Saints celebrate first stake formed in Uganda
It's easy. Send a link to the story you were just reading to a friend. Just fill out the form on this page and we'll send it along.
Smiles on the faces of the saints in Kampala, Uganda, rivaled the bright colorful gomesi (traditional dresses) the sisters were wearing as they gathered on Sunday, Jan. 17, to witness the organization of the first stake in Uganda. Almost 1,000 members met at the Kololo meetinghouse to sustain Jimmy Carter Okot as the new stake president, with Charles Ssekirangi and Jackson Isiko as his counselors. Elder Paul E. Koelliker of the Seventy and president of the Africa Southeast Area presided at the historic meeting, which was conducted by Elder Hesbon O. Usi, Area Seventy.
A spirit of joyful anticipation was also evident the preceding day when priesthood and auxiliary training meetings were held with record numbers in attendance. The organization of the stake in Uganda, the 25th stake in the Africa Southeast Area, had been long anticipated by the members, some of whom had been baptized in the mid-1990s.
Encouragement was received in August 2009 when Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve visited Kampala and remarked to the large congregation of members who had come to hear him speak that they "looked like a stake" to him (see Church News, Sept. 5, 2009).
As the stake conference session began, Rosemary Mufabi, Kololo Ward Relief Society president, remarked, "My heart is so full of joy today."
Sister Mufabi is looking forward to receiving her patriarchal blessing from the newly ordained stake patriarch, Giles Odongo. Very few members of the Church in Uganda have had the opportunity to receive their patriarchal blessings because to do so has required a 12-hour bus ride to Nairobi, Kenya, where the nearest stake was located.
Uganda, called the "Pearl of Africa" by Winston Churchill after a visit he made here in 1907, is a small semi-tropical nation in the heart of East Africa. Its beauty is matched by the friendliness of its people. Church meetings began here with small numbers of Ugandans who had joined the Church while living abroad and who subsequently returned to their homeland.
Uganda was assigned to the Kenya Nairobi Mission at its formation in 1991. Districts in Kampala and Jinja were organized in 1992. Missionary work has concentrated in those two areas, partly due to the more than three dozen languages found in the country. Uganda comes from a strong Christian culture and the people often express their faith in Jesus Christ. In 2005, the Uganda Kampala Mission was formed, which includes the countries of Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Southern Sudan.
During the two-day meetings for organizing the stake, Elder Koelliker commented, "This is a significant event in the lives of the Saints in Kampala." He told the gathered members that, rather than seeing the formation of the stake as an ending, they should instead see it as a beginning. He and Elder Usi counseled them to sustain their leaders with their hearts as well as with their hands and to provide loving guidance in their families.
President Okot expressed his gratitude for the personal witness he had received of the divine origin of his call and asked the stake members to make 2010 a year to bring back any "lost sheep" to gospel activity. President Edward Christensen of the Uganda Kampala Mission and his wife, Erin, also participated in the meetings, as did Sister Ann Koelliker.
At an early morning press conference on Sunday, Elder Koelliker and President Okot met with reporters from the two major Kampala newspapers and two local television stations. Keen interest in the doctrine of the Church and its humanitarian efforts in Uganda was evident in the questions that were asked by members of the press. Coverage of the conference was shown on television the next day.
Members of the new stake repeatedly expressed appreciation for the many missionaries who have served in Uganda over the years and who helped to build the Church here. A number of those former missionaries, such as President Jimmy Okot, are Ugandans who served in their native land as full-time missionaries when Uganda was part of the Kenya Nairobi Mission. They will now enjoy the blessings of the stake that they have labored long and faithfully to achieve.