Given the numerous Pentecostal churches in Uganda, locating the first ever church is no easy job. Perhaps those born in 1950s and 60s would know. But even with them, one would need to double check sources as many give contradicting accounts. But after a dedicated search, I rise over the hassles and huddles. “The first church building is at Naguru-Katale,” revealed Apostle Dr Alex Mitala, General Overseer of the National Fellowship of Born Again Pentecostal Churches in Uganda.
Driving passed the Lugogo Mall on Jinja Road, adjacent the KCCA football pitch, eyes glancing at the recently opened multimillion dollar China-Uganda Friendship hospital, a feeling of upscale Kampala is all over. True. I can see Regency Apartments across the valley giving a pleasant view of Naguru hill. I did not come to enjoy the hill’s scenery though, but find the first Pentecostal church in Uganda. And right towards the top of the hill, a small faded signpost rests my curiosity; “Welcome to Naguru Full Gospel church,” it reads.
It is located at a V-shaped junction of two minor roadways connecting the major road from Lugogo Mall. The church was built with sand-made blocks. Despite the recent painting on the walls, you can still see it is not a new building. The 1960 layer of cement is peeling off the veranda.
On the walls, is some algae and black smoke-like coating in the ventilators and iron sheets. Today, some buildings collapse before they are commissioned, but not a single crack exists in the walls of this 52-year-old building. It is thus not an overestimation to suggest that the great grandchildren of the 150 people who come for Sunday services here can use the same church building – 50 or more years later.
Vision from Vancouver
But more than 50 years ago, the journey to the founding of this church commenced, in Vancouver, Canada. “The year was 1956 at Glad Tiding Missionary Society Church,” says Ps Jotham Mutebi, retired chairman of Full Gospel Churches of Uganda. “During a prayer session, a young lady in the church; Maureen Maglardi saw in a vision the word “Uganda” in neon lights. She felt that this vision constituted a divine call to her church to take the gospel to Uganda.”
“But no one in the congregation knew where Uganda was located if at all it existed,” recalls Ps Hugh Reg Layzell, Senior Pastor and leader of the Full Gospel Mission to Uganda, the first Pentecostal gospel mission in the country. “We checked on the world map.”
Layzell wrote to the British governor in Uganda seeking permission to begin missionary work in Uganda. He was referred to the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Uganda who advised against granting permission to a Pentecostal church missionary society. “We learnt that the archbishop was dissuaded by leaders of the mainstream churches from giving us permission because they had witnessed the Pentecostal wave in India and did not want the same to happen here saying we would take away their believers,” said Layzell.