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After four years serving in Uganda, James and Claire Gibson give us an insight into what it’s like for young people to grow up in the church in Uganda.
What is faith like for young Ugandans? Often it may be so firmly established in their families that they don’t think about it consciously. It is just a normal part of daily life to go to church, to pray regularly. However, these young people may not have a faith that is alive, or a relationship with Jesus.
Abdul is a final year vet student. He is originally from Sierra Leone but has been studying in Uganda. Abdul is also a Muslim.
Recently he went through two weeks of intensive practical surgical and anaesthesia training with James at the USPCA (Ugandan Society for the Protection and Care of Animals). During this time we saw Abdul’s character blossom as he developed confidence in his surgical abilities and his anaesthesia skills. Abdul confided in us that he was always afraid to try things for fear of making mistakes. This led to a great conversation where we discussed how we all make mistakes but that we can learn from them, and that God accepts us and loves us despite those mistakes. We held prayer times as part of the training weeks and Abdul participated in these. Pray for Abdul and for opportunities to continue sharing the gospel with him and other students.
Faith that trusts God
But there are many young Ugandans for whom faith is an integral part of their lives. Prayer times and going to church or Christian meetings are essential features in their week. Their reliance on God, for his provision in their lives and sustenance in difficult times, is something we can learn from when we often default to relying on our own strengths.
Sometimes the messages the churches are giving young people to base their lives on may not be based on biblical truth. They may have subtle alterations in the emphasis of the gospel, such as the prosperity gospel. This can be an attractive proposition to those who find themselves in desperate situations, like students who are not sure where the next tuition fees are going to come from, or young people who have family who are sick and can’t afford medical bills.
Dangers of a false gospel
The danger of the prosperity gospel is that it often stresses how much effort needs to be put into the faith of the individual. Young people can end up convinced that if they don’t pray for long enough, speak in tongues loud enough, or if they don’t give enough to the offering, then God will not help them. This ends up putting the responsibility as to whether God will act back onto the individual and denies God his position as omnipotent creator.
There are also many cults operating in Uganda. They are often described as mainstream Christian churches, but their theology, doctrines and practices eventually mislead young people and take them away from Jesus.
It is so important that young Ugandans hear the true gospel, are discipled, and are encouraged to share the gospel themselves. The veterinary students at the University where James teaches are men and women seeking God’s truth, and Acacia International School, where Claire is the Principal, weaves faith into all aspects of the school to show God’s love to the students there. We feel that discipling these young people is at the heart of our ministry in Uganda.