Load shedding, prosperity gospel, kidnapped students: Life in Kampala

Mark and Rachel Meynell moved to Kampala, Uganda in 2001, when their son Joshua was 3 years old and their daughter Suzanna just 2 months.

They moved so that Mark could teach Biblical studies and preaching at Kampala Evangelical School of Theology (KEST), the first Ugandan-founded, interdenominational college in the country. 2001 was an exciting time to join, with the launch of full-time training at the school. The student body was initially tiny but, by the time the Meynells returned to the UK in 2005, it had grown to 50. And the intake wasn’t limited to Ugandans − the school drew people from all over the region, including refugees from the Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi.

Looking back on his time there, Mark writes, ‘It was a humbling and important learning experience to get to know so many of [the students] well. It shook me free from so much of the social culture of my English private school background.’

Although an exciting time to join KEST, the Meynells faced many challenges. ‘It was very difficult as the only muzungu (white man) in leadership, and even then I was young and only in an acting capacity. I had to learn to do/say what I thought was right, and then trust God to take care of the rest.’ Dr (and subsequently Bishop) Edward Muhima was Mark’s mentor who soon became an important close friend. The two men met monthly to pray and both deeply missed these times when  the Meynells returned to the UK in 2005.

KEST 2002 class with the Meynell family

Trying to encourage different churches to work together was also challenge, especially between the different denominations. This struggle was compounded by the huge prevalence of prosperity teaching.

There was also frequent load shedding (the loss of power a couple of evenings a week, usually 7−9pm). The candles came out and dinner had to be eaten either early or very late!

The most horrific moment came when one refugee student from the Congo was kidnapped, tortured and threatened with murder if he didn’t leave the country. Eventually, he received asylum in Canada but, until then, it was a huge challenge for the KEST community to keep trusting the Lord with their friend’s safety.

Three generations in Kampala!

Yet for all the difficulties, the Meynells’ time in Uganda was ‘incredibly formative and significant.’ One dear friend was Andy Kigozi, who had been an East African Safari rally driver in the 1970s. He was quite a character – he had plenty of stories about meeting Idi Amin (Uganda’s 1970s dictatorial president) at the races. Andy ‘would only wear shorts, not trousers, despite their colonial connotations.’ Andy joined their enquirers’ group and he professed faith. He and Mark met up to read the Bible and pray together regularly before they left − a wonderful encouragement.

The Meynells also had the joy of being joined by Rachel’s parents as well as by her sister and her family (Lucy and Jem Hovil, fellow Crosslinks mission partners). The three generations living in Kampala simultaneously made a very positive impression on their African friends, who tended to encounter only nuclear Western families. 

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Polly Standring

As the communications content developer at Crosslinks, Polly helps mission partners connect with both Crosslinks and their supporters back home. As well as ensuring Crosslinks' internal communications run smoothly, she also oversees the writing of our external communications, including the Crosslinks blog.