FESTO KIVENGERE

Africa’s Apostle of Love

Bloody revolutions ripped the East African country of Uganda during the 1970s and 1980s. Especially violent was the brutal dictator, Idi Amin, who killed as many as three hundred thousand of his fellow citizens.

But God never forgets His people, and to help them through this suffering, He prepared an apostle of His love, Festo Kivengere.

Festo was born in 1919 in a beehive-shaped grass hut. He was the grandson of the last king of the Bahororo tribe, a powerful people who had ruled southwest Uganda for nearly two centuries. Festo grew up worshiping spirits and caring for his father’s large herd of cattle in the surrounding lion country

"Long before the missionaries came to Africa," said Festo, "my people knew there was a God. And we wanted Him; we desired Him. We knew He was the Creator, and so we tried to worship Him." But they did not know how, so they worshiped all kinds of spirits.

Then when Festo was about ten, an African missionary came to his village and built a mud-hut church. He invited the young boys to join his morning classes and learn to read. Festo learned quickly and went away to high school and finally college.

But when he came home years later to be a teacher in his village, he no longer believed in God. But God still cared about Festo. A revival had started in East Africa, and people were going everywhere telling others about Jesus. But the most amazing thing was that people were confessing wrong things they had done to one another and trying to make them right.

This shocked Festo. Religious people usually only pointed out other people’s sins. It made Festo think, and finally he became a Christian, too.

Confessing sin and becoming brothers and sisters together in Christ became the core of Festo’s ministry. In time, Festo Kivengere became the Anglican Bishop of Kigezi and strengthened the church with deep love.

When Idi Amin tried to stamp out all the Christians in his country, the church remained strong even though many believers died. Festo and his wife had to flee the country, but he wrote a book titled I Love Idi Amin. He explained, "On the cross, Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.’ As evil as Idi Amin was, how can I do less toward him?"

When Amin was finally thrown out of the country, hatred remained between the people. Until he died of leukemia in 1988, Festo did much to help heal the wounds left by the war.

1997 Dave and Neta Jackson, Hero Tales, Vol. II