the philosophy is that no African child should be seen as an orphan as all are members of an extended family and should be cared for by them.

The intention now is to develop a children’s centre with a focus on providing short-term care for children that have suffered abuse. Sexual abuse of children is now increasingly recognised and the intention is that the children’s centre would provide a safe place for children. A building has also been partly built with the intention of using it for a children’s health clinic.

Currently the centre is home for 32 children but is struggling from a significant lack of resources. Earlier this year, Dr Lisa Matthison, a child psychologist with dual Canadian-Scottish nationality had been praying about what she should next do with her life. She met a Ugandan minister who is currently working in Scotland who told her about the orphanage. She realised that this was something she was called to help with and a few weeks later she arrived in Uganda to offer her help. After 3 months she has realised that she may need to stay longer than the original year she had volunteered for. She is not a Methodist by background but has joined the church at Bugembe and has been warmly welcomed by the local community. With the help of the Church’s development workers she has started to lay some firm foundations in the organisation of the children’s centre and is now looking for a more reliable income to support this important work. She is pictured with two of the children at the centre, Daphine and Persis.

On returning to Jinja we were greeted by Rev Amooti Bagambi and his wife Jane. He had just finished watching Manchester United v Leeds United live on television. To our surprise we’d seen adverts for the game in small roadside cafĂ©’s whilst we had been driving around the area. He like almost all the ministers I’d met supported Manchester United and so he was most upset that Leeds had just won the 3rd round FA Cup match 1-0 and at Old Trafford too. I thanked him on behalf of Leeds fans everywhere for the powerful prayers of Ugandan Methodists!

All those leading and shaping the Methodist Church in Uganda have great confidence and faith that God is with them and doing great things through them. Their future plans include hoping to re-establish the 4 congregations in the north of Uganda that had to close because of the conflict there. In addition they intend to form a church community in the capital Kampala. I have no doubt that they will succeed.

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