Orombi: ‘Everybody has a calling and a reason for that calling’
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2020/08/orombi-everybody-has-a-calling-and-a-reason-for-that-calling/
The Archbishop emeritus of the of the Province of the Church of Uganda and former Chancellor of Uganda Christian University (UCU), the Rt. Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, has joined the list of prominent clergy bidding farewell to Cannon Dr. John Senyonyi, who is retiring from the office of the Vice-Chancellor on August 31. Archbishop Orombi, who retired in 2012, was the University’s chancellor 10 years ago when Dr. Senyonyi was assuming the office. In this July 20, 2020, interview with John Semakula, the retired archbishop speaks out on why he chose Dr. Senyonyi for the position and why the Church is proud of UCU.
How is retirement?
Some people have thought that I am not retired. I have only shifted camp. I left Namirembe, the Provincial home of the Archbishop and went to Nebbi as my main base in retirement. And I have continued to serve God and minister in many different ways. I have continued to help dioceses in the province and beyond our country. I have gone to Kenya several times, and Tanzania once. I went to Korea in November, and to the US before COVID-19 became serious. So I have been a busy man, extremely busy. The Lord has given me the strength and ability in me.
Why did you retire a year before the official end of your term as Archbishop?
Everybody has a calling and a reason for that calling. When I came in 2004 as the Archbishop, I had a few things that I believed God wanted me to do. First was to bring peace to the Province. We had five dioceses, which were not functioning well, and it was succession, seriously. There was no leadership; there were gaps there, so there were wrangles. Secondary, we needed to bring back our young people who were scattered. I believe that the young people were scattered because they were looking for a pulpit that can feed them. The third was the Church House, which was a 40-year dream that had to take off. And then, I also wanted to preach the gospel nationally. Once those things were done, results were already good, the Province was settled and then we had the Church House already started up to a level from where my successor started and finished it up, and the young people came back to the Church, finances were stable, I felt that my assignments were over. I was remaining with only one year to finish my tenure as we normally do 10 years as Archbishops, and I did nine. So I did not even see why I needed to spend another 12 months doing nothing. I said I have finished; let me go back and preach the gospel, which I am doing right now.
Any challenges in retirement?
Yes, a lot of challenges. You just can’t do as much as you desire to do. Your physical body is not going to tell you that you can rush all over the place all the time. I have too many invitations that I cannot meet and that is why I do my diary two years at a time. So the 2021 items in my dairy are now filling up and by the time I get into December, I am already putting to finish the 2021 diary for my partners who are praying with me. So much as my spirit is always willing; my body can’t do it all and now in retirement, I can say to some people that I can’t do that and I can’t come to you. Remember that travelling up and down this country is a lot of work.
How have you been affected individually by the COVID-19?
Do you know that the day the lockdown was imposed, we were passing through Entebbe Airport from the US together with my wife? We arrived on the March 18, the same day when the President was on air issuing the restrictions that the airport will close, schools, and everything else. The airport authority said they were supposed to quarantine us in Entebbe, but asked us to do self quarantine. We went to Mukono to get a two-day’s breath then travelled to our upcountry home in Nebi. After a month, the Ministry of Health sent a team to come and test us. They took our samples and the results came back negative. I have since been at home for four months, and the first trip I made was this one.
You were the chancellor when Dr. John Senyonyi became the Vice-chancellor of UCU 10 years ago. Why did you endorse him?
Dr. Senyonyi had been mentored already by Prof. Stephen Noll, his predecessor. He had worked alongside him and knew UCU very well. And what I thought about him then was the trust Prof. Noll had about him. The trust is always good because somebody who is local and locally bred and people can trust him later alone a Muzungu (white man), it means he has seen quality in the person and so we were very considerate about the honest assessment from Prof. Noll. I have also known John for a very long period of time ever since he was with the African Evangelist Enterprise.
What is your honest assessment of Dr. Senyonyi’s tenure as he retires in August?
He has come to the end of his work without any single crisis. He has not been fired by the board or by anybody else. For me what will always tell you that somebody is a good leader is how they finish. When the people finish well and peacefully, then you know that they have worked their way within the best of their abilities and have finished. Perfect? No. Nobody is perfect. There are other things that could have happened that can happen to anybody. But Dr. Senyonyi’s main achievement is that he finished well and that in 10 years, UCU has grown in numbers, quality, and infrastructure. UCU is now one of those institutions in the country with a name and that depends on how the leadership has been. He has been at the apex of that leadership. I am also thankful that he has not collapsed because of diabetes, high blood pressure or stroke.
Any advice to Dr. Senyonyi for his retirement?
John, you are coming out, but you have a lot of energy. May God give you opportunity to use your energy because men like you need outlet for energy. Use your gifts to bless this country.
And any word to the incoming Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Aaron Mushengyezi?
Be a leader who is transparent. Listen because you learn a lot from your faculty and students. Be a man who is humble enough to ask for assistance. Even Jesus recruited disciples who would help him to advance his mission. And may I ask God to give you discernment to choose the right kind of people to advise you. Anything can rise or fail because of the kind of people who are advising you. I also pray that you will understand that this is about serving people and God. It’s not about prestige or promotion.
How does UCU fit into the mission of the Province of the Church of Uganda?
UCU was a child conceived by Archbishop Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo. And it’s an investment in the building of the next generation. That is one of the core values of the Church, to think ahead. For the Church our pride is we have ministered and we have served not only Uganda, but other countries around us and elsewhere because we partner very heavily with Nigeria. Nigerians have come to study here. We are also linked internationally. Trinity Divinity School has sent us people here and we have sent our people over there. So our international connection as a Church brings the all thing about the Church not only being a local entity, but global and we see that happen as the Church’s pride in UCU. And also I think that by what comments people make, makes the Church encouraged and proud that we are producing results that is blessing not only for our nation, but all the place where our people go to.
