Can you be trusted?

Towards the close of 2021, one of the thoughts that crossed my mind as I wrote down nuggets for the new year was, “can you be trusted?” And this is the same question I lay before you; can you be trusted?

Considering how you spend your time and how you respond to the needs of those around you, can you be trusted? Many of us are familiar with the story of Joseph and his master Potiphar in Genesis 39. How could a man of Potiphar’s caliber entrust his household and everything he had (v.5) to a slave boy? There was a thing about Joseph that caught Potiphar’s attention! The presence of God was with Joseph and so he prospered. This young man sought to honor God in everything he did and in every assignment, he was given.

Photo: ©2021 Pacesetters Rapid Respond

Our generation has been entrusted with a lot of responsibility possibly more than previous generations; knowledge, money, technology and the power of choice, and the question at hand is, can we be trusted with these tools? Can we be trusted with the responsibility of raising the next generation of leaders, pastors, business people and teachers when our individual convictions and values are branded with dishonest gain, a lack of foresight for the future, selfishness, immorality and mediocrity? Can we be trusted?

I recently read a writing that said, “You are not raising your son… You’re raising somebody’s husband and father. Raise him well,” and immediately what came to mind were Apostle Paul’s words to the Christians in Corinth, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Cor.4:2). Each one of us has been given a trust – a child to raise, a ministry to run, a department to lead, a business to build, a constituency to transform and a nation to pray for. Irrespective of the magnitude of our task, Paul commends that “Now it is required” that we prove faithful. So, it is in order at this time of the year to resolve to be faithful in that which has been handed you. Mother Teresa once said, “God has not called me to be successful, but to be faithful.” This is worth noting!

Speaking to youth volunteers in Nakivale Refugee Settlement

One of Paul’s converts and later ministry partner, Titus, was instructed to teach slaves (workers) to “show that they can be fully trusted” (Titus 2:9-10). Well, as many congregations around the world join in prayer and fasting at this time of the year for higher levels and big breakthroughs in their lives, I believe we must first of all get to that place where we can be fully trusted with that which God is doing in our communities. This is important for us to understand. Can God trust us with the things we are asking Him for or will our immaturity (intellectual and spiritual) lead us to a place of pride and idolatry?

My prayer is that as we desire to attempt great things this year, may we not forget that “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48).

Blessed 2022!

Tribute to Mr. Mugume Stephen

Friends, I would like to take this opportunity to write a brief but heartfelt and sincere tribute to the late Mr. Stephen Mugume, one of the greatest school administrators of our generation. In February 2009, I was admitted to Kibuli Secondary School in Kampala. The decision to move to Kibuli was not an easy one. I was coming from Mengo Senior School where I had spent only a year, having left King’s College Budo after my four years there.

I anticipated that my life would not be the same again considering that this was my very first time in a Muslim school. At my former schools, I had enjoyed great opportunities for Christian fellowship and uninterrupted evangelism both King’s College Budo and Mengo Senior School, and now here I was at one of the top Muslim schools in the country! It was unimaginable for me what lay ahead.

Long story short, in the second term of that very year, I was appointed the School Bishop taking over from my dear friend Philip Ahabwe. What this meant was that I was the custodian and leader of the Kibuli Christian Students Association (KCSA) with the responsibility of coordinating Christian activities such as worship services and small group fellowships in the school. This appointment helped me realize that my fears of how I was to continue serving God and growing my faith in Christ were not as relevant as before. One of the reasons is because of people like Mr. Stephen Mugume who was then the Director of Studies (DOS) and Mr. Timothy Ssejjoba our fellowship patron.

The late Mr. Stephen Mugume giving a speech at a function

To shine the light on the person and impact of Mr. Mugume, I would like to say that pages would fill this whole earth to tell of a whole package of the attributes of hard work, consistency, faith in students and a great love for Jesus, all wrapped up in this man! I do not know of any student, Christian or Muslim, that ever dreamed of being in DOS’s bad books because when it came to correcting those in wrong, he did it so perfectly, and yet I also know a great number of students that would always line up at his office to seek counsel and wisdom whether it was spiritual or academic.

