1996
Missionary Efforts Spur Growth in Uganda, Africa
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“Missionary Efforts Spur Growth in Uganda, Africa,” Ensign, July 1996, 78

Missionary Efforts Spur Growth in Uganda, Africa

“I was just walking about in Kampala one Sunday, and I heard music,” remembers Elder Charles Mugisha, a Ugandan who is currently serving as a full-time missionary in the Kenya Nairobi Mission, of which Uganda is a part. “I went into the building and was welcomed by an Elder and Sister Draper. I never believed I would one day be teaching the gospel!”

The spirit of missionary work is strong in Uganda, a landlocked east-central African nation of some 21 million people. About one-third of the missionaries serving throughout the Kenya Nairobi Mission are Ugandan natives, and the seven branches of Uganda’s two districts are thriving under the ministry of well-trained local leaders who are often returned missionaries. “The returned missionaries can teach well, and they are good to activate members. The small children love them,” says President William Kayingi of the Kampala district, which is named after Uganda’s capital city. The industrial town of Jinja is the headquarters of the nation’s other district, led by President George M Ogutu.

Home to the headwaters of the Nile River and surrounded by the larger countries of Zaire, Sudan, Kenya, and Tanzania, Uganda has experienced much turmoil throughout its history. Formed around the nucleus of a 19th-century British protectorate, Uganda gained its modern borders by 1926 and achieved independence in 1962. Though English is the nation’s official language, Uganda is home to at least 20 black ethnic groups, each of which has its own language. Like many other sub-Saharan African nations, Uganda has suffered economic damage and social upheaval in recent years. Since 1986, however, the nation has enjoyed a measure of peace. When Elder James E. Faust, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated the land in late October 1991 for the preaching of the gospel and the establishment of the Church, he petitioned the Lord that Uganda might become a more “peaceful, pluralistic society so that all of thy children in this land may worship according to their own conscience. May the governments be benign and foster religious freedom” (Ensign, Feb. 1992, 77).

The restored gospel gained a foothold in Uganda when Guy Denton arrived in March 1990 from Sterling, Utah, to fulfill a three-year USAID assignment. Brother Denton, his wife, Peggy, and the couple’s six children began holding Church services in their home. They quickly found Ugandans who were interested in meeting with them. The first full-time missionaries, Lark and Arlea Washburn of Mesa, Arizona, arrived in December 1990. From these early beginnings, the Church has grown to more than 800 members in just five years.

“I’m so grateful the Lord has sent missionaries to our land,” says Irene Ndaula of the Kabowa Branch. “I never felt so much love.” Sister Ndaula’s husband, Francis, says: “Since I joined the Church, I have hope. Before I found the Church, I had no job, my wife and I were angry most of the time, and my children would often go to bed without food. I have a job now, and we are blessed with great happiness.”

As Ugandans return from missionary service to strengthen their home branches, other young Ugandans prepare in seminary and institute classes for their future missions—and for life. Upon completion of the Young Women “Experiment upon the Word” scripture reading project in the Jinja Branch last year, Rachel Kadama said: “I read the same chapter in Nephi three times and couldn’t understand what I was reading. Then I prayed about it, and I was able to understand the chapter.” With similar progress in learning about and applying gospel truths, Ugandans will continue to help the Church grow both in Uganda and abroad.

Church members pose at an auxiliary training session held during a Kampala Uganda District conference. (Photography by Gretchen Knecht Clark.)

A member, Francis Ndaula, is flanked by full-time missionaries Elder Gesimbe of Kenya (left) and Elder Mugisha of Uganda.

Pictured here as full-time missionaries, Juliet Namasoke (top) now serves as a branch Relief Society teacher and Caroline Okello as Primary president in the Kampala district.