An evangelistic series co-led by Seventh-day Adventist university students in a predominantly Muslim city in Uganda has resulted in 21 baptisms and a city street being named in their honor.
Sixty students, mostly from public universities across the African country, participated in evening evangelistic meetings at two sites about 3 miles (5 kilometers) apart in Mpondwe, a sprawling border town of 51,000 people, many of whom have fled conflict and instability in the nearby Democratic Republic of Congo. In the mornings, they attended leadership workshops organized by the Adventist world church.
The outcome impressed Hudson Kibuuka, associate education director for the Adventist world church, who oversaw the initiative.
“At the end of the two weeks, 21 people gave their lives to Christ and were baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” Kibuuka told the Adventist Review.
“Some of these are from backgrounds that threatened them with all kinds of torture, but they nevertheless decided for Jesus,” he said. “Several others were deeply convicted by the love of Christ expressed through the sermons, teachings, and interactions but were not able to make a public decision. They are studying the Bible with a local Bible worker.”
Kibuuka credited prayer for quickly unifying the students, many of whom were previously unacquainted, under the banner of sharing the gospel in a city whose population is about 70 percent Muslim. Mpondwe has at least 18 mosques but only three Adventist churches.
The students — members of the Uganda University and College Adventist Students’ Association, which is under the auspices of Adventist world church’s Public Campus Ministries — formed a prayer group as soon as they arrived, and they prayed together regularly.
“They prayed before the meetings, during the meetings and after, praying for the speakers and the programs,” he said. “They prayed during meal times, in the mornings, and at night. They fasted one day. This must have been their source of power, courage, and drive.”
This was the sixth annual event of its kind in Uganda, where students gather in a city for leadership training and to help conduct an evangelistic series. Some church leaders would like to expand the program, which aims to encourage Adventist students at public universities, to other countries.
The evangelistic meetings in Mpondwe started off small when the arrival of many students was delayed by last-minute changes to university class schedules. But a total of 60 students were present by the start of the second week, and outreach work began in earnest, said Kibuuka, a native of Uganda.
In the mornings, the students participated in the leadership workshops in a local school. After lunch, they teamed up with local church members, mainly young adults, to invite city residents to attend the evening meetings.
“They returned with various experiences, some of which were rather strange to most who had not lived in a Muslim community,” Kibuuka said. “They also received lots of questions from community members who had been listening to the messages during the previous week.”
Attendance grew nightly at the two sites during the final week of the meetings in late August. The meetings were led by four pastors: Kintu Bumali, Nzuki Emmanuel, and Idrisa Yaqoob Maxima, all of whom have strong Muslim backgrounds with a good understanding of the Arabic language and Islam; as well as Johnson Oloo, a theology student at Bugema University. The students provided music and skits.
“People could be seen with notebooks and pens, writing down Bible and Quran texts as they were quoted by the speakers,” Kibuuka said. “They were making notes, possibly in hope of referring to them later or asking questions.”
On one morning, the students decided to carry out a cleanup of several city streets and two outdoor markets. The city health department provided a tractor and a truck to assist with the collection and disposal of garbage as well as a small pickup truck for the students’ transportation needs. The health department also gave tools and gloves to the students to use and dispatched three public health workers to accompany them.
“The public health officers used the opportunity to inform the residents about the value of cleanliness and how they should not litter anyhow,” Kibuuka said. “They informed the residents that some of the students they were seeing included future doctors, lawyers, and accountants, but they were keen on keeping communities clean.”
The chief health officer and lawmaker representing the city district were so impressed with the students’ work that they decided to rename a road as UUCASA Street after the acronym for the Uganda University and College Adventist Students’ Association. At the renaming ceremony, Kibuuka planted a tree on the side of the street.
Later the students organized a visit to the local prison, where they provided a special meal to all 110 inmates. Pastor Lambert Koojo, the local church field’s youth and chaplaincy director, shared the biblical story of Joseph’s trip from prison to the palace.
Students also gathered money from donations and their own pockets to help build a new home for an elderly woman whose small hut collapsed during a recent storm and was living on the porches of various neighbors.
Kibuuka called for prayers for those who had attended the meetings and for the students as well.
“Pray that the Lord will strengthen those who made decisions and help those still in the valley of decisions,” he said. “Pray for the students as well. Many of the students face gigantic challenges in their universities but are standing firmly on Christ. Praise God, many of them testified that their visit to Mpondwe had given them extra courage to face their challenges.”