Before handing over office, one of my desires was to provide an opportunity for Christian students to have some form of entertainment and so I contacted a close ministry friend, Mr. Fred Kamson, whose evangelistic ministry was enveloped in reaching students through movies, music,and documentaries. However, the challenge was how we were going to sell this idea to the school administrators. When I approached Mr. Mugume, he welcomed the idea, made a few suggestions, and then invited me to join him in meeting the Headteacher, Mr. Matovu. The beauty of this meeting was not the affirmative answer we got, no! It was the fact that Mr. Mugume did the speaking and as I watched how he carefully and with profound wisdom presented this whole idea to the Headteacher, I was convinced that being such a minority group in the school, we had an advocate in this man. Eventually, we were given permission to bring in the movies however, this was not the end of the road for Mr. Mugume. Whenever the movies were being aired, he joined our leadership team to supervise and ensure that everything was in order lest we attracted criticism that could lead to the scrapping off of this opportunity. This would sometimes go until 2 am especially on the days preceding the last day of the term (commonly known as Kilo more), and he was right there with us. Precisely, he made us feel we were never alone!

Those who met and lived with Mr. Mugume always felt they were never alone with him in their company

When I left Kibuli in 2010 and later felt the call to start an evangelistic ministry, his son, Denis Mugume was one of the people that believed in the vision. In 2012 in the company of Denis, Hakiza Moses, and Wana Benjamin, we started Pacesetters’ Initiative for Africa a youth outreach and evangelistic ministry in Uganda.

It is unimaginably hard to eulogize a man like Mr. Mugume Stephen. I am reminded of the old saying that goes, “A tree is best measured when it is laid down” and without any reasonable doubt, so many people have testified of this man’s impact in their lives since his passing. In the Old Testament, King David said to his men concerning Abner, who had been King Saul’s army commander, “Do you not realize that a prince and a great man has fallen in Israel this day” (2 Samuel 3:38)? Indeed, a man of gigantic faith and wisdom in our day “has proceeded home to glory… We praise the Lord for the life well-lived and legacy left behind”, just like Denis Mugume’s announcement read on social media on October 15th.

Mr. Mugume’s voice (bass) always reminded us why we were in school and to every student that went through his hands, he embodied a true example of a school administrator, a father, teacher, mentor, and patriot who genuinely loved and served his country in the very field God had called him to – Education. We miss him already!

Pastor Denis Mugume and his father Mr. Stephen Mugume

As a generation of young people, Mr. Mugume has passed on the baton to us. While he’s already in glory his works of charity, dedication to his work, untiring efforts to ensure the success of others, and a great team spirit are visibly inscribed on the hearts of those who knew him and without any doubt, even those who never had the opportunity of meeting this selfless man will have a glimpse of who this man was. Before Billy Graham died, he told his audience, “One day you will wake up to the news that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t believe a thing of that because at that time I will be more alive than I am now,” and so we believe that because of His faith in the person of Jesus Christ, Mr. Mugume is in heaven and for those of us who live with the same hope, look forward to meeting him there.

On behalf of my family and the entire family of Pacesetters’ Initiative for Africa, we pray that the God of all comfort continues to comfort Mama, Denis, Stuart, Dan, Doris, and the entire family.

In all things, give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18)!

O, Lord do it again!

Do you have a desire in your heart to see certain things happen in your lifetime? Have you taken off some time to think and possibly imagine what God would do in your life and through you to bring transformation in your community and generation?

The Pacesetters Ministry Team praying at the 5th Anniversary dinner in 2017

Well, yesterday I received an email that stirred my heart towards this direction as I read the story that was featured. Doctor J. Edwin Orr, the greatest authority ever on revival in the church was a lecturer at Wheaton College. He took some students in 1940 on a brief visit to England, to visit the Epworth refectory where John Wesley was based. So, besides the bed on which Wesley slept were two worn impressions in the carpet where it was said that John Wesley knelt for hours in prayer for England’s social and spiritual renewal. As the students were getting on the bus, Dr. Orr noticed one of his students was missing. Going back upstairs, he found the student kneeling on the carpet knee-holes praying with his face on the bed. “Oh Lord, do it again! Do it again!” Dr. Orr placed his hand on the student’s shoulder and said gently, “Come on Billy, we must be going.” And rising, Billy Graham joined the bus.

What a story! God surely did it again in the lifetime of Billy Graham and this He did through the life and ministry of this man, who has been branded as the greatest evangelist of the 20th century. His heart was beating for a moral and spiritual renewal for his generation and the Lord surely answered his prayer. Can the Lord do it in our life as well? Oh yes, the Bible tells us that with God all things are possible, and so as we commit ourselves to earnest prayer God will answer this prayer. As I write this, my heart is likewise beating with an unquenchable desire for a moral and spiritual renewal for my generation.

