HISTORY OF PENTECOSTALISM IN UGANDA
In the winter of 1955 – 56, during a week night service, God gave a prophetic call to Glad Tidings take the “Full Gospel” to Uganda, East Africa. The application to the British Governor of Uganda for permission to enter the country to do missions work was denied because some religious leaders of that day did not want Pentecostals in Uganda. Nevertheless, believing this was the call of God, the church began to pray fervently for Divine intervention.
In December 1956 Hugh and Audrey Layzell were sent to Kenya to work with the Elim missionaries of New York until the door opened to Uganda. That door opened in May 1960, when Glad Tidings Missionary Society was issued a permit to do Mission work in Uganda. Hugh and Audrey Layzell began the work that May followed by a team of G.T. missionaries in the 60’s namely Jean Christenson, Dorothy Williams, Bill and Gerda Brown, Eleanor Webb, Betty Caron, Dave and Velma Freeman, Lou and Marion Peterson, John and Jean Lofstrom , Bob and Sharon Wagar.
The Gospel Mission to Uganda (which birthed the Full Gospel Churches of Uganda) was incorporated under the Unlimited Companies Act in October 1960 and became the first “Pentecostal” Mission or church to be granted that legal status in Uganda.
Certainly one of the most momentous events of the history of the ‘Pentecostal movement’ in Uganda was the Daoud Crusade at Mengo “Kabaka Anjagala” in February 1961, sponsored by the Gospel Mission. This first Salvation/Healing Crusade in Uganda coincided with the opening of the tent Tabernacle at Makerere in December 1960.
The Crusade drew thousands for 3 weeks. There were many miracles of healing and many souls came to Christ. 365 people were baptized in the Kabaka’s Lake after the Crusade, and the Tent at Makerere was packed out week after week for months. During that period ‘lubale’ fetishes were being burned as men and women believed on Jesus for salvation and new believers continued to be baptized in Kabaka’s Lake. In 1962 another significant event took place.
Art and May Dodzweit sent by Elim (PEFA) from Kenya founded the Elim Church in Mengo.
Another important milestone was the pioneering work of Rev. Brown of the Pentecostal Assemblies Of Canada, (PAOC). He came to Mbale in late 50’s and started a work mostly centered in Eastern Uganda.
Yet another significant event took place in the 60’s. In 1967 five High School Students and a teacher called Moses Ochwo along with Evangelist Joe Kayo started the “Young Christian Ambassadors” fellowship. It grew between 1969 and 1970 and in 1971; the “Young Christian Ambassadors” became the Deliverance Church in Uganda.
1972 marked the beginning of the Redeemed Church in Kibuye. However, in September 1977, President Idi Amin banned Pentecostal Churches and on 12th April 1978 armed soldiers stormed and desecrated the Full Gospel Church, at Makerere arresting 200 believers. The churches then went underground and grew even more during the persecution.
After the fall of Idi Amin in 1979, freedom of Worship was restored and tens of thousands of different Pentecostal churches blossomed. In addition to the churches and ministries earlier mentioned, the last three decades have seen the growth, establishment and organization of churches under different umbrellas such as; Miracle Center Churches, National Fellowship of Born Again Pentecostal Churches, Born Again Faith Federation of Uganda and Evangelical Fellowship of Uganda among others. The impact of what the Holy Spirit has done through the Pentecostal Church in this Country is nothing less than phenomenal. Schools, orphanages, medical services, income generating projects and others have sprung up, not to mention the church’s powerful influence on the entire fabric of Ugandan society.
Pentecostalism is one of the most influential and fastest-growing “movement” in the world. However, the Pentecostal movement in Uganda had humble beginnings. In the early 60’s spirit filled believers were stereotyped as poor, ignorant, fanatical, and semiliterate people. At first they were marginalized, ridiculed and greatly despised by traditional churches. Now the “Abalokole Ab’omwoyo” or spirit filled believers, by and large, have become part of mainstream Christianity in Uganda. It would be foolhardy to ignore them.
“Pentecostals” by virtue of their strong evangelistic stance, style of worship and music plus their great appeal to people of all ages and all backgrounds, have influence that goes beyond their numbers. It is in this spirit that all Pentecostal churches, believers, umbrella organizations and different Pentecostal streams in Uganda desire to come together as one big river to strengthen the movement that envision Pentecostalism as the Uganda’s future leading Christian Church. We call upon every Pentecostal to view themselves as persons of influence, each Pentecostal family, and church, organization to see the far we have come and then believe and cherish the vision of being not only the Uganda’s but the World’s leading church in the near future.