Churches planted in Uganda and beyond!
by Ephraim and Jova Tumusiime
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 twenty-eight, already married and having children, 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,” and that I had 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 soon 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 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 are discipled. As they grow in Christ-likeness and begin to serve Him, the joy of ministry is unequaled. That is why I like starting churches—and have planted close to one hundred churches in Uganda and beyond.
The need for small groups
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 church in our home. We met on our porch and hung up a tarp to keep us dry when it rained. We began to pray that the Lord would bring people to help with the work. The Lord indeed brought people, many of whom I had never met before.
In the beginning, we made some mistakes. I gave titles to some leaders that I felt were going to work with me in reaching out to the lost. But I was moving too fast. 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, and spoke many negative things about 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 fifteen to twenty years ago, are now the members in our couples’ cells in our church and serving in leadership teams. The best example is Philip Mugabi, now senior elder of the first DOVE church I started in Kampala in 1995. Philip joined us as a youth member, then served as worship leader, youth pastor and is now the pastor to whom I handed over the leadership of this church in 2018.
I went forward to start another new congregation, DOVE Ebenezer Najjemba, near our home. Jova and I opened our house to the community and started a cell group. We were new in the community. God used a woman we had not known before, who became an evangelist. She invited many people to our fellowship. Pastor Andrew of another DOVE church came with his team for door to door evangelism. Pastor Philip and his intercessors came and prayed for the new church plant. On Easter Sunday 2019 we had our first Sunday morning worship service. I am currently training a new leader. The church is blessing many people in this community. This is very exciting to me!
I see many opportunities to start new congregations in Uganda. The problem is lack of trained leadership. Pray with us that the Lord will raise up transformed leaders in various parts of Uganda that need the gospel. We have a strong hope that congregations with transformed leadership will transform many communities in Uganda.
Recently, exciting work began among South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda. The method we used to plant a church at Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement in Arua District is a typical example of how we begin new church plants. Live music, dancing and the sound of a ram’s horn enticed refugees to gather from different parts of the 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 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!