A genuine conversion: I yearn for a genuine conversion of souls. At the advent of the East Africa revival in the late 1920s when Dr. Joe Church met with Simeon Nsibambi at Namirembe hill in 1929, there was a great move of the Holy Spirit and as these two men read the scriptures together, they reflected on the shallowness of their faith as they studied scriptures. The European repented of his racial pride and the African his tribal pride. This eventually sparked the revival across Uganda and in many parts of Africa. Thousands upon thousands came to the Lord in the years that followed, young and old, small and great alike. Those who practiced witchcraft and sorcery gave up all their elements and committed to following Christ and it was evident that society had been turned the right side up for Christ. While William Carey the father of modern missions was quick to trust God for great things, he was remarkably slow to accept a profession of faith from any new convert, even when there was substantial sacrifice involved. One of his sayings was “Let nothing short of a radical change of heart in your converts satisfy.”

Great reverence for God’s word: The Psalmist wrote, “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises” (Psalm 119:148), and “Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your word is not obeyed” (Psalm 119:136). I desire that Christians in my generation will study the holy scriptures with great reverence and walk in obedience. Not merely reading the Bible to pick out the promises of God that speak to their situations alone and yet live contrary to the demands of God.

A concern for the souls of men: The Bible says that “Lot, a righteous man, was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men…he was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard” (2 Peter 2:7-8). The Bible also says that our Lord Jesus Christ “had compassion on the people because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). I desire that Christians in my generation will be distressed and made uncomfortable by what’s going on in our broken world and that they will be moved to pray for our world and reach out to those in need without any reservation but with genuine love.

Boldness in proclaiming the word of God: I yearn to see that time in our generation where God’s people in my generation will proclaim God’s timeless truth with such a great boldness in their communities without any fear of offending anybody. The early Church was founded on this kind of boldness exercised by the early Christians during one of the most dangerous periods of ancient history. As a result of this boldness, many people came to the Lord including those in authority.

William Wilberforce in the British Parliament

Lives of purpose and dedication: I ask of the Lord for that moment in my lifetime where Christians will live with steadfast commitment and purpose in their areas of influence and workplaces. When Wilberforce was elected to the British Parliament in 1780 at the age of 21, he purposely worked and dedicated himself toward the abolition of the slave trade, and in 1807, 20 years of the struggle against this evil trade, the Abolition Bill was passed in the House of Lords. William bent forward in his seat, his head in his hands, tears of gratitude streaming down his face that his long crusade had been crowned with success by Almighty God. William always believed, “If a man becomes a Christian, it should influence everything he thinks and does.”

The Pacesetters Initiative for Africa ministry seeks to point the generation to Christ. This is the beginning of a purposeful life, when one’s life is rooted in Christ.

Unity in the Church. Lastly, I desire that there comes a time in my lifetime where the Church of Christ comes together, laying aside our different notions, creeds and, denominational differences. That we shall be united by love and grace that is found in the Christ we preach to the world. The Bible says, “All the believers were together and had everything in common…Everyday they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…” (Acts 2:44-47).

That is my earnest desire and prayer to God Almighty, that by His mercies, I will live to see this in my lifetime!

Facing the giants of our time

While growing up in a Christian home, one of the stories ever told to us during Sunday school was the story of David and Goliath in 1Samuel 17. The animation of this story at the time spoke to our little minds that as children of God we could fight anything that stood in our way and win every battle if we had our confidence rested in God just like David.

According to the story, Goliath rehearsed his threats every morning and evening (v.16), a thing that caused untold fear in the hearts of the Israelites. He was a fiercely decorated fighter upon whose sight the soldiers of Saul’s army were belittled and made it seem like they had never been for any military training.

However, despite what was happening and the fact that at the time it appeared like there was no one strong enough to counter this giant, someone had to eventually come out and bring this to an end. Could a young man like David meet the expectations and qualifications of a warrior like Goliath? From an ordinary perspective, it was definitely unthinkable for a young man like David to even imagine coming face to face with this Philistine. However, looking at the last part of chapter 16 gives us an idea of what kind of man would think of contending with a giant like Goliath.

The Bible says that when a search was conducted for who could play the harp for the king whenever he was tormented by an evil spirit, one of the servants mentioned that he had seen “a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp…” (v.18). This very servant pointed out five qualities he had observed about David that made him fit for the opportunity.

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Encourage the youth to pay attention to what God has called them to do and seek to be equipped in that particular field.

Knowledge: First and foremost, David knew how to play the harp. There’s no doubt that there were other people in Saul’s kingdom that knew how to play the harp, however from the report of this servant there was something unique and extraordinary about David and the way he played the harp. I always encourage youth to pay close attention to what they believe is their field of influence and where possible seek education in that very field so that they are equipped and seasoned for greater impact.

