Ibanda in Uganda: 9 August

A month’s break due to time out in Scotland, for extended celebrations of my brother’s 50th birthday, and in Uganda, maintaining friendships and teaching Christian prayer. (I am a Canon of the Cathedral of the Diocese of West Ankole.)

In April last year I arrived at Ibanda, Western Uganda, in a bad mood. I had offered to do some teaching in Mbarara, a large provincial town on the way to West Ankole, and this offer had been taken up. The bus from Kampala took longer than expected. I was told I had to eat lunch, which took a while, and then we were to drive another hour plus. As it was their idea to drive out of town, I was not going to pay for the fuel – not a popular attitude. It was well after 3 when we arrived in Ibanda. People would have to leave at about 5 to walk home. With translation everything takes twice as long. Instead of starting the Seminar straight away, we had to have another little meal. After lengthy welcomes, I finally started teaching, wondering if it was worth the short time now available. Uganda always exposes my lack of trust and patience!

As quickly as I could, I explained about prayer choosing a picture of how we are asking the Holy Spirit to come to us. The first volunteer to be prayed for at the front as a demonstration was an oldish man with extensive arthritis. He said he was asking for water to wash through him and bring healing. ‘Water from the side, like a river, or water from above, like a shower?’ I asked. ‘From above,’ he said, pointing up. We both asked for water from above and waited. After a few seconds the silence in church was broken by a gentle drumming – rain on the tin roof. ‘Thank you, Father God, for water from above,’ I prayed, following the teaching of John Wimber. ‘More, please! More water from above.’ The drumming grew louder. When the rain eased, the man said his pain had diminished a little, maybe 15%. That was the only rain we had that day, in a time when there had been less rain than usual.

The next volunteer was a young woman. She wanted fire to come and burn up her debts. This was the first time I had ever prayed for a ‘financial miracle’ but couldn’t get out of it now. We asked for fire, and waited. The woman seemed to be smiling, and then trying to be serious. I encouraged her to relax and smile, to express whatever was happening in her. Before long she was laughing hilariously, in loud, contagious, guffaws. If ever there was an antidote to anxiety, including anxiety over debt, this woman had had it. When the laughter subsided she looked more relaxed than before. I gently encouraged her also to confess, probably before other people, her mistakes managing money. (The East African Revival which is the foundation of most church life in Uganda, stresses confessing sins to one another.)

This year, after another lunch which took longer than I had planned, we arrived late in Ibanda, with no sign of rain, a clear windscreen. 2 seconds after I stepped out of the car, a light drizzle started falling, briefly. About 30 local people had gathered in the church, now adorned with a new tiled roof. Many of them had been with me last year and remembered the Holy Spirit moving in people. They did not know how the man with arthritis was; he had come from a church a little way away.

The young woman with the debts was on the front row. She said that over the last 15 months, she had repaid nearly all her loans, with only 2 small ones still to be repaid. ‘If you ask me how they came to be repaid,’ she said, ‘I can’t tell you exactly. It’s just that there’s been enough money to live on and pay my debts, steadily over the months.’ Hallelujah indeed. People in Uganda, as in the UK, have been known to flee their homes and commit suicide, despairing over debts.

I encouraged each person there to ask the Holy Spirit to come to them in a picture each of them had chosen. There was a lovely time when many were smiling, trembling, raising their arms, looking caught up in visions. Baraija Newton, the Diocesan Officer who had taken me, caught up the atmosphere in a wonderful time of thanksgiving and praise, which ended with a woman who had been asking for healing after a recent hospital operation, dancing with all her might.

It was a great afternoon in Ibanda, mirrored by similar gatherings in other churches. People in Uganda have much more faith and openness to the Holy Spirit than people in the UK. Partly as an experiment, since my return I have done exactly the same as I did in Uganda in two small English churches – with very little awareness of the Holy Spirit doing anything.

If any reader would like to come with me to Uganda, including Ibanda, please let me know. I am planning to take a group next year. In Jerusalem a few years ago one truth came home to me strongly: ‘He is not here. He has risen.’ In Uganda I can say ‘He has risen indeed. He is here!’ Why not come and see?

Roger Harper

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One Response to “Ibanda in Uganda: 9 August”

  1. Di Says:

    Thanks for this, Roger!

    Will pass copies to your friends here.

    Love

    Di

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