Being an Ambassador for UCU and Christ

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Ruth and John Senyonyi in Escondido, California.
Ruth and John Senyonyi in Escondido, California.

By Dr. Ruth Senyonyi

I regard myself as a “mini UCU ambassador” whenever I travel with my husband (Rev. Canon Dr. John Senyonyi) on a mission to represent Uganda Christian University (UCU) abroad. Official ambassadors, often called diplomats, get anywhere from 15 million shillings to $187,000 a year to represent their countries. Neither of us gets anything close to that for representing the university.

Our greater reward is not money, but God’s almighty blessings. I am blessed to stand with my husband and play whatever role God sees at any point in time.

This year, we set off in late January to our first stop in the not-so attractive, cold winter weather of Washington D.C., ready to tell the world about UCU. Most of what I know about UCU is acquired, not as an insider, but as an observer, especially from interaction with my husband, John, who is the head of this majestic University. I listen in, critique (at times), worry (sometimes) and pray (most times) for UCU. Over the years I have seen the amazing transformation of the university, and I have been blessed to be a prayer partner in its growth curve.

Senyonyi’s bundled up, inside the home of Murray and Ginger Black, with snow in the background in the USA state of Virginia
Senyonyi’s bundled up with snow in the background in the USA state of Virginia

This year, 2019, the UCU School of Medicine, the latest baby born in UCU, was constantly on our lips. A government-accredited program with 700 applicants interviewed and rolled down to 63 student-doctors-in-training was a great achievement in this 21-year-old institution. Of these, seven are foreign students from five nations in Africa. The medical school is an expensive but much needed venture that will positively change Ugandan and African health services.

John and the UCU partner members were tasked to highlight this amazing school and get support in kind and otherwise.  Once in a while I would throw in sentences/words of encouragement, explanations and illustrations about UCU. In the midst of all these, John’s message was primarily about the Christian influence and how having a Christian doctor would go a long way in impacting nations for Christ.

On similar trips, we have often been stopped by UCU graduates who jog our minds with “I studied at UCU.” When we meet them in airports, lounges, in immigration, on streets, we get help (favour) faster than any of the other passengers. Workplaces in Uganda and across the world have been awestruck with UCU graduates and their Christian work ethic – a sign that UCU graduates are having the much-needed impact.

This UCU graduate impact was enough to jerk UCU into getting a foot in the door of training health service providers.

The message this time raised a host of questions. What will a Christian UCU graduate doctor look like? What worldview will they bring on board in an increasingly hostile secularized environment? What can they offer in the already failing medical world of Uganda? What is needed to ensure an effective Christian faith-based training? What resources are needed?

The message this time was different in that the focus was on the context to the need for such training.  We explained that in Uganda there was much need given the statistics: only 500 dentists nationally and 1 doctor to every 25,000 persons. Training a doctor is a tall order and is one of the uphill tasks before UCU that we had to explain.

That aside, the hospitality of our hosts continues to be a highlight the 2019 USA trip.  In Washington, DC, we were in the safe hands of a couple that is praying to relocate to Uganda. In Virginia, we were excited to see the beautiful snow flakes falling outside the warmth of a host’s home; a Ugandan couple braved the icy roads to come for a meal. The hospitality and the wonderful meals with warm, God-filled conversations are memorable.  Over 60 people braved the cold to hear about UCU at one such meal, which was organized by the wife and a member of the board for Uganda Christian University Partners, a USA-based nonprofit supporting UCU for more than 15 years. I marvel at the dedication and love of UCU by the Uganda Christian University Partners Board.

John is often given opportunity to the pulpit and my continuous prayer was that he, as a missionary to the USA as well as a UCU ambassador, is used by God to proclaim the word without fear and in its entirety. US sermons last for less than 20 minutes, but the word continues to bless and enrich the listeners. John begins by telling members of congregations about UCU then turns to God’s word. I particularly remember his preaching in Washington, DC, and in Virginia on how familiarity to God can choke Christian faith (Luke 4:21-32). It’s a gentle reminder that as Christians, bred and grown and surrounded by other Christians, we could easily take the gospel for granted (familiarity) and lose sight of him (Jesus Christ) who is central in our Christianity.

In another wonderful sermon, given in Boston at an Anglican church and later at a “Ugandan” church, my husband illustrated God’s needed presence. Fear is one thing that can grip a person to inactivity. At a time when the disciples were locked up in a room in fear of persecution, Jesus appeared to them and proclaimed peace. In a world filled with fear (loss, illness, retirement, crises), Jesus continues to speak and give peace.  The disciples were then given the Holy Spirit to continue the mission that Jesus had started. We were strengthened when we were reminded that as forgiven Christians we are on a mission to proclaim his word without fear.

The School of Medicine, Mercer University, in Macon, Georgia, gave us insight into what we needed to accomplish over the years to succeed with the UCU School of Medicine. The President and faculty members received us very warmly and expressed willingness to support UCU materially, through teaching and in various other ways.

My personalized blessing this trip is that I got time with God and with my husband. We are busy working adults with leadership responsibilities, and therefore these times away give us more opportunity to fellowship and seek the Lord together. With retirement not far away, the Lord clearly reminded us that He had anointed us purposefully and was going to surely accomplish His work through us – no matter what stage of life we are in.

I am blessed to be a mini ambassador for UCU and a maxi ambassador for God — not for money, but for our Lord and Savior.


For more stories about UCU, visit  If you would like to support the university and its faculty, students and programs, including the new School of Medicine, contact Mark Bartels, Executive Director, Uganda Christian University Partners, at or go to

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