Very often we hear bad news from an African country like Uganda. We hear stories about famine, hunger, misery, warfare and man-eating lions. We see disturbing pictures on television and in newspapers but is there any good news which comes from this vast continent? The following story is full of hope and clear evidence that God is at work in a broken, groaning world.

Our story begins in a difficult and challenging time for the nation of Uganda. Picture it if you can. The year is about 1975. Innocent people are vanishing on a daily basis. Idi Amin is the brutal and insane dictator of this benighted land. Opponents of Amin are fed to hungry crocodiles. Murder is in the air.

Little David had never known his dad. He was brought up with his brothers and sisters by his mother on a smallholding about 40 miles from Kampala in Uganda. When he was about nine years old (he isn’t quite sure of his age) his mother and siblings all died of a virulent form of malaria in the space of one week. The villagers helped him to bury his family on nearby land but none of them could adopt him as they already had too many mouths to feed.

David was alone, vulnerable and miserable. What should he do? The inspiring words of his Sunday school teacher “Trust Jesus” filled his mind. He set off for Kampala on foot and several days later he reached this sprawling, ragged city. He knew nobody. Quickly he was adopted by other ragamuffins and shown the best places to sleep and hide from the authorities. He discovered the best spot to find food – the skip outside the kitchens at the opulent Sheraton Hotel.

A few years later the street children heard that Idi Amin’s soldiers were kidnapping the orphans and were forcing them to work on Idi’s sugar plantations. David was reluctant to work for the rotund and sadistic dictator. How could he escape a life of slavery and brutality? Christian-run businesses in Uganda are very overtly Christian and David noticed a commercial enterprise with a sign that declared: THE JESUS GARAGE.

Nervously David knocked on the door and a huge man came out and seemed startled to see the little lad at his doorstep. David remembers standing on tiptoes to try and look big and cheekily asked the imposing man for a job. Taking pity on him, the man said he could be the sweeper and gave him an old car to sleep in – his first home for years.

Over the next few years David became an accomplished mechanic who specialised in steering alignments. He became a committed Christian through the love and witness of the garage owner who had adopted him. The first thing he did when he had a proper pay packet was to rent a shack and adopt six homeless orphans. He met and married Sarah, a delightful and intelligent lady and they have had 8 children over the years. They adopted a further 9, making 15 adopted in all, and suddenly became aware that the kids needed schooling. They had no idea how they could feed them all but they have never starved. People heard about David’s large family and food or money arrived just when it was needed. After theological training and ordination, David became the Diocesan Evangelist for the Central Buganda Diocese of Uganda.

At first Sarah and David started a nursery school for their children and then they invited other local children. Then they established a primary school, of which they now have two. Then a secondary school was needed and so they set up Centenary High School.

They are now caring for and educating over 2000 children, a large percentage of whom are orphans. Each year they expect about 30 children to be orphaned and they do not turn them out when the school fees stop coming but make more bunk beds and somehow manage to look after them. Just like George Muller, the famous orphan lover of 19th century England, David and Sarah experience amazing provision from God. Money, food and clothing simply appear – often at the last possible moment.

In recent years David and Sarah have built a maize mill with funds from a Bristol church which provides income and work for his orphans and staff. He has also bought a satellite dish and shows live football games to the local people, charging a small entrance fee to help towards the costs of the school. He is also constructing the ‘Double Cure Medical Centre’ near Mpigi which is where Centenary High School is based. David and Sarah are concerned about every aspect of the lives of their colourful and vibrant community. Loving families, education, maize mills, hospitals and the beautiful game. What a contrast to the brutal and devastating legacy of Idi Amin.

David prefers to be called by his nickname ‘Romans’ and he is a man of integrity and entrepreneurial excellence. He is a Director of the Open Air Campaigners movement in Uganda and in recent months has been asked to organize the evangelization of the entire Buganda-speaking area which consists of six dioceses. His life is a thrilling and exciting adventure. An inspiration to Christians everywhere!

Mark Roques

Mark Roques

Mark taught Philosophy and Religious Education at Prior Park College, Bath, for many years. As Director of RealityBites he has developed a rich range of resources for youth workers and teachers. He has spoken at conferences in the UK, Holland, South Korea, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. Mark is a lively storyteller and the author of four books, including The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails: Creative Ways of Talking about Christian Faith. His work is focused on storytelling and how this can help us to communicate the Christian faith. He has written many articles for the Baptist Times, RE Today, Youthscape, Direction magazine and the Christian Teachers Journal.