Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Story of a Ugandan Pastor: Robert Odukatum

By Anthony:

This is a long post.  If you choose to skim it quickly, be sure to read about Robert's challenges near the end which I think are the most interesting!!  His challenges as a pastor should give us good perspective about our own ministries here in North America.

I thought it would be nice for you to know more detail about what the pastors were like who I trained in Uganda.  I recently emailed a few pastors who I had taught for a long time to get more information and permission to share.  One of them who got back to me was Robert Odukatum and I want to share his story with you.  While every story is unique, I share his with you because of how similar his story is to other pastors I trained.  It will give you a sense of the type of people that I had the privilege to serve with in God's Kingdom, and of their sacrifices and challenges.  I told him I wanted to write this article about him so that American Christians would know his story and be praying for him (as well as for the other pastors I trained along with him).

I had the privilege of first getting to know Robert in 2009 when we went to Pentecostal Theological College in Mbale, Uganda to teach for a year and Robert was one of our students.  He is right in the very middle of the picture below.  He was one of the students awarded a Bible college scholarship through Christian Reformed World Missions (a great matching scholarship where CRWM pays a part, the student pays a part, and the church pays a part).  When you read about Robert's financial burdens at the end of this post, you'll see why this scholarship was very important for him.

Robert (far left below) was one of the winners in our Bible trivia game back then: (The man in blue below, Joseph, ended up being our pastor in our Soroti church and a fellow TLT trainer with me).

Then we got to see Robert (below, in the pink shirt) again in 2012 when we visited Uganda to explore ministry and work options with World Renew for a week:

Finally, when we came to Uganda in 2014, Robert had moved to the position of Ministry Coordinator in Katakwi PAG Pastorate.  While he was one of my TLT students and graduates in my Katakwi group (I had three TLT groups), he was also the one to organize and coordinate the TLT group in Katakwi, advertising for the training in the churches, gathering up all the pastors, and making sure all of the meals and accommodation was planned for.  In his role in the pastorate, together with the Bishop and other leaders, he would also regularly oversee the development programs taking place in partnership with World Renew, so he was regularly in our World Renew project meetings as well.  Not only was he a good student and colleague, but he was and is a good friend.

In the rest of the post, anything italicized is Robert's own words.

It is my pleasure and privilege to write to you Anthony my dear brother in Christ an article about my life, family, and Ministry. This is very very interesting and encouraging but also an opportunity and a reminder of the life journey that I have gone through in God’s grace to this far that the Lord has brought us and also an advantage for me to seek God for the future for the journey is still on, the destiny is not yet reached. 

Life History
I am Odukatum John Robert a man of 52 years old born on 26th / 05 /1964 to biological parents the  Late Opajak Faustino who was a catholic and Kongai Benikita, a protestant. They were poor and I was brought up in a poorly stricken family in a small village called Orukurukun, Okocho Parish, Ongongoja Sub county, Katakwi District.
Currently, my entire family stays in Katakwi Sub County, Alogook Village, alogook Parish a place where we were brought up in 1990’s during Insurgency (Insurgency refers to the time period in the Teso region of Uganda when an Iteso rebel army was fighting a war against the government of Uganda.  This was after the horrible atrocities they went through with Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army.  It was a time of uncertainty, instability, violence, and fear). I am Itesot by tribe, Ugandan by Nationality and I belong to Ikadanya clan. My parents produced six children, three boys (3) and three Girls (3) of which I am third born.  (While we were in Uganda, we mainly worked with the Iteso people and learned a couple hundred Ateso words).

Education background
I attended Kaltom Primary School in Moroto from 1976- 1981 ( P.1-P.5), Usuk boys from 1982– 1983  P.6 – P.7 where I got 29 aggregates (failed), Usuk Girls mixed primary school  1984 – 1985 repeat  P6 and  P.7   where by I obtained 18 aggregates Div II. Usuk Senior Secondary school S.1-S.2 from 1986 – 1987. And I dropped from school after my father’s death where by I stayed for ten years at home.  (This means that Robert did not finish Secondary School, which is the equivalent of High School). In 1997 I went for a Junior certificate in Brick Laying and Concrete Practice awarded in 1999, from 2003 -2004 Kasodo Technical Institute in Palisa District for craft certificate part one in Brick Laying and Concrete practice.  From 2008 -2011 Pentecostal Theological College Mbale for a diploma in Bible and Theology.

My family History
I am married to Harriet Betty Aguti traditionally in 1988 and wedded (in the church) in 1995 on the 9th, February in Katakwi PAG Church. We are blessed with eight (8) children six boys two girls all alive.  My Children: 
1.      Kongai Susan – got married (Holy Matrimony) after her course in certificate in Early Child hood Development
2.      Opajak Emmanuel – completed O’level in 2013 and now staying at home due to inadequate funds to take him for further studies.
3.      Ariko Samuel – Completed O ‘ level in 2015 and now studying in Katakwi High School senior five (S.5)
4.      Chegem Daniel – He is in Senior Three (S.3) in Akoromit Ark Peace – Amuria District
5.      Aupal Calvin – Studying in Apuuton Primary School Primary Seven (P.7), candidate this year.
6.      Opolot Michael – Studying in Apeleun Primary School in Primary Five (P.5)
7.      Aguti Rena – Named after my wife. She is in primary one (P.1)
8.      Odukatum Joshua – Named after me. He is in Primary Two

Here is Robert, his wife, and most of their children from one of our visits to his home in 2010.