The Provincial assembly set aside the first Sunday in September for the dioceses to promote and fundraise for UCU. Why are some not cooperating?
I don’t even want to think about the UCU Sunday. I want to think about Ugandans who have money to sometimes provide in their will that would like to put for UCU sh5m, sh10m or whatever. And this should be regular. You know when people are willing to give and give genuinely? Yesterday I had a man I met in the Archbishop’s place, a man who is a member of our Church with such a giving ability. He has done work with the Archbishop when he was still a bishop in Mityana. The Archbishop was telling us that he came to fundraise for their cathedral roofing and one man alone said he wanted to give sh100m ($27,284.70) for the project. When the money wasn’t enough, they came to say that they still needed some more money. The same man said he would give another $27,284.70 – Sh200m ($54,569.4) from one person? Now that to me tells me that we have people, who are willing to give towards the cause of the Church including UCU. Let’s just put it for an argument’s sake, we have 20 Ugandans who are willing to commit $27.284.70 per year. That money is more than what comes from the dioceses. That’s how the Americans do it. They have philanthropists who are willing to commit money regularly for 5 to 10 years. That’s much more easier for planning purposes than when you are waiting for money to come in when you even don’t know how much it is.
How is that kind of fundraising possible in Uganda?
I was in Mbarara District and for four years coming every November, we would go there, I was encouraging Christians to put their Church in the town. The Archdeaconry of greater Mbarara has now built a church, the biggest in Uganda, a 7000 seater. Very beautiful indeed, but when they wanted to raise money for the roof, they invited the President of Uganda to come and the bishop stood up to say how much the Christians have actually committed to build the church without a bank loan. He said there is one Christian here, who built the offshoot of this Church in Kakooba near Bishop Stuart University and him as his family alone raised sh250m ($68,211.75).
Any message for UCU students going through challenges due to COVID-19?
My encouragement to the students is that while you are out there, think as a student, but as a useful student meaning that if you are home with your guardian or parents, employ yourself. Make yourself useful. If there is a way you can eliminate the burden of finances, do it. I have university students in my home, I never give them the money, they will come to me and say, dad, give us work to do because they have their personal needs. So where I would be asking other people to do the work for me and pay them, I pay my own family members because they are willing to serve. That’s the way to go.
And any message for Christians going through the same kind of suffering?
I only want to tell you Christians that what we going through is not foreign to God. He understands it more than we do. He knows we need to wear, eat, and to be accommodated. He also knows that we need to be healthy even more deeply so allow God to understand that we actually know that He knows. Yesterday I was emphasizing a lot on prayer. I said that there are two things that Jesus taught us. The first, he taught us who God is. The God who is the father in haven, the holy God, King of Kings, our protector, the forgiver of our sins, the shepherded of our souls and the defender of our lives. That is God in his quality. And then he is related to us. He is a friend, God our friend and our father. We still have our hotline with God our father and I know there are testimonies I have already heard during this period. On Saturday, I was in Makerere with a chaplain and his wife was giving a testimony about how God was intervening in their domestic needs this way: A batch of matooke will come, when it’s about to get finished, another one will come from different people and are all strangers, why? The God who knows our different needs knows how we will survive.
Why should a student study from UCU?
I don’t think that we are going to sell out UCU more than it has already been sold out. UCU is so well known. UCU is a university with Christian ethos, which in itself makes it a very special place. Secondly, our products from UCU are very marketable. When you finish from UCU, the workplace out there is looking for UCU graduates, and it’s because of the kind of way we have disciplined people and how we have brought them up. Thirdly, UCU carries with it the pride of the Church of Uganda and I am amazed the other people, Roman Catholics and Muslims are attracted to this University and we do the foundation course, Christian Ethics, which gives the basis for UCU. So when other people who are not members of the Church of Uganda are attracted, then you know that something good is there. We keep that as a point of attraction because we deliver and anybody intending to apply for University education should come to UCU.
Where do you want to see UCU in the next 20 years?
From an honest perspective, I don’t want UCU to grow beyond what it can manage. By the time a place becomes so popular, the temptation is to grow it and grow it. But if you grow it so big and you can’t manage it, your products are going to lose quality. So I would want UCU to keep growing, but very calculatedly, steadily and gently. What I would also want UCU to do is to strengthen the (regional) colleges. We have one in Mbale, we have another one in Kabale; we also have a study centre in Arua. I would love to see these become fully fledged colleges so that both Arua and Mbale should not come to the main campus for their graduations. Like Bishop Barham in Kabale, their graduation takes place there. I would like to see that built up so that we can decentralize our services. For somebody to come from Arua to graduate in Mukono is very expensive unnecessarily.
But some people say UCU has a very expensive tuition policy?
The point is that UCU is a private institution. It doesn’t get any help from government. It works itself out with all the things we have in terms of infrastructure, lecturers’ salaries and everything else from the students’ tuition. In the end, it becomes expensive, but you actually get the worth of your tuition.
What do you say about Ugandan politicians who are secretly holding political meetings in churches that were closed in March to mitigate the spread of COVID-19
There is no leadership in those areas where this is happening. If there was leadership, the leaders would know that church buildings are sacred and dedicated to God. They would not allow politicians to use them. The politicians would rather look for other places for their activities. Churches are dwelling places for the Lord.
The interviewer, John Semakula, is a graduate of the Master of Arts in Journalism and Media Studies of Uganda Christian University (UCU). He is the supervisor of The Standard newspaper and lecturer of journalism and Communication at UCU. John has worked with the New Vision newspaper for over 15 years.
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