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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.