Salvation and ministry background
I got saved on the 17th / 10/1993. After accepting Jesus Christ as my personal savior I was baptized by immersion and later filled with the Holy Spirit while Fellowshipping in PAG Katakwi Center Church. My life has changed and my mind opened. The church leaders looked at me, assessed me and they discovered something good in me where by in May 1994, they appointed me as a branch youth leader.
On 26th / 03/1995- 2001, I was appointed as Assembly Youth Leader in Katakwi Assembly.
From 2001 – 2007 I was again appointed as a Zonal Youth Leader, here, I was handling two posts both at the Assembly level and Zonal level.
From January 15th, 2007- 2014 I was appointed a pastorate youth Leader(Katakwi Pastorate) which was covering two political Districts, Katakwi and Amuria, that consisted of 38 Church Assemblies.

I used to go the field riding a bicycle for 19 years doing ministry work.

Activities I carried out during Youth Ministry:
School outreach Ministry- primary schools and secondary schools mostly in Katakwi District.
Evangelism and crusades in camps (Internally displaced person camps)
Youth conferences, that is general youth conferences including students, working and business people and single ladies.
From January 23rd, 2014 is when I left youth ministry and I was appointed as a ministry coordinator to be one of the executive officers at the pastorate level.

Roles and responsibilities that I was assigned to currently:
Equipping, coaching, training, apprenticeship etc.
To see that quality performance is in place.
To help the Bishop to supervise the work of the pastors
To build leadership capacity.

What I enjoy most in the ministry:
My main interest in the ministry is teaching the word of God. Whenever I teach , I feel joy flowing in my heart and peace.  Others may include guidance and counseling, pastoral care, and preaching.

How God has used me:
In spite of all challenges I faced, I thank God for sufficient grace
God has used me in many ways:
He has used me as a vessel to give hope to the hopeless
He has used me as a tool for his glory in bringing the lost souls to Christ through crusades and door to door evangelism, school out reach ministry, Hospital ministry and prisons ministry.
Restoring the broken families through conducting couples conferences.

Ways in which I have suffered / sacrificed for Christ’s ministry
I asked Robert how he might have suffered or faced challenges because of serving as a minister. 
This involves the following ways: my life, family, ministry
For a long time I have sacrificed much of my time because my heart and my mind is taken up by the ministry. Much of my time is spent on doing ministry work e.g. youth ministry, mostly those days when I was a youth leader for nineteen years (19). My struggle was to see that the youth develop and be guided on how to walk in salivation and to live an exemplary life. Because of the burden I had in my heart much of my time was spent on youth ministry

Transport – I also suffered in terms of transport i.e. there was no means of transport, it involved me walking on foot for long distances about three to six kilometers from home to church. I walked on foot for a period of four years from 1994 to 1998 till God blessed me with a bicycle. I used the bicycle for a period of fifteen years but there was still a problem because some days the bicycle would get broken and still I had to walk on foot, repairing the bicycle was still a problem. I had to use my personal money for repairing it whenever it got broken. Besides transport, feeding was also a problem. Whenever you make a program I had to use my personal money for feeding my self, and helping the needy.

Educating my self theologically, I had to sacrifice my little money to study the word of God in order to know what I am teaching not to teach what you do not know and that is the main reason as to why I went to bible school. I have also under taken all the available opportunities of studying God’s Word especially TLT (Timothy Leadership Training) , IAM , Life style academy ,VERITAS College and I still wish to continue with a BA in Bible and Theology but have not due to financial challenges.

Here is Robert in TLT:

Pain in leadership was also a challenge. Some pastors were not happy to see me go to the Bible school. They were discouraging me saying, “It is the misuse of resources and time, the Holy Spirit will reveal all what you are going to teach” so these statements pained me a lot! Also when I was ordained and appointed to be a ministry coordinator, some pastors, Elders were not happy with me because of the post I was appointed to at the pastorate level. They kept on minimizing and stating discouraging words to me that the post is too big for me and many other words.

On the side of my family
My family members are missing my companionship because much of my time I am not at home, I do move a lot for ministry work. Sometimes I want to have more time with my family members but I cannot make the time. My wife and children suffer innocently, they lack me so they are tortured psychologically, mentally, financially and spiritually.

My family members also suffer innocently because food supply is inadequate. Some times I could get opportunities of getting money through building since I am a builder by profession but because of the ministry that has taken my mind and my heart I am unable to meet my family basic needs. Really, life is hard I do remember some days having porridge as lunch and some days eating once a day.

