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Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review: God's Economics

GOD MEANS BUSINESS: If you assumed that there is no correlation between wealth creation and God, you may need to think again. Reviewer Dennis D. Muhumuza writes that Hillary Turyagenda’s book shows you how.

Life is tough business and unless we learn God’s way of doing things and toe his line, like good apprentices, we shall continue to maunder about unable to maximise our potential. That sums up the content of Hillary Turyagyenda’s latest book, God’s Economics. The book, set to be launched this evening (yesterday) at Amagara Restaurant, is divided into four chapters: The Art of Receiving, The Joy of Seeking, Heaven is not Silent and Being Rich Toward God. 

The author draws from the Bible and life to argue his case out. He contends that everyone who is rich regardless of being a believer or not has been blessed by God who “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” So there is no such thing as “self-made” millionaires; they are all God-made!

Quoting Matthew 21:22 that whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive, he says we just have to ask God unreservedly, in faith, and all the desires of our hearts shall be granted. That a person who has learned to receive from God cannot remain the same no matter what condition you might be in.

Turyagyenda writes: “What needs to be borne in mind is that the poor person is changed after contact with God. He does not remain in his state. If it meant one was poor in physical terms as a general thing, the result is to become rich because Jesus became poor for us to be rich.”

The author says the reason people don’t enjoy the power of the Word of God is because they “just let it wash over them like water off a duck’s back.” That is, they don’t take time to understand and examine it.

The first point of understanding and enjoying God’s economics, writes Turyagyenda, is to believe: “Once we are saved three things happen to us: we come under the Lord’s protection, provision and supervision.”
He says heavens and the earth vividly declare the abundance and wealth of the God who set it all up, and that the fact that he gave planet earth to man shows how big-hearted and wealthy God is. To corroborate the freewill largess of the Creator, the author quotes Psalm 145: 16, “Thou openest thine hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing.”

Turyagyenda also presents the definitive definitions of true wealth, which has nothing to do with possessions. He particularly criticises the modern-day pastor’s obsession with material possessions: “Preachers ought to be well off financially but I do not think every preacher should try to top what all the wealthy people in town are doing…” The main point of the second chapter is that knowledge is power, and that to access this knowledge, the source of it who is God must be sought with the passion of a treasure hunter, or of a man chasing a woman he loves.

“To seek him means seeking what he is giving out; putting premium on what he puts premium on,” writes Turyagyenda, the point being that seeking the things of God first aligns us to God’s economic system that is not susceptible to theft or inflation, but instead brings greater rewards.

He cites the early church believers who shared everything: money, food and possessions to meet the needs of everybody but led more fulfilled lives, unlike today’s avarice and individualism that have spoiled things.
He argues that money is the starting point in learning about God’s economics; that those who use it to support the needy and advance the business of the Kingdom of God generally have grasped God’s economics. The author reminds those scampering after riches that a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things, which he possesses. He, however, clarifies that God is not necessarily against riches in the same way he is not pleased with poverty, but that if you follow him, you will wind up better off materially and in every other way.

God’s Economics is a content-driven spiritual book, written simply, with a convincing interpretation of the principles of the Bible. It also contains some hard truths that might rub the greedy modern-day man of God in the wrong spot. This is a book about success the God way that you might want on your bookshelf.

--Saturday Monitor, April 6, 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The man with a lion's heart

At a time when his faith was banned, Pastor Jotham Mutebi stood his ground and believed that his prayer would save him. Dennis D. Muhumuza writes that his courage has enabled him to touch many lives over the years.
In April 1978, Pastor Jotham Mutebi was leading prayers at Makerere Full Gospel Church when Idi Amin’s soldiers invaded the church and started shooting at the pulpit manically. The preacher knelt down, raised his hands and started praying in tongues. His congregants did the same. The soldier
s suddenly ceased fire and drew nearer to hear the strange language. Just then, the pastor heard the voice of God telling him: “You are not going to die now because there is work that you have not yet done.”

Pr Mutebi and I

The soldiers whipped the believers and drove them to Nakasero State Research Bureau, a place so dreaded because whoever went there rarely returned alive. There, Ps Mutebi was charged with treason for defying the president who had banned Pentecostalism. He either had to deny his God or face death by firing squad.

