Everything started in 2007 with a telephone call asking us to host a Ugandan Pastor who wanted to talk about marriage support. In that week we shared the Biblical Principles of marriage that undergird Time for Marriage and suggested he could teach it in Uganda. His reply was, “No, I can’t. I haven’t lived it.” We felt we could definitely do business with this man of integrity and accepted his invitation to go to Uganda in 2008.
While at Theological college Elijah planted many churches in rural areas and since then other churches have asked to come under his oversight. 269 churches now look to him as their Bishop. The pastors of the 4 rural churches we went to this year were all deeply grateful to Elijah for remembering them.
First Redeemed Marriage Conference
700 people waited for us at this first conference in 2008, most had walked for 1, 2 or 3 days to get there. The organisation was impressive. The water, the generator, the benches, the PA system all had to be brought in, including meat and rice to feed people for 3 days. We had a wonderful time!
When the Christian message first came to Uganda about 150 years ago it was, of course, laid on top of their ancient culture and traditions… Witchcraft — Polygamy – Male Domination—Child Sacrifice—Cannabalism—Bride Price.
Outside the Christian church these traditions are strong and still have a big impact on the church today. When we went in 2008 few pastors and elders in Elijah’s churches were married, some were polygamous. On this, our fifth visit, and approximately 17 conferences later, no pastors or elders are appointed who are not married, marriage is held in high esteem and every help is given to church members under his oversight to marry. Bridal dresses or suits/jackets/ties/shoes are made available, as well as food for modest receptions. At our last conference Elijah officiated at a mass wedding of 4 couples, the brides, touchingly, in very second-hand and ill-fitting dresses.
Transforming marriages in Uganda
We have seen transformation in the lives of Elijah & Ruth and other leaders of his church (Kampala International Christian Centre – KICC). The senior pastor and his wife, as well as the translator, who accompanied us, gave their testimony each time and were passionately supportive. Every Sunday, for the past 3-4 years, in the hour between the two services at KICC, adults join ‘Life Groups’ for single men; single women; single mothers and couples to discuss ‘Relationships’. Questions are given for the groups to discuss each week. Barrie & I were staggered to hear couples discussing ‘bedroom matters’ so frankly (this in a culture where to talk about sex is taboo). We don’t think there is probably another church in the world supporting marriage so effectively.
Spreading the word!
Churches in rural areas are incredibly poor (80% of Ugandans live in rural areas) this is one of the churches we visited…no windows or doors and dirt floors but wonderful worship and eager and open hearts. One young woman in this church was so enthusiastic at times she jumped up and down! On the first day of a conference at Lugolole we arrived back from lunch to find a bishop reviewing with the church the principles of marriage we’d just taught from Genesis! A big encouragement. On the first morning at Inganga, Bishop Patrick arrived dressed in a smart suit because he was going on elsewhere. To our delight he stayed for the whole 3 days, literally sitting on the edge of his seat taking notes and next day bringing his wife. When we chatted at the end, he said, with a great smile, “We have been revived, we have been revived!” “This teaching must go out!” We gave him our notes, as we did to all pastors with laptops.
At the beginning of each conference couples have to be directed to sit next to each other, an indication of the second-class status of women, but by the end they sit next to each other and are able to hold hands and pray together – the favourite moment of each conference for us…
Looking back at this time in Uganda we remember the many humble, godly pastors who have nothing, but in Jesus they have everything, who are not self-seeking but true pastors to their people. We have been profoundly impressed by the pastors and their wives. The main blog picture is dear Bishop Fred making a point of escorting his wife to show his respect and love for her as she receives her certificate. We have been awed by power of the Word of God to impact and transform people’s marriages. We are full of thanksgiving for that great privilege.
Barrie & Eileen Jones, Time for Marriage Team