My children also suffer innocently due to shortage of school fees and I am unable to educate my children to better schools, colleges and university. My children should have done well at school but in most cases they are not sure of their education, because sometimes they are chased from school due to fees, clothes too are not enough, sometimes they miss meals at school because fees are not cleared in time. So this tortures them psychologically.  I remember when my Boy Chegem Daniel got DIV I (12 AGGS) his first choice was In Teso College Aloet and the starting fee was one million (1,000,000 Uganda Currency) to this I failed  to take him to the school he wished to go. I resorted to take him to Moroto High which was a bit cheaper. They were paying three hundred thousand (300,000 Uganda currency) a term, even that still, became a challenge because the financial sources were warning and this made me to take the boy to Ark Peace where they were charging two hundred forty seven thousand a term (247,000 Uganda Currency).

On the ministry side
This has occupied  my life, heart and mind. Though I am a professional builder, the ministry has taken much of my time, I would have opened or joined construction companies but the burden in me could not allow. Even both titles Reverend and Ministry coordinator has made me miss getting some contracts from some of the brethren who think it is not right for a person of such titles to do such work and I needed also to do something in order to earn a living. They say it is not good to give a reverend such a work. Because it is not worth it to him they say.

Still transport is a problem. I have suffered a lot because of lack of transport. For nineteen years, I used to walk on foot or riding a bicycle whenever I do my programs.  It is just of recent in 2015 when the pastorate office bought for me a motorcycle. (Even with the motorcycle drives can be more than an hour long just in his ministry area).  Though the motorcycle tried to relieve a problem of transport my area of operation is still wide, the roads are full of dust, mud, and potholes and that results in my body paining, even maintenance, repair and fueling of the motor cycle causes me to use my personal money because what the office gives for maintenance is little.

Communication is also a problem because the airtime the office gives me is not enough to reach most of the people in my area of jurisdiction.

In spite of all these, my heart is still committed to doing the will of God. I am also encouraged and motivated by the fruits of my labour for their is spiritual and numerical growth in the church.

Below is a picture of Robert (far right) and other Katakwi pastorate leaders/pastors receiving theological commentaries for their tiny library, that I brought from the Gospel Coalition in the US:

How much am I paid? (I also asked Robert this question out of curiosity)
Generally, we the pastors do voluntary work as servants of God. The church gives us support but not salary. On my side, I started ministry in 1994 – 2006 as a youth leader, I started receiving Ugandan shillings between 2,500 to 10,000 Uganda Currency. (This is payments per month and the exchange rate right now is about 3,300 shillings to 1US  dollar).
From 2007 – 2013 when elevated to a pastorate youth leader I received 30,000 Uganda Currency. From 2014 up to date when I was appointed to be one of the pastorate executive officers as a ministry coordinator, I am receiving 120,000 Uganda Currency per month as support.  (Go back up and read the school fees for just one of his children per term).
Monthly air time is 10,000 and fuel per month is 50,000 Uganda Currency.

Encouragement amidst challenges
The Holy Spirit and the burden in my heart are drawers of my life in this ministry and in most cases I am encouraged most when I see God’s people progress, and prosper in salvation.
The word of God also encourages me to stand firm in the ministry for our overall goal is to serve and please God in this life of which one day God will reward us with the blessing of eternal life through his Son Jesus Christ.

How God has helped me.
God has helped me in many areas:
He revealed his Son Jesus Christ to me for my salvation.
He has helped me through my secular and theological education.
I have seen him providing for my personal needs, family needs especially at the time when I left home for my theological education. God has given me courage to move on with the work he has entrusted unto my care. Through my ministry God has blessed youth with families, jobs.etc.
Through my ministry in the past years youth are encouraged in the faith, and currently, church leaders are equipped, comforted and encouraged through leadership capacity building to continue in ministry and their walk in Christ Jesus. Christians are also encouraged with the Word of God.

In conclusion
I must give thanks to God almighty for the gift of life and the Blessing of salvation for it has enabled me meet with people that matter to my life. Through them and his gift of the Holy Spirit I am what I am today.
They include:-
Pr. Acia Samson, Rev. Ekuruk James, Rev. Omoding James, Rev. Okitoi Wilson, Pr. Adilu John, Retired  Bishop Epongu Moses, my co-workers (Bishop Eboru John Charles and Rev. Okello Gideon), Rev. Anthony, Rev Emmanuel Okwalinga and my Pastor. Rev. Okiror Moses Ejabu not forgetting My wife Harriet Betty Odukatum  and my family members to mention but a few for their support, guidance, spiritually and financially may God richly bless you.

Prayer request
Please pray for Robert based on what you have read here.  His big concern right now is financial challenges as you have read above, and he requests prayer that the Lord would provide for him.  Along those lines, I suggest that you pray that through TLT and other trainings, the churches in Katakwi would continue to learn stewardship and start giving more regularly to support their pastors, like Robert.  Thankfully, in all three districts where I taught TLT, there were huge offering increases among the churches, as TLT students taught their churches about financial stewardship according to God's Word.

Remember also that Robert's challenges are shared by most other pastors in Uganda.  So as you are praying, keep my other TLT graduates in your prayers as well:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing these sobering realities. As I read I was praying as you requested. I pray for conviction in the church there.