The Power of Faith
For you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
36, 39, RSV
Today we remember the Martyrs of Uganda, 32 young men of the court of King Mwanga of Buganda, who were burned to death on June 3, 1886 for refusing to renounce Christianity. “The example of these martyrs, who walked to their death singing hymns and praying for their enemies, so inspired many of the bystanders that they began to seek instruction from the remaining Christians. Within a few years, the original handful of converts had multiplied many times. Uganda is now the most Christian nation in Africa.”
Lesser Feasts and Fasts 1997
, Church Publishing, Inc., New York)
I can never think of this day without remembering one of my seminary classmates, the Rev. Joel Nafuma. A Ugandan priest trained in Africa, Joel came to the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1972 to deepen his Anglican roots. Yet to do so, he and his wife had to leave all their worldly possessions and all their money at home. The Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, would not allow any material wealth to leave his country. After graduation, Joel returned to Uganda and served with distinction until Amin was overthrown.
In the early 1980s, Joel was called to St. Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church in Rome to take up a formal ministry towards Africans and other refugees there. His work was so significant that in 1995, the ministry was renamed The Joel Nafuma Refugee Center, and it has provided assistance, meals, education and other support to thousands of persons who have been displaced from their homelands.
All this was made possible by a man who followed the example of the Martyrs of Uganda and trusted God to guide and empower him to fulfill the call to serve, who never wavered even in the face of difficulties, which I could not even imagine.
A prayer for today
O God, grant that we who remember the blessed martyrs of Uganda, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, so that we may also serve people in need and bring forth a plentiful harvest of believers. Amen.
The Rev. John R. Bentley, Jr.