Improving lives for generations – for hope and a future
LWF General Secretary Burghardt concludes visit to World Service program in Uganda
(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt concludes a week-long visit to the LWF World Service program in Uganda taking stock of what decades of service in the country has done, and continues to do, for refugees and host communities alike.
The World Service program in Uganda is the LWF’s largest in terms of number of people served. From a total of 2.4 million refugees served by the LWF worldwide each year, Uganda currently represents more than 700,000 – including more than half a million South Sudanese refugees in the north, and some 200,000 Congolese refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo in the west.
Visiting the program in the first week of April, the LWF General Secretary saw the impact of some of the work in the field, including visiting refugee settlements in the West Nile area of northern Uganda, where she also joined worship with a congregation of refugees on the fifth Sunday of Lent.
A group of women of the Episcopal Diocese of Kajo-Keji march together to Sunday service on the fifth Sunday of Lent at the Macedonia church in Palorinya refugee settlement, West Nile area of northern Uganda, accompanied by delegates from the Lutheran World Federation on 3 April.
Affirmation of LWF’s role in humanitarian and development work
As Burghardt visited the West Nile area during the weekend, Adjumani political leader Anyama Ben, Chairperson Local Council V, said from the perspective of his district that it is clear that the LWF’s work has an impact on people in the area.
“The LWF presence has improved the life of every person, whether refugee or host community. The bridges we would not cross, the LWF has supported us to cross,” he said.
2 April 2022, Obongi district, Uganda: Children play in their mother’s lap at the Iboa Health Centre, Obongi district of northern Uganda, where the Lutheran World Federation in collaboration with Medical Teams International provide support to malnourished children and mothers.
For the local churches too, the LWF serves as a beacon of diaconal work in a country where refugee policies are welcoming, but resources remain a challenge.
Hosted by Church of Uganda Archbishop the Most Rev. Dr Stephen Kaziimba – whose church first invited the LWF World Service program to start working in Uganda more than 40 years ago – the LWF General Secretary met with ACT Forum Uganda members in Kampala on 4 April.
ACT Forum coordination is strong in Uganda, serving to bring agencies together to strengthen diaconal work in the country.
The Archbishop appreciated the work of the forum, stressing not least the importance of including young men as a focus in efforts to prevent sexual and gender-based violence.
With some 12,000 congregations countrywide, the Church of Uganda has seen the role that World Service plays in upholding human dignity for people in need.
“We want the church to be Christ-centred, and when we see partners like you coming here, you are helping us live out our faith in action. Thank you for speaking the language of love, and may we continue our collaboration, our connection, our communication,” Kaziimba said.
Archbishop of the Church of Uganda Most Rev. Dr Stephen Kaziimba shares remarks as ACT Alliance members meet with Lutheran World Federation general secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt, hosted at the compound of the Church of Uganda on 4 April.
Reflecting on the role of World Service as an expression of what it means for the LWF communion to serve people in need, LWF World Service director Maria Immonen said “sometimes the church preaches the loudest not in words, but when it does good in the world. I can say as a lay person, that this is where many of us find our calling.”
In Kampala, the General Secretary also paid a visit to the Uganda Lutheran Church. An emerging church gathering some 3,500 members served by 7 pastors and 17 additional evangelists across the country, the Uganda Lutheran Church is a member of the Lutheran Communion in Central and Eastern Africa (LUCCEA) and currently accompanied by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) under the leadership of Bishop Dr Abednego Keshomshahara and ELCT Deputy General Secretary on Mission and Evangelism Rev. Lazaro Rohho. The church is also aspiring to become an LWF member church in the near future.
Welcoming the LWF General Secretary, Uganda Lutheran Church Synod Chairperson and pastor of the Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Kampala Rev. Wamala Jerome reflected on a life and ministry of the church that goes beyond preaching the gospel.
“Apart from preaching the gospel, we share the little we have with one another,” Jerome said. “I also want to thank the LWF for serving humanity in Uganda and beyond, for supporting the needs of those who are suffering.”
Rev. Wamala Jerome leads a moment of prayer in the Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Kampala.
Improving lives for generations
With the long history of World Service work in Uganda, the impact of activities ranging from Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH); livelihood projects; humanitarian aid and development work has been felt for generations.
Today, the Uganda Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, with the Office of the Prime Minister of Uganda, Hon. Esther Davinia Anyakun is herself one who recalls what the LWF has done for her and her community in the early days of her childhood.
Growing up in Karamoja – the region where the World Service program in Uganda first started its work in the country by responding to famine and water stress in the late 1970s – Anyakun recalls the LWF was one of the first organizations to come to Karamoja to support communities there, at a time when she was still in primary school.
“I have the LWF at heart, because I have witnessed what they have done for my childhood, and I appreciate that they are still in this country,” she said.
“I want to appreciate the LWF for their support to the refugee response. This really complements a lot my performance as a minister and I look forward to continuing collaborating with them,” she added.
Hon. Esther Davinia Anyakun (left) and Rev. Anne Burghardt (right) in conversation in Kampala, Uganda, on 5 April.
As the General Secretary’s two-week-long spell in Africa now draws to a close, LWF Vice-President for the Africa region Rev. Dr Jeannette Ada Maina said she has appreciates how the general secretary has engaged with member churches and World Service over the course of the two weeks.
“Her visit has strengthened the churches, and given an open view of the action of the LWF in the field, supporting the life of many people. We trust that what we have seen can now help strengthen the work of the churches, both in bringing us closer together and in encouraging dialogue and engagement as a testimony of faith through action,” Ada Maina said.
Burghardt added, “visiting a world service program after a week with one of the LWF member churches in the region helps bring to the fore two fundamental aspects of being a Lutheran communion: nurturing relations between churches, and serving people in need.”
“This is the work of the LWF: changing people’s lives, for hope and a future,” she concluded.
Written by Albin Hillert