 

He was brave and a warrior: Secondly, the servant observed that David was not the kind that could easily give up on what he knew was rightfully his, especially if he knew it was going to bring glory to his God. I believe God is calling forth men and women in our time who are not afraid of doing that which brings honor to God and edifies those around them even when it isn’t considered ‘cool’ by many. Sometimes God takes us through very difficult situations, and it is from these that we learn some tough lessons that eventually become a blessing to others through the storms they might be enduring.

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A generation of youth that is brave and not afraid to live for Christ even when it is branded ‘not cool!’

He spoke well: Looking at the scene of battle in 1 Samuel 17, I think about how David would have confronted this giant if fear, anxiety, and even uncertainty were found in his speech. The story would probably have been different. On the contrary, we see a young man confident in his speech (v. 45-47). The Apostle Paul wrote to his spiritual son in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” This is the attitude of world-changers!

 

Fine-looking man: There are many people in our time who have wrongly interpreted and eventually wrongly applied the scripture that says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). In return, we have had Christians who are indecent in their dress code and Christians who make no effort in looking decent at the pulpit or at an interview. Now, this doesn’t mean that David wore a Tuxedo for this battle. In our everyday battle against diseases that wreck our immune system due to poor eating habits, we must learn to keep in shape and remain physically fit to be able to effectively do what God has called us to do. Also, David didn’t look timid or a weakling before this giant.

 

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World changers are those who are certain that God is with them and that with Him all things are possible.

The Lord was with him: Throughout history, the people that have made a mark for the Kingdom of God are those who have been certain of God’s presence with them. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was purportedly asked if God was on his side. “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side,” said the President, “my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” Knowing that with God all things are possible should encourage us to step out and shine the light of the gospel in a world full of hate when people should be loving (Matt. 5:16).

My friend, in facing the giants of our time; immorality, sickness and disease, divorce, racial injustice, and all Satan’s schemes working against God’s will for His children, we must remember that in every pursuit, we must fix our eyes on Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). The difference is not in what weapons or strategies we use for battle but that “the weapons of our warfare are made mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).

Where do broken hearts go?

A few days ago, I was walking through town and there was this song by Whitney Houston that was playing through the loudspeaker – “Where do broken hearts go…?” I stopped for a minute and critically listened to the words.

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Thousands in our community are broken and are looking for peace and joy that only Christ Jesus offers.

And I sensed that there are millions of people around the world and thousands in our community whose hearts have been broken as a result of failed relationships, broken promises, the loss of a loved one and the terrible news from the doctor of an illness that is eating up one’s immune system. We live in a broken world with so many broken people that are hurting, and as I closely listened to this 1987 song, I simply remembered the words of Psalm 61:2, “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Broken hearts have a refuge, a place where they can find full recovery and restoration – in Jesus Christ, the Rock of ages!

The chorus of this song goes like;

Where do broken hearts go
Can they find their way home
Back to the open arms
Of a love that’s waiting there
And if somebody loves you
Won’t they always love you
I look in your eyes
And I know that you still care, for me

The Bible teaches that people are created in the image of God (Gen.1:27) and that God knows how we are formed (Psalm 103:14). There’s nothing about us and what we go through that is strange to God our Creator. He knows the right condition of our hearts at whatever time of the day it is (Psalm 44:21).

Can they find their way home, back to the open arms of a love waiting there: Jesus in Luke 15:11-32 told his disciples the parable of the prodigal son. In this parable, Jesus said that this son had asked his father to give him his share of the estate. Not long after that he gathered up everything he had and went to a distant country where he squandered his wealth in wild living. Life eventually became so hard for him that when a great famine hit that whole country, he was in great need and so he went to be hired as a caretaker for pigs.

He was in such a desperate situation that “he longed to fill his stomach with the pods the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything” (Luke 15:16).

Back to the open arms of a love that is waiting there: Jesus further narrated that when the boy came to his senses he recounted and finally resolved to go back to his father. The Bible says that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). There’s absolutely nothing in this life we can experience that God has not endured in God’s human life as Jesus, for He was tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus said that “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (v.20).

My friend, God knows our every weakness and He stretches out His arms wide open for you and me to come to Him for mercy and forgiveness. What Whitney Houston did not sing in that song is that the world doesn’t have the peace and rest that broken hearts long for. There’s only one way through which every broken heart can be fully mended and restored and that is in Jesus Christ; “…my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). In Him, there’s healing and forgiveness for every broken heart that is yielded to Him without any reservation.

The words of St. Augustine serve us a great reminder, “You have made us for yourself O, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Find rest in God, today!

