A first hand account of life and death in Amin's Uganda
An Aslan Lion Paperback ISBN 0 86548 192 0 - First UK edition 1979.
Have you ever had a book scream "READ ME!" every time you walk past it? I bought this one ages ago, at a book sale somewhere, because the back cover starts "There were five of them, they stood between me and the door of the church vestry, pointing their rifles at my face." The author obviously survived because he wrote the book and I just love stories that show Gods power. It turned up while I was browsing through the book cabinet, and sat on top of the pile waiting to be read.
These stories are often moving and challenging, so I don’t always read them on the train. This one took my mind off having to stand for forty or more minutes.
As the book opens Kefa Sempangi is a professor at the Makerere University in Uganda and is also a leader of the Revival Fellowship. The mood is positive after the overthrow of Obote. We follow Kefa, his church and the developing situation in Uganda. Kefa starts a home for destitute children, and learns from God that he cannot save every one. Jesus says "Kefa, you are not the Messiah. You are not in charge of my vineyard. You are only one small worker …. This is the child I want you to take".
The church achieves amazing growth through the belief and dedication of its leaders. The leadership holds all night prayer meetings to resolve their problems, and seek Gods direction. It must leave them tired the next day, but there are never any complaints. Their commitment was my first challenge. As problems start with Amin’s assassins Kefa does not know how to pray for the children who have witnessed the massacre of their family, so he simply reads them John Gospel. The child is healed. There are many other healing, dramatic escapes from the assassins, victories over witch craft, and unexpected conversions as the church and Kefa grow. God is also seen to teach them in unexpected ways. In the middle of a crisis a woman asks them to pray because she needs a bed. Kefa is annoyed with her, agrees and sends her away. Next week she is back, praising Jesus excitedly – she has a bed. Kefa is more annoyed and tries to keep her quiet. From this he learns that "A religion is true if it works, if it meets all the needs of the people". My second challenge is to understand what this means for us 2001.
The story of Kefa’s escape from Amin is too good to tell here, so I’m keeping it for a talk at some time, unless of course you all read the book!!
My biggest challenge was early in the book, where there is a description of their confession. Kefa finds it a difficult experience, confessing all his "personal jealousies" and other very private sins. One of the other elders explains that when they hear confession (it happens in a group!), it is not the sins that they hear, but Jesus power of forgiveness. They seem to derive enormous power from Jesus’ forgiveness. That seems to me to be a part of Christianity that we are missing.
Pete Fisher 10/1/01