Pastor Obed Rubaiza, who was among the 200 believers arrested then, describes Pr Mutebi as a man with “a heart of lion” because he refused to denounce God with the jaws of death around his neck. He recalls a vicious soldier threatening to douse them with petrol and set them ablaze to see if God would save them like He had saved Daniel, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace.

But Ps Mutebi kept his trust in God and his faith was rewarded when Mustafa Adris, the then Internal Affairs Minister, who was supposed to sign their death warrant got an accident. That day, Amin demoted him on grounds that he had been plotting to overthrow his government. The death warrant was never signed and the prisoners were released with a warning never to preach the gospel again.

“When the church reopened after the fall of Amin, church leaders in exile and former missionaries were all coming back, wanting to take their former leadership positions in the church and Pr Mutebi who had endured the worst of times stepped in and ably steered the church to safety,” says Ps Rubaiza.

His stellar performance inspired by loyalty to the truth of the gospel got him elevated to the top leadership as General Overseer of Full Gospel Churches of Uganda. He held the title for more than 10 years, earning the revered title of “Bishop.”

Ps Jothan Basil Mutebi was born the eighth of 10 children in 1944 to an Orthodox father, Erika Mukasa, and a Catholic mother, Malita Namusoke. In 1964 he attended a Morris Cerullo crusade at Nakivubo Stadium and saw the blind see and the lame walk. He remembers that although the clouds were pregnant with rain, when the preacher prayed for the clouds to hold back that rain until all the people who were attending the crusade had reached home, it happened. “The preacher also preached from the Old Testament whereas the Orthodox priests, whom I was accustomed to, preached only from the New Testament.

The fact that it did not rain and the miracles that I had witnessed at the crusade all seemed new, and touched my life deeply,” he writes in his autobiography, Life Through the House of Death. “This marked the greatest turning point of my life and an entire new beginning. I pledged my allegiance to Jesus Christ and started to follow Him from that moment to this day.”

After completing his Cambridge examinations (the equivalent of O- level) at Chwa II Memorial School, he attended Bible school and preached a lot over the weekend in Kivulu, Nakawa, Kibuli, Kisenyi and Nakulabye. This is when he met Lovincer, his wife of 43 years and mother of their four children.

He got his first pastoral job in Entebbe, and part-timed as a clerk at the Kampala headquarters church. “There’s no joy in all the earth greater than that of winning a soul for Jesus Christ,” he justifies, regarding all the open meetings he held in Entebbe converting many for Christ. After planting a Full Gospel Church there, he was wooed back to Kampala in 1972 and made Principal of a Bible College and Treasurer of the Full Gospel Churches of Uganda.

He would occasionally interpret for the missionaries preaching the gospel in Kampala. When the missionaries were dismissed by Idi Amin in 1973, Ps Mutebi took on the responsibility of the gospel work as the secretary and one of the directors of the Gospel Mission in Uganda. In addition to all these responsibilities, he became associate pastor at Makerere Full Gospel until 1980.

In 1979, Pr Mutebi went to Glad Tidings Church in Canada for a Diploma in Ministerial Studies. Upon his return, he pastored Masaka Full Gospel Church for eight (years/months) before returning to Makerere Full Gospel Church as senior pastor. In 1989, he was appointed the General Overseer of Full Gospel Churches in Uganda and president of the Gospel Mission to Uganda up to 2011.

It is in recognition of his selfless contribution to Pentecostalism in Uganda that last Sunday (March 3rd), pastors around the country gathered at Makerere Full Gospel to celebrate the man they described as a model of service above self and an exemplary warrior of Christ.

“This special Sunday we have come to thank God for His faithfulness and grace in using Pr Mutebi for a long time; it’s good for the church to honour him, bless him, encourage him and reward him,” said Pr Fred Wantaate of Makerere Full Gospel Church. “Mutebi is still an elder and counsellor and we are praying for him to stay with us and continue to serve the Lord.”

Among other distinguished guests was Gen David Sejusa, who gave Pr Mutebi two cows for taking care of his grandmother and preaching the gospel with her for m
any years, and Princess Muggale, sister to Sir Edward Mutesa II, who too got saved in the 1960s and got baptised by immersion in the Kabaka’s Lake in Mengo along with Pr Mutebi.

So much was said about the transparency and exemplariness of Pr Mutebi as a pastor, leader, mediator, mentor, educator, supervisor, counsellor, husband and father that if all the great things said about him were gold medals, they would have filled the huge church auditorium. His autobiography Life Through the House of Death was launched, and a cake in the design of an open Bible was cut and shared. The sage was given a cheque of 50million shillings as a token of appreciation.

