Although my parents were born-again pastors in a Ugandan Anglican church, I believed while growing up that salvation was only for adults. At age 28, I was already married and had children when I was invited to visit a friend’s church and ultimately became a disciple of Jesus.
Our pastor encouraged our small, young fellowship to grow by reaching out to the lost. I learned that I am under the Lord’s command to “go” and “make disciples.” This is a mandate that I realized I have no choice but to obey. This compelled me to prepare for Christian ministry. In 1991, I joined Daystar University College in Nairobi, Kenya, where I quickly became a member of DOVE Nairobi. The warmth I felt in DOVE Nairobi through the relationships I developed with members, encouraged me to participate in the whole life of the church. When I graduated, the elders challenged me to go back to my country and start a DOVE church.
It is exciting to see the lost getting found and becoming believers. It is within the fellowship that the new believers get discipled. As they get transformed into Christ-likeness and serve, the joy of ministry becomes unequalled as we see the recent enemies of the cross defending it! That is why I like starting churches—and have planted about seventy churches.
While studying in Nairobi, I had been particularly excited by the relationships built in the church through cell groups; I desired to see this happen in my homeland in Uganda. So when I moved back to Kampala, Uganda, my wife, Jova, and I started a new church in our home. We met on our porch and hung up a tarp to keep us dry when it rained. I learned that I should pray that the Lord would bring people that would become part of the outreach. The Lord indeed brought people, many of whom I had never met before.
In the beginning, I was quick to choose leaders and I made some mistakes. I gave titles to some leaders that I felt were going to work with me in reaching out to the lost. These titles were unbiblical. One fellow that I chose to be our church chairman started assuming powers like those of worldly organizations and that started hurting our ministry. When we abolished the position, he left our ministry with negative words against us. Since then, I have learned to identify people’s gifts and understand their commitment to our vision before placing them on a leadership team.
Discipleship has been incorporated into our cell groups, but often with great difficulty. Many of our cell groups are made up of members that are illiterate. We disciple these people with a lot of patience and love. The youth have been easier to disciple because the majority of them are literate. They seem to be more available and teachable than the adults, and, therefore, their cells are more actively involved in discipleship. Their cells easily multiply as they build relationships with other young people. The former young people in our church, from five to ten years ago, are now the members in our couples’ cells in our church! This is very exciting to me!
Recently, exciting work began among South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda. A typical example of how we begin new church plants is how we planted a church at Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement in the Arua District. Live music, dancing and the sound of a ram’s horn enticed refugees to gather from different parts of the refugee camp to hear the Word of the Lord. A young refugee from the Congo preached powerfully in the English language. Because the majority of the refugees are from South Sudan, the message was translated into Arabic. During the altar call, more than eighty people gave their lives to Christ!
DOVE Uganda has also started four Early Childhood Development Centers (ECDCs) within the four refugee clusters of Rhino Camp. The four clusters house more than 15,000 refugees. Each ECDC has about 250 hungry children. The refugees are very needy and it requires a lot of funds to pay teachers, provide meals for children and comply with the government’s requirement for us to provide pit latrines, playgrounds with play materials, and proper structure for learning with seats and fenced learning areas.
We are building kingdom relationships with the refugees. When peace returns to northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of South Sudan, the refugees will return home, and DOVE will have bases from which Bible-believing congregations will be planted. Such church planting vision excites me. That’s why I love planting churches!
Read Chapter 7. Answering God’s call is key for Kenya here