Sep 22, 2021 | Gilbert's Journal

My first 3 days in Kampala, Uganda.


I arrived Uganda very early on Sunday morning on September 19 from Lagos Nigeria after flying for 5 hours to Addis Ababa to take a connecting smaller aircraft to the Entebbe airport in Kampala. A brother who is a nurse in the cancer institute of Uganda had been waiting for me for over two hours and drove me to the home of my hosts, about an hour’s drive away from the airport. The airport formalities went smoothly with visa on arrival, passport and Covid-19 checks etc.

This was the second time I was being hosted by the Sembogo family and it really felt like home-coming – they are into hospitality and it’s truly a gift from God. I barely slept for 3 hours but it was one of the shortest most restful night’s sleep – thanks to the quiet environment and the facility.

We attended church service online that Sunday morning but it felt like a physical service especially having attended physical service in the Ikeja Region in Lagos, the Sunday before then. The singing was very lively, full of joy and gratitude. People had the right posture for an online service – most cameras were on and they were dressed appropriately – camera ready indeed. I was glad that I took my laptop web camera along because it served us well – as a family.

The lesson on SHINE YOUR LIGHT by Richard Ahenda visiting from the Nairobi Church was backed up by very inspiring pictures and videos from the missions trip to Kasese in the south western part of Uganda, at the borders with Eastern DRC, where a seed fellowship has been springing up in the past couple of months. I was truly inspired by the call to keep shining my light, knowing that there are still many souls waiting to be rescued.

The service was closely followed by a joy-filled fellowship experience at the Mpanga’s where I met both the Ahenda’s and the Mpanga family – Martin Mpanga has been nicknamed “Lazarus” after surviving an intense bout with Covid-19. I recorded part of his story on video and there will be a link to his amazing story – our great God still answers prayer. For now, it suffices to say that among the 53 people who were hospitalized in the ICU in July this year, he is the only man who survived, along with two other women.

At the end of day 1, I went on a 7km walk with a newfound friend who also has a heart-wrenching story characterized by resilient faith in the face of overwhelming odds. We enjoyed the natural scenery in Bulenga, a neighbourhood in the outskirts of Kampala, where I spent the first 3 nights.

On Monday, I was able to secure a visa for my next East African stop which will take me to Bujumbura in Burundi. I was very impressed by the booming nature of activities in the Kampala city centre. It’s amazing what such visits can do to our perspective and how it clears a lot of misconceptions we can easily develop about certain places or entire nations. The Kampala city centre is well designed and beautiful. The Kololo hill is one of the residential and posh areas of the city – that’s where the Burundi embassy and many others are located.

A few months ago, Uganda as a nation was the epicentre of the pandemic in Africa. They have implemented some of the strictest lock-downs on the continent (they probably only match the early lock-downs we heard about in South Africa). The results of those strict measures are quite remarkable – I went to one of the biggest hospitals (Mulago National Referral Hospital) yesterday to take a PCR test for my next flight to Burundi and very few people were there because the numbers have drastically reduced.

I pre-recorded a video lesson yesterday for the midweek service on Discipleship/Discipling (corresponds to their current needs) and also had a live zoom session with the leadership group on leading by modelling – it was really encouraging to see that the Kampala Church is blessed by a group of humble and serving shepherds who lead the eight family groups scattered across the city.

Beyond a teaching trip, this feels much more like an encouragement outing. I was moved to tears yesterday when Martin and Flavia Mpanga shared the story of how he survived Covid in the midst of lots of faith inspiring stories of lives that have been touched during Martin’s illness and also through their ministry in Uganda. The medical staff started joining prayer sessions organized by disciples under a tree at the hospital. Some are even studying the Bible and they are amazed to see his miraculous recovery so far, even though he still has some challenges with his right hand etc.

Listening to Martin share his experience last night made me relive my experience of surviving cancer – it has helped me to renew a heart of gratitude towards the simple things in life – enjoying time outdoors with fresh breeze, the blessing of health, family, relationships etc. These are all things Martin was deprived of for months.

The story of Victor’s conversion, a friend of his who used to despise anything related to God and the Bible, is another story for another day. Our lives preach a lot more effectively than our words.

I look forward to great fellowship throughout today as I prepare to leave for Burundi. It feels like I came to encourage but I am the greatest beneficiary of this visit to the pearl of Africa. The encounters with individual lives and their stories have been deeply rewarding and faith-building.


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