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Richmond Wandera
Apr2023

This Compassion Graduate is Shaping the Future of the Ugandan Church

Being sponsored as part of the Compassion church-based programme changed everything for Richmond Wandera. As a church leader, and founder of the Pastors Discipleship Network, he is now resourcing churches across the country to transform their communities.

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Compassion Stories

This Compassion Graduate is Shaping the Future of the Ugandan Church

Being sponsored as part of the Compassion church-based programme changed everything for Richmond Wandera. As a church leader, and founder of the Pastors Discipleship Network, he is now resourcing churches across the country to transform their communities.

I was only eight years old when my father was shot three times. We came home from school to find blood all over the place. Only three months later, the landlord came and said to us, “you’ve got to leave”.

Richmond in Naguru

My mum was married as a teenager and so she found herself widowed at the age of 25, with six kids, no education, no skills, no training, and no home. We ended up moving to the notorious Naguru slum in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. It wasn't that far – not more than three kilometers – but it felt like 100 kilometers.

Our new home was a one-roomed house. And without my dad’s income, we could no longer go to school. So, we just loitered around. I can still remember the day my mum said, “there's no money for food”. My childhood ended.

A mother and child in Naguru

In the midst of our desperation, my mother realised that if nothing changes, her kids are going to die. Now, she's not a Christian. She doesn't believe in God. But when one of her friends suggested she ask a church in the neighbouring community of Nakawa for help, she went.

Compassion is currently resourcing more than 8,500 local churches across the world to support in excess of 2.3 million children living in poverty.

Sponsorship has eternal consequences

She was shocked at how fast people from the Compassion programme, run by the church, came to our home to register me and my sister as sponsored children.

Three and a half months later, we get the news: "Richmond has got a sponsor!" To say that we danced and rejoiced was an understatement. But that was just the start. It was a restoration of my childhood.

I grew through Compassion. I went back to school. I received health support. I was a child again. Now my brother, he wasn’t sponsored, but he tells me he survived because of the support I received. Whenever I got food, I’d share it. When I got a mosquito net, I slept under it with my brothers. You get the point.

But Compassion sponsorship is about so much more. By the age of 14, I came to accept Christ as my saviour. By 16, all five of my siblings had come to know the Lord and by 19, my mother, too.

Becoming a Christian meant my mum was forced to confront some dark parts of our story. When my father died, the items that we had as our own, such as my dad’s motorbike, my mum thought she would sell, but my uncle came and took them all.

My mum was consumed with hatred. But then we hear that my uncle has cancer and he's been hospitalized. So, my mum looks at me and says, "Let's go take care of him." Two days before my uncle passed away, his hand was in my mother's hand, and she was leading him to the Lord.

Sponsors help children to access life-changing support including food, education and health-checks through their local church. Learn more about our sponsorship programme.

The difference is Christ

I've encountered different strategies and models for how to end generational poverty. But the difference is Christ. It changes your perspective.

I got my first degree in accounting. The Lord has opened the door for me to go and do a master's degree from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and a PhD from Lancaster Bible College. I could have gone on to work at KPMG or PwC and run away from Naguru.

But at my graduation day, the Compassion team said, "This is not the time to run from that monster called poverty.” I just remember saying, “Okay, God. I will not run away.” You'll be shocked how many former graduates of Compassion are back working in their communities making a difference.

Richmond outside a local church

 

The church is on the move in Africa

About five years ago, local authorities wanted to erase our community in Nakawa because of all the drugs and crime. Despite community protests, they went ahead. We lost our church building and the congregation scattered.

It was then that the church’s pastor told me, "Look, God is calling you to lead this church." Not great timing! But you can't say no to God. We were very strangely surprised when people began joining us, even though we were meeting under a tree. But God’s church is always on the move.

The Lord opened an incredible flood of generosity. A woman who lives in a makeshift structure pledged 25,000 Uganda Shillings, around £5. People brought shirts, saucepans, plates and a radio to sell. With the money we set up New Life Church. It's probably the fastest-growing Baptist church in the country, now.

We’re planting about three churches every year. We send out 150 people, 50 each to plant churches in different places. The Lord is just bringing people and just showing them his love. We are really excited about this new season for the ministry where people are stepping up and just doing that.

When we share our resources, knowledge and skills, the Church is an unstoppable force for good.

The local church is powerful

You may have heard of the Asbury revival that's happening in the United States. But something is happening right now in Jinja, Uganda. We had more than 500 people bringing their witchcraft articles to be burned. It's God moving in a new way.

Richmond Wandera

I also believe that we are entering a new dispensation where the missional call to reach the world is shifting to the Global South. What kind of missionaries will we send? As founder of the Pastors Discipleship Network, I view that as part of my assignment.

But while I look ahead, I can't help but think, I shouldn't be here, except for one individual sponsor who said, "Lord, if you can use anything use me.” I pray that we, as God’s agents, will look more intently into His face and see what is His will. Whatever it is and however big it is, let's not be afraid. Let the world not kick down or kill our dreams. Let's just say yes.

How do you tackle a problem like poverty? Begin with a child. Sponsor a child today.

WORDS
Sanjeev Mishra

PHOTOS
Liz Boalch


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