I never thought I’d meet President Jimmy Carter when I went to Uganda, but there he was. Of course, the Jimmy Carter I met was not the former United States President. No, he was a native Ugandan named after this well-known American leader. In any case, Jimmy Carter was an example of the success of cults in Uganda. How so? Because Brother Jimmy is a Mormon. As a matter of fact, he’s the stake president of the LDS church headquartered in Kampala, making him "President Jimmy Carter." Ironic, don’t you think? Especially in light of the fact that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter does believe Mormons are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As a former Mormon myself, I strongly disagree with Carter’s conclusion. At the same time, many Christians in Uganda also hold this belief. During the time Paul Carden and I spent in Uganda this fact became clear — as did many other challenges. One vivid example was in a discussion we had with an Anglican bishop. His office had a large personal library filling several bookcases. Yet he confessed that when a young woman asked him for advice about Mormonism, he had nothing to give her. I could hardly believe it! Here was a man at the center of ecclesiastical power, with numerous biblical commentaries, theological works, and other materials within arm’s reach, but he didn’t have a tract he could hand someone who needed to know the truth about Mormonism. Now imagine the average Ugandan pastor, with far less education, support, and resources! It was just one example of how severely underinformed and underequipped local pastors are for discernment and defending their flocks.
Paul and I also saw how quickly the cults are growing. Right after we arrived in Uganda, we unpacked and went straight to Jehovah’s Witness headquarters. They gave us an extensive tour, and our guide proudly explained that they’re now working in eight local languages besides English. (Paul remembered that they mentioned working in seven languages when he toured the same facilities in September, meaning that they’ve added a new language in under six months!) The Watchtower cult is working very aggressively in the region, and the increasing number of JW "publishers" going door-to-door shows their success.
But the growth of the Jehovah’s Witnesses seems small compared to the amazing number of indigenous cults and aberrant teachings. For example, we visited the Synagogue Church of All Nations, led by Samuel Kakande. A prophet who claims the ability to heal (think of an African Benny Hinn), he devotes weekly meetings to delivering people from their physical ailments. His church is built over a spring of holy water that’s said to possess miraculous powers. To our surprise, one of the sect’s leaders invited us to actually meet Prophet Kakande in his private quarters. While trying to impress us with his devotion to God, Kakande — who is alleged to worship a python spirit — evaded our questions about his relationship to controversial Ghanaian wonder-worker John Obiri Yeboah.
Did our trip leave us depressed and hopeless? Not at all! For God is truly at work Uganda. He graciously opened the way to give my testimony at a thriving downtown church, and my words were well received. We met with a wide range of missionaries and Christian leaders who wholeheartedly support our concerns, and they asked us for materials and training to help the church in Uganda to resist the advance of the cults. One great surprise came when we met with the principal and faculty of a respected evangelical seminary. I truly believe that we found kindred spirits there. Just one year ago this school accepted a special mandate from Christian leaders to address the challenge of cults in Uganda, and they were excited about the prospect of working together. By the end of our trip, our discussions went so well that CFAR even took the first steps toward a formal partnership with them. I see enormous potential in this arrangement! And this is but a small part of what I could tell you about what the Lord did in ten short days.
What can I say? God is great! Now my wife and I have an important decision to make. Is God calling us to move our family to Uganda and serve Him there? Our answer could permanently affect the lives of our entire family, especially our children. Moreover, many challenges would need to be overcome, including the need to raise the support to move my family of six (by then) half-way around the world! Over the next few weeks my wife and I will be prayerfully considering our future. Please continue to pray with us as we seek God about becoming missionaries to East Africa.
As we pray, let’s remember the confident words that the Apostle Paul gave to the Ephesian church: "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)