2008 - Vol. 20
Travelogue by Dave
Several years ago, I read the story of the martyrs of Uganda. In 1866,
because of the madness of their king, approximately 40 young men paid the
ultimate price for their newly embraced faith in Jesus. The youngest of
them, Kizito, was only 14 or 15 years old when he was killed. The account
of their martyrdom was very inspiring, but little did I realize at the
time that I soon would have the chance to visit their homeland.
Last summer, I traveled to Uganda for five weeks. For part of the time,
I stayed on a ranch 90 kilometers north of the capital city of Kampala,
where Cornerstone Leadership Academy, a school for young men that has an
informal connection with Cornerstone school in Detroit, Michigan, USA,
where I teach, is located. Cornerstone Leadership Academy does a marvellous
work of bringing together and training young people – generally from very
poor backgrounds – from all the various tribal groups of Uganda as well
as from different Christian denominations. Their vision is to create and
sustain a strong network of “friends in Christ” who share the common goal
of transforming their society.
I also joined two fellow Servants of the Word from our European and
Middle East region of the Sword of the Spirit, Martin Steinbereithner and
Dave Quintana, who happened to be in Uganda at the same time. They were
visiting a group called Emmaus Community and helping put on a two-week
conference for university student leaders. I assisted them for three days,
and was amply rewarded by the opportunity to fellowship and pray with those
attending the conference. Wow! The joy and energy in their worship were
amazing. Once the singing started, it was impossible to stand still! Through
my connection with Cornerstone, we arranged for one of their senior staff
to lead a session at the Emmaus conference. The two organizations have
had contact over the years and clearly hold one another in high regard,
but they were grateful for how our presence facilitated a renewed connection
between them. Their relationship is particularly noteworthy because Emmaus
is a Catholic community while those connected with Cornerstone are predominately
Protestant and Pentecostal.
Other highlights of my time in that beautiful East African country were
the opportunities I had to visit two youth homes. One was in the northern
city of Gulu, which for many years was terrorized by rebel forces specializing
in the kidnapping
of children. Cornerstone has opened two homes there to care for street
children, to help them return to school, reconnect with relatives, and
realize a purpose in living. I was deeply moved by the evening I spent
with these traumatized kids who now have become as family to one another.
Later, I had the special treat of visiting Komamboga Children's Home, an
orphanage started by my cousin and his wife years ago when they were missionaries
in Uganda. Once again, I was greatly uplifted by the joyful singing of
the children and the powerful beat of African drums.
There is much more to relate of my Ugandan adventure, but space is limited.
I'll close simply by telling of the afternoon when I was asked to speak,
with no advance notice, to several hundred school children. The school
was named after none other than the youngest of the Ugandan martyrs, St.
Kizito – whose story I knew! (In fact, I have
taught it to my own students in Detroit.) So, thankfully, I was well
prepared to say something encouraging that day. In so many ways, big and
small, the Lord provided for me on my travels.
[Dave O'Connor lives and works in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Dave is a
member of the Servants of the
Word, a missionary brotherhood of men living single for the Lord. He
is a coordinator of Word
of Life Community and leader for Detroit Community Outreach.]
Martyrs of Uganda
June 3, 1886
by James Kiefer
On 3 June 1886, thirty-two
young men, pages of the court of King Mwanga of Buganda, were burned to
death at Namugongo for their refusal to renounce Christianity. In the following
months many other Christians throughout the country died by spear or fire
for their faith.
totally changed the dynamic of Christian growth in Uganda. Introduced by
a handful of Anglican and Roman missionaries after 1877, the Christian
faith had been preached only to the immediate members of the court, by
order of King Mutesa. His successor, Mwanga, became increasingly angry
as he realized that the first converts put loyalty to Christ above the
traditional loyalty to the king. Martyrdoms began in 1885. Mwanga first
forbade anyone to go near a Christian mission on pain of death, but finding
himself unable to cool the ardor of the converts, resolved to wipe out
The Namugongo martyrdoms
produced a result entirely opposite to Mwanga's intentions. The example
of these martyrs, who walked to their deaths singing hymns and praying
for their enemies, so inspired many of the bystanders that they began to
seek instruction from the remaining Christians. Within a few years the
original handful of converts had multiplied many times and spread far beyond
the court. The martyrs had left the indelible impression that Christianity
was truly African, not simply a white man's religion. Most of the missionary
work was carried out by Africans rather than by white missionaries, and
Christianity spread steadily. Uganda now has the largest percentage of
professed Christians of any nation in Africa.
Several years ago
I heard an African clergyman, born of pagan parents, tell of his conversion.
I was bicycling along a road and met a young man about my own age bicycling
in the opposite direction. He promptly turned about and began to ride beside
me and to talk. He spoke with great enthusiasm about Jesus, whom I had
never heard of before, and how He had destroyed the power of death and
evil by dying and rising again, and how He was God become man to reconcile
man with God. I heard what my companion had to say, and before we parted
I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Now, the young man who
preached the Good News of Jesus Christ to me that afternoon had himself
heard of Jesus for the first time that morning.
of Christians in the 1970's by the military dictatorship of Idi Amin proved
the vitality of the example of the Namugongo martyrs. Among the thousands
of new martyrs, both Anglican and Roman, was Janani Luwum, Archbishop of
the (Anglican) Church of Uganda.