The ripple effect of our work

“One generation shall laud Your works to another and shall declare Your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4

I have often been inspired by the work and ministry of the Rev. Billy Graham who went to be with the Lord in 2018. Mr. Graham was one of the most important Christian leaders of the twentieth century, and possibly the most important evangelical leader in history (David Barnes, 2018). It is on record that he preached to more than 200 million people in live audience throughout the 60 years of his ministry.

However, this legacy and impact can be traced back to an old-time Sunday school teacher by the name Edward Kimball. One day Mr. Kimball noticed that one of his students was usually dull and not as active, and eventually decided to meet him at his father’s shop. The result of these meetings led to the conversion of 17-year-old Dwight L. Moody in 1854.  Later in his life, as Moody preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, the heart of a local Pastor, F.B. Meyer was stirred up with a fresh desire to preach the gospel with refined power and energy. As Meyer embarked on his evangelistic campaigns, J. Wilbur Chapman, a student was converted. As time went by and Mr. Chapman preached the message of Christ, Billy Sunday was converted at one of his meetings and eventually started a life of ministry. Later, a local businessman, Mordecai Ham was also converted at a Billy Sunday meeting. In 1934, when Mordecai Ham was invited to Charlotte North Carolina on a preaching tour, 16-year-old Billy Graham gave his life to Jesus and God eventually called him to a life of dedicated service. Just think about it; it all started with one faithful person and the ripples moved over throughout different generations!

Pacesetters Volunteer Program

Photo, Pacesetters Volunteer program: Here I was working with John Cranmer, a university student whom I have walked with and mentored since 2016.

In the last 8 years, as I have preached the message of Jesus Christ across Uganda, I have had the priceless opportunity of coming face to face with thousands of youth in schools and universities most of whom are dealing with the pressures that life presents and also struggling to deal with the undesirable consequences of the wrong choices they’ve made. Many of these young people are battling addictions, they have lost their identity especially as a result of living in a world that is constantly changing and at the same time throwing countless ideas of what the ideal life of to be. This has largely negatively impacted them!

It is at this point that I believe our generation is in need of men and women who, like Edward Kimball, will go out of their way and comfort zones, to reach out with intention to a spiritually and morally dying generation. We can no longer turn a blind eye to what is happening in our generation. As Christians, we must understand that God has handed us an assignment, through Jesus Christ, to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20).

As we faithfully serve the Lord in our different capacities and across different cultures, I am convinced that God is going to work in and through us to turn men’s hearts toward Him, and eventually our communities and nations will be changed. Billy Graham once said, “We cannot have world peace until we have peace in our hearts.” This peace in our hearts can only be achieved through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – the Prince of peace. And as we reach one person at a time, with intention and dedication, the ripples of our work will eventually be realized across the generations to come!

The reason for this hope that I have

My faith rests on Christ and His finished work. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (1 Cor.15:19 NLT). I know that when my times comes to depart, I will be with Jesus. That’s my living hope. Not only for this life but even for life after.

The anchor that holds us in the storm!

I once read that during the Civil war in America, President Abraham Lincoln told one of his friends that, “I knelt down with the conviction that I had nowhere else to turn but God!” War definitely is a period that results into destruction of property and loss of lives; a time of havoc and wreck and I believe there are nations and communities right now that are almost at a brink of war. However, I am also aware that there are millions of people across the globe that have war raging through their hearts.

The Apostle Peter wrote, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in this world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). And James further notes that, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you” (James 4:1)? There’s war going on in the hearts of many and as a result the world is in chaos. The bomb is not the problem of our world but the man with the remote that triggers the bomb into explosion. The hearts of men are restless world over! St. Augustine expressed this in the words, “Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

As many people wrestle in their hearts with depression, anxiety, hatred, fear and worry, I believe there’s an anchor that is able to hold us through when we trust in Him. One of ancient Israel’s greatest kings, King David wrote, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in time of trouble” (Psalm 46:1). When we are uncertain of what tomorrow will be like; what schools to take our children to in the wake of the moral landslide in our education system, and when consumed by the fear of the unknown, we have the cross to turn to. While exiled at St. Helena, Napoleon Bonaparte remarked that, “Jesus Christ is not man, He is God!” He is able to take us through the storms of life that rage in our economy as a nation and in our individual lives. He is mightier than our foes and the problems that seem so hard to surmount.

What are we to do when faced with trouble? James 5:13 tells us to pray. And when we do that earnestly and with sincerity, we will be able to say like the Psalmist, “I call on the Lord in my distress and He answers me” (Psalm 120:1). God stretches out His hand of salvation freely and if we can only respond through prayer, we will be anchored and not be swept away by the immoral, economic and political storms that are sweeping across the world in our generation.