Lango Bishop urges new UCU graduates to develop ‘servant’s heart’

Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2019/03/%ef%bb%bflango-bishop-urges-new-ucu-graduates-to-develop-servants-heart/

Mar
2

The Rt. Rev. Associate Professor Alfred Olwa, Bishop for the Lango Diocese, shows his welcome, joyous spirit at the March 1, 2019, UCU graduation(UCU Partners photo)
The Rt. Rev. Associate Professor Alfred Olwa, Bishop for the Lango Diocese, shows his welcome, joyous spirit at the March 1, 2019, UCU graduation(UCU Partners photo)

By Patty Huston-Holm

The night before the Rt. Rev. Canon Professor Alfred Olwa delivered his message at the Uganda Christian University (UCU), Mukono, graduation on the first day of March, he prayed that the 400 graduates and their parents, lecturers and professors would get it.

“Hopefully, two or three people will understand,” he said. “Actually, many more.”

Service was the message from the northern Uganda Lango Diocese Bishop – not just that day but on all days.  Education is a significant achievement, but the greater purpose, he said, is using God’s gifts of intellect, compassion and hard work to serve others.

Bishop Alfred Olwa in the faculty procession at UCU graduation(UCU Partners photo)
Bishop Alfred Olwa in the faculty procession at UCU graduation(UCU Partners photo)

“Now that I’m out in the field, I see even more that people desperately need to serve and be served,” said Rev. Olwa, who was Dean of the UCU Bishop Tucker School of Theology before the Church of Uganda elected him as a bishop nearly two years ago. “A degree is certainly something to celebrate, but if you think that it’s the degree that gives you status, and you focus on that status, you start to claim certain rights, and you become a bitter worker.”

On the evening before his graduation day remarks and after eight hours of travel from his home in Lira, the Bishop asserted that the best workers are those who “serve God by serving others.” He is especially troubled by some workers withthe 280,000 children in 188 primary schools in his diocese as he has observed their misunderstanding of leadership and authority (Mark 10: 43-44).

“Inspire others, help others,” Rev. Olwa said. “Be role models.”

Having a servant heart isn’t easy in a secular world that defines success by credentials and prestige, according to the Bishop. He advised that the closer a person walks with Christ and stays connected to Biblical scripture, the easier it will be to see how “the little things make the bigger difference.”

Specifically addressing men and women going into his career path of theology, he talked about the importance of having a curriculum that is well informed by scripture and infused with practical experience and the understanding of the need to “get your hands dirty.”

“Priests need to be with, understand and serve their flocks,” he said. “We want priests with conviction to God’s mission. That mission may be different if you are in a rural vs. urban area and with the poor vs. wealthy. Remember how Jesus was with his disciples.”

Regardless of the academic area studied at a university or career interest, all people are called to be priests, according to Rev. Olwa, quoting I Peter 2:9. (“ But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”)

“I urge you, dear graduands, to be different,” he said, addressing the black-robed men and women under white tents on the UCU track. “Never arrive at the state of life where you are too important to help with menial tasks.”

For example, the apostle Paul, as exhausted as he was, gathered wood for a hire to warm people after a shipwreck (Acts 28:3). Jesus did such humble, lowly tasks as washing feet, fixing breakfast and serving lepers. Laughing, the bishop added that people are shocked to know that he washes plates and cups, cleans his house and sometimes cooks his own food.

To the graduands, Rev. Olwa said:  “Sometimes you will get jobs where you will serve upward to those in authority. And sometimes you will get an opportunity servedownward to those in need. Either way, do well to develop a servant’s heart . . .Don’t seek the limelight. . . and don’t argue with your bosses.”

Personally, he said, “It took the Holy Spirit to teach me, but the practice to remind me…I have lived in both worlds.”

He reminded the UCU graduates that many people made sacrifices and served them as they were studying in school. Not just to repay these individuals but especially in a time when public service is “at its lowest” in many parts of Africa, the service of Christian-focused men and women from UCU is needed.

 “One way to show gratitude to God is to go out and help others with humility and sacrifice,”the bishop concluded, praying, “As we serve others, may we always be available, faithful and serve with dedication.”

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Developing countries with strong university programs are more likely to move out of poverty. UCU especially makes a difference in East Africa because of the infusion of Christian principles into the curriculum. To support programs at UCU, go to www.ugandapartners.org and click on the “donate” button or contact UCU Partners Executive Director, Mark Bartels, at mtbartels@gmail.com.

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