The activist poet who does not stick to the script


When he first came to Uganda in 2005, he advised writers not to constrain themselves by labelling their works. “Do not go out of your way to say this poem is about peace,” he said. “It might not be.”

An intriguing statement considering that a writer is expected to know the subject matter better. But that is Prof Jack Mapanje – ever unpredictably interesting in his sayings as in his writings.

Mapanje shows off some of his books. Photo by Dennis D. Muhumuza
The celebrated Malawian poet, once jailed by President Hastings Kamuzu Banda for his critical writings, was in the country, courtesy of the African Writers’ Trust (AWT), to deliver a keynote address at the Uganda International Writers Conference, held in Entebbe, from March 7-12.

AWT is a London-based organisation, founded in 2009 by Ugandan writer Goretti Kyomuhendo, to link and coordinate African writers in the Diaspora and on the continent to share skills, resources and experiences.
Mapanje, who has lived in exile in UK for 21 years, jumped at the chance to come to Uganda again.

Not just because his daughter is married to a Ugandan, but also because he “owes” his life to Ugandans who he says played a significant role in his release from prison in 1991.

Then, members of Makerere University Travelling Theatre staged a play in which they wore costumes that read: “Release Jack Mapanje.” His release was on the day the play premiered, after spending “three years, seven months, 16 days and 12 hours” in the then dreaded Mikuyu prison.

Prior to his arrest in 1987, he was head of Department of English, University of Malawi, who had caught the literary world’s eye with his poetry collection, Of Chameleons and Gods (1981) which won the 1988 Rotterdam International Poetry Award.

After his release, Mapanje went to UK where he continued to write. He also taught literature of incarceration and creative writing at University of Leeds for three years.

He also edited the acclaimed Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing (2002), the same year he won the African Literature Association’s Fonlon-Nichols Award in the US. Meanwhile, University of Stirling, Scotland, awarded him an honorary doctorate for his contribution to poetry and human rights.

He is now a visiting professor at York St John University, North Yorkshire, who is on sabbatical leave working in the Department of English, University of Botswana.
Mapanje’s 2011 memoir, And Crocodiles Are Hungry at Night, proves that his relationship with writing continues to glow and grow.

At the sagely age of 69, he has certainly seen it all; the beauty and the ugliness as a writer in Africa and in the Diaspora. AWT could not have found a better candidate to speak on the theme: “Talking Across Diaspora Across Continents.”
"Honorary lovers and supporters of the word; colleagues and friends in writing, let me start with the conclusion of my address,” he said, catching everyone by surprise that they laughed. He thanked AWT for bringing together writers in the Diaspora because they rarely meet to talk about their writings.

“Gatherings like these help us to know each other and keep Africa writing,” he said. “We should not separate ourselves, we should not be discriminatory, and we should continue working for the good of each other.”

He said the best of writers “represent the conscience and memory of their generation”, arguing that there should be no “prescription of what a writer should write about. Let them just write and write well.”
He said African writers living abroad should drop the label of African writer in the Diaspora but simply consider themselves as in their adopted homes.

On Tuesday, March 12, Mapanje had an interactive session with literature students at Makerere University at which a student, Brenda Kyarisima, recited one of his popular poems, Skipping without Ropes.

The students asked all sorts of questions and professed how much they had been inspired by the poet’s narrative poems. On his part, Mapanje encouraged them to form writing groups and find their own metaphors to represent the new age.

“Don’t be afraid of experimenting,” he advised, adding he was willing and ready to receive and comment on their poems.
Asked if he feels he has achieved his intentions of writing, the poet said, “I feel I’ve not done anything at all. We’ve not even touched some of the issues we ought to touch. That’s why the young generation must come in.”

The AWT-organised dialogue in Kampala brought together writers from Uganda, DR Congo, Liberia, Kenya, Ghana and Malawi; some of whom live abroad.

It is hoped it provided the spark for the participants to strive for the best. The young writers and students who met and interacted with the distinguished Mapanje were particularly motivated to read like never before and pick up their pens to tell their stories as well.

In the words of Goretti Kyomuhendo, “Writers may not have the skill of engineers to build bridges across the Limpopo river but we have pens and words with which we can accomplish much if we come together to learn from one another.”

--Saturday Monitor, March 16, 2013