Training for transformation in Wabigalo, Kampala

While every community on earth needs spiritual and social transformation, that need is more apparent in some places than others. Kampala’s densely populated Wabigalo area (or slum, as it is known locally), is a case in point. So it was inspiring to experience first-hand the welcome that BUILD is receiving there as an opportunity for training and transformation.

Canon Simon Sibomana, the exiled Archdeacon of Bujumbura, Burundi, is leading the Anglican sub-parish there (name and location used with permission). Simon may be far from home, but that means his story is in fact typical of those in Wabigalo. The area sits above the industrial area on the east side of Kampala, an area characterised by its stacks of containers, and is close to the end of the railway line that used to arrive from Nairobi. Not surprisingly, over the years the area has become something of a melting pot, not only of Ugandans from across the country (in particular the west), but also of immigrants from western Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, DR Congo and South Sudan.

Therefore, Simon and his family identify strongly with the local community, and with the other leaders who live and work there. The church at the heart of the sub-parish is run by a team of around half a dozen of these men and women. The story of one of them, a local trader called Boaz Benywanira (pictured above with his family), is typical of local church leaders in the area: along with his wife, he generates his own livelihood, he has an infectious faith and extraordinary commitment to building the church in this overlooked corner of Kampala, and he has a thirst for learning.

So while Wabigalo may be overlooked by Kampala City Council, its potential for current and future mission is extraordinary. As a result of BUILD training, local leaders are learning the good news afresh in all its wonder from the Scriptures and can see its implications for them, their families and their local community. From the beginning, BUILD has had a strong, gospel based strand of social transformation, which is taught as integral to understanding, living out and sharing the message. For instance, an early unit on how to share the gospel equips people to understand it not only as a testimony to share and a message to communicate, but also as a change to demonstrate. The curriculum then systematically builds on that in a range of ways as it progresses through the modules.

In addition, as lives are being transformed in a place where people move from everywhere-to-everywhere, the hope is that they will carry the message and the training with them. As a result, Wabigalo is certainly not a place that will be overlooked by BUILD, as it becomes an important centre at the grassroots for urban training and mission.