Uganda’s love for celebrity preachers

Sunday August 12 2012

Preacher Reinghard Bonnke was in Uganda early this year.

Preacher Reinghard Bonnke was in Uganda early this year. 

By Brian Mutebi

As Uganda marks her golden jubilee this year, for Christians, the crusade dubbed “Jubilee Crusade” in March this year by American based German-born evangelist Reighard Bonnke, was not only thematic but timely. Attendance was in thousands. The teaching was not only reminiscent of Uganda’s past, but prophetic. Hundreds matched to the alter call. The music was powerful. Jubilee it was.

But it is not only Bonnke who, among world-famous preachers, has, literally, shaken the grounds in Uganda. Benny Hinn did. And if there is one venue that has played host to these international preachers is Mandela National stadium, Namboole. “Namboole wakuyuguuma (shake),” one Christian stated on the eve of Hinn’s May 2007 “Holy Spirit Miracle Crusade”.

“Miracles!” reported one daily. “The young and old, male and female, local and foreign were healed of various ailments at Benny Hinn’s Namboole crusade.” Broadcast live to the international audience through GOD TV satellite network and through streaming internet, for the first time, Hinn himself could not help. “What a powerful crusade!” he exclaimed. “God is doing a mighty work throughout Africa. We have held crusades in nearby countries in the past few years, and now we have been blessed to hold this one among the precious people of Uganda. This has been a historic time.”

Coming on the heels of Benny Hinn crusade was Dr Creflo Dollar. “And to those of us who mind money, that was a must-not-miss,” John Michael Sonko of Faith Builders Ministries said of Dollar’s crusade. Thousands braved the sickening Jinja road traffic jam and all the hassle that characterise events at Namboole to listen to this internationally acclaimed preacher, founder and senior pastor of the 30,000 members World Changers Church International in the US, teach the Biblically tested and proven principles of prosperity.

The two minute sermon
Creflo Dollar came to teach prosperity in the world but one man came to teach the end of the world. It was Pastor Ray Bentley the founder and senior pastor of Maranatha Chapel San Diego that ministers to at least 7000 people weekly.

The two minute sermon
Bentley’s 2006 “Living in the last days” crusade in Kampala was held in Nakivubo World War II memorial stadium. One thing personally amazed me at this crusade. When it was Pastor Bentley’s time to speak, I set myself ready to listen to an hour long sermon. He spoke for about two minutes. “How could a man travel all way from the U.S, organise a mega crusade and speak for just two minutes?” I could not stop wondering. His message? “Be ready, Jesus is soon coming.” A missionary, Eric Caesar, one of the organisers was later to write in a newsletter; “The focus of this crusade was all about the truth… the truth of the return of Jesus Christ, and the need to be ready, be watchful and be labouring in his field of harvest until His sudden and swift return.”


People may attend these crusades, be healed and the like, but for organisers, it’s a hard task as Caesar admitted, “When Far Reaching Ministries and Maranatha Chapel of San Diego first put the idea in our collective heads about conducting a major crusade outreach in Kampala, more than a few people wondered, sometimes to themselves, often out loud, ‘Can we really pull this off?’ After all, the church had never done a crusade of this magnitude.”

Characteristic of these mega crusades by international preachers are statehouse receptions, leaders’ seminars and corporate and business breakfast. These meetings do not come cheap. For instance Creflo Dollar’s two day visit in Uganda cost up to 700 million shillings.

Dollar might have come in full coverage of the cameras but one preacher came rather silently, but significantly. She is a darling to many, mainly through her books and daily TV programme; Enjoying every day of your life. Joyce Meyer, author, speaker and teacher of the gospel was hosted by then Kampala Pentecostal Church (now Watoto church) in October 2008. The founder of Hands of Hope, an international relief and development charity organisation, Meyer visited charity projects, held a women’s conference and community crusades in Gulu town and at Namboole.

Dr Morris Cerrullo has also been to Uganda. This widely travelled man has healed and preached to millions across the globe through television and crusades in over 140 countries. In 1993, he preached in a crusade at Makerere University’s Freedom Square.

In 2007, he was invited by Pastor Robert Kayanja of Rubaga Miracle Cathedral where he held a leadership conference christened Fresh Fire Believers Rally. Pastor Kayanja has also hosted big names like Dr Paul Crouch, president of Trinity Broadcasting Network, a cable worldwide Christian TV channel. And together with Pastor Isaac Kiwewesi of Kansanga Miracle Centre, in 2005 hosted African American famed preacher; Bishop TD Jakes. Jakes is the founder of the Porters House and a renowned author and speaker in Men’s conferences.

Probably Uganda has hosted preachers from America than from any other part of the world. But if there is one acclaimed African evangelist who has stepped foot in Uganda in May, 2011, that was Bishop Enock Adeboye. Adeboye, a Nigerian based pastor, is the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Churches of God, one of the fastest growing Christian Churches in Nigeria and probably in Africa today.

Adeboye is also the host of annual Holy Ghost Congress which attracts over 7 million worshippers from all continents of the world. Adeboye is arguably one of the most famous pastors in Africa, so famous that in 2008 Newsweek magazine named him one of the 50 most powerful people in the world.

Many international preachers have visited Uganda in the last 50 years than we can possibly name, but not to mention Pastor Hugh D. Layzell is cheating history. Probably not so much known by the current generation but the name Layzell holds nostalgia memories for the Christians of 1960s and 1970s. He is the founding pastor of Makerere Full Gospel church, the first Pentecostal church in Uganda established in 1960.

This missionary from Vancouver Canada was a resident in Uganda in the 1960s preaching in Kampala and Masaka among other areas, only leaving the country during Uganda’s turbulent days of 1970s. Two of his recent visits were in 2004 when he came to open Makerere Full Gospel church’s new 2000-seater church building and in 2010 during the country’s celebration of 50 years of Pentecostal Movement.

Indeed many have made repeated visits. When Reinhard Bonnke visited in March, it was not his first. He had visited in 1989 and 1990. However, the 1990 visit was botched after he was forced off the pulpit at gunpoint. It is said Bonnke muttered the words, “Jinja is cursed” as he left the pulpit and threw his coat to the ground.

That is why on his return visit to Uganda, one newspaper had a screaming headline; ‘“God to free Jinja,” says Bonnke’. Indeed Bonnke travelled to Jinja and this time held a successful crusade in what cultivators of the 1990 Jinja event say was meant to “deliver the once Uganda’s leading industrial town”.

With this trend of rubbing shoulders with the hitherto TV-watched preachers only increasing, one wonders who shall we see in the next 50 years; Dr. Myles Munroe, Joel Osteen, Dr. Robert Schuller, Oral Roberts, Rebecca Brown MD or John Haggie?