LANGO: Building the Church, Building the People

LANGO: Building the Church, Building the People

Revd Laurence Pusey

Idi Amin, civil war, the unspeakable horrors of Kony’s terrorist units, AIDS and wholesale cattle rustling: Northern Uganda has suffered all this in the last 40 years.   But at last there’s a sense of relative security and time for rebuilding. Rebuilding also in the Church of Uganda, literally so with upgrading of the churches and through training, expanding and building up both the priesthood and parishioners.

I was first invited to Uganda in 1996, to lead some local preaching missions, by two students from Lango studying at the Universities in Leeds. During annual visits over the last 20 years I’ve observed some of the trauma that the region has suffered. Back then I had to do everything; preach the message and pray for the sick. At one meeting I had to pray for a line of 200 with the orphans on the end in order of height. This was partly due to the people’s refusal to be prayed for by their local pastors rather than the visiting speaker: (we’re all a bit like that!).

So over the years we’ve been able to encourage the outreach teams in Biblical patterns of praying for the sick and the demonized, emphasising that God is not deaf so there’s no need to shout. I was encouraged one time when I complimented an Archdeacon on his quiet, authoritative prayers. His reply was that he’d learned by example.

There was one time when a blind lady was brought in to the meeting. In her younger years she’d been at the forefront of the action when planting the church. But now she was old and had lost her sight and they wanted to honour her by giving her a special introduction time with me. Well of course, as the meeting progressed we prayed for her sight but were forced to be honest and recognise that little appeared to have happened. It was a deep discouragement. However after about three months and back in England a letter arrived from Uganda asking, “Do you remember that old church planter that had lost her sight? Well she can see now”. What a blessing!    Since then we see those who’ve gone blind through old age receive their sight fairly regularly. Most often they get a bit of sight straight away and then it goes on improving over the next twenty minutes or so. There was a big thrill when one of the youth team came running over to say that he’d just prayed for a blind person who’d received his sight.

So now, if the leaders can preach and the mission team evangelise and pray for the sick – ‘what do my wife and I do?‘ Well, on our last trip in November 2016 we trained the 70 strong mission team who were joined by 30 local people. Each morning there was training followed by door to door outreach inviting people to the open-air meetings. This was the programme for nine straight days. I was invited to preach one evening but obviously my efforts lacked a bit of challenge as one of the Ugandan co-ordinators jumped up at the end and added some fire and brimstone. People were invited to turn to the person next to them and ask, “Do you want to go into the flames?”

The 70 had lots of stories of healings:

  • One woman had fallen and cracked a bone in her knee which she was told would require pinning, but she had no money for this. Understandably she walked with pain and difficulty but team members prayed with her and instantly she began to walk freely and even joined in the dancing – sedately.
  • An older man had a dark shape obscuring his vision which immediately vanished.
  • Another woman had had two stomach operations and was still in pain but as she was prayed over she had a vision of a tall man in white who was reading the scriptures to her.
  • One team member said, “I love outreach, it makes me feel alive, it’s what I’m supposed to be doing”

One of the senior priests told me that he’d been on one of my youth teams years ago.    This and much else that has happened shows, I think, the value of working consistently in one place, knowing the people, building up trust and getting to know how things work. At this moment the door is wide open in Uganda for the preaching of the gospel in the market place, in the street, from door to door, in Church Schools and in the hospitals. I urge the youth teams to press through this door with urgency while there is still time, ‘for night cometh when no man can work’.

Laurence Pusey is one of the Chaplaincy Team covering both Universities in Leeds.