Zirobwe is a sub-district made up of many small villages. It’s 70 kilometres from Uganda’s capital city but has been deeply oppressed by poverty, disease and witchcraft for generations.
Wilson Kabeera (Empower a Child’s Director) and his team first travelled the dusty pathways of Zirobwe village in November 2009. They walked deep into the villages and witnessed the poverty holding innocent souls captive. “God evidently convicted and confirmed in my spirit that this is the village we believed for and He had given it to us for His Glory. Before I even saw that exact plot of land for sale, I was confident it’s where we belonged!” Wilson remembers.
“We saw the physical needs of the community, but the spiritual needs were hidden from sight. Reaching the land, it was very bushy and half of it was a forest. We had many questions for the residents but the answers were not pleasing to our ears. They talked about witchcraft and even child sacrifice. Very saddening to our hearts. This village was divided and people were full of hate for one another. It was under attack by the enemy himself.”
The Lord had spoken clearly. Empower a Child began with negotiations to purchase a portion of land on which all these evil practices were occurring. With only funds to purchase five acres the seller was not interested in dividing it to sell. He would only sell all forty acres. The miracle was that the budget for five acres of land as average in other areas of the country, was the same amount the seller was prepared to sell all 40 acres of land. That was God at work. Since then we knew that God loved this community and believed He would continue to provide for them.
Witchcraft had a strong hold in the community to the extent that the purchased land was considered a “no go zone”. Village members believed that a spirit called Nawabango (meaning the hunchback snake) dwelled there. The only people allowed to access the forest were those presenting sacrifices to appease the spirit. You could find coins, small gourds with alcohol, fruits and many other things in the bush. Sadly, the spirit even demanded child sacrifice.
This spirit bound the community in fear. They believed that the rain (and therefore their source of food) depended on appeasing these spirits...so they continued. Our team held the first prayer meeting on the land shortly after the purchase. The community was in shock and witchdoctors even vowed to cast spells on staff members. When they started clearing the forest, people believed that the rain would no longer come because staff had angered the spirits. But in less than two hours, the rain came.
“This was the first testament to the community, that God was real and bigger than any dark spirit” states Wilson. Over the next two years Empower a Child began to carefully engage with the community in practical ways such as building livestock shelters and helping families.
“When we came, we had an approach of love and care. We were part of the community and they actually received us even before a church began.” Israel Musisi, Senior Pastor of the church recalls. “By the time we began giving the ‘spiritual food of the Word’ they were ready to receive it.”
Empower a Child had plans to construct a multi-purpose training center in line with the community’s needs, but no such funding to do so.
“It was about 18 months after we purchased the land, God brought this verse to me, ‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’ Jennifer Kabeera, Development Director, remembers. “I said to Wilson; ‘I feel like we should start the church in the community, even though we don’t have funds to build a nice structure’.” He explained that Israel had already started looking for a place to build a simple temporary church structure.
In September 2011, Empower a Child began the process of building a grass thatched church in the village.
“It’s so amazing how the villagers can be so excited about such a humble structure for a church. There is no air conditioning, the floor is simply dirt, there are no comfortable chairs, and there are no flashy preachers, yet these people act as if we are building them a movie theater.” recalls Bryan Hunt, a mission volunteer from Texas, who helped to construct and preach in the church.
“Incidentally, there were changes in people’s’ lives”. Pastor Israel narrates:
“The trading center next to our land was itself a place where people gathered to drink alcohol. Young people were engaged in gambling and the majority of the ladies were in the business of making and selling alcohol.”
The word of God began to transform the hearts of people. Women abandoned their alcohol businesses with one main question that they asked us, ‘What should we do after abandoning our businesses that feed our families?’.
“We challenged the ladies to believe God for a solution to moving from their alcohol businesses and advised some of the community to start selling food and get involved in farming. The power of God manifested itself and caused a dramatic change in the ladies’ lives. This then challenged most of the men (often alcoholic) to begin to work and take responsibility in providing for their families.”
There was a core community of believers forming in the village, but witchcraft still had a grip on people’s lives.
“Some of the village members believed in sorcery and informed us that a sorcerer would bewitch us during a service because we had invaded his territory.” Israel remembers, “but with time nothing happened and eventually the rumor ceased with the witch doctor reported to have disappeared.”
The church began to deal with the mindset of dependency on witchcraft for prosperity, for garden fertility and other things. Instead, the local community were encouraged to believe and trust in God.
After a few months the church began to fill. People would crowd into the small structure. Israel and staff witnessed a revival in the community and so it was time to start building the first permanent structure for the church. “Even though we still did not have funds we knew God would provide. Sure enough, month by month funds came in and the church went up phase by phase.” Wilson remembers.
Roughly one year after the community started the church they moved into a permanent structure. The foundation was built on the same place that witch doctors had once made their sacrifices.