Uganda, Africa — A Ugandan pastor reports that he was arrested and chained to a tree last weekend for distributing a Gospel film outside one of the largest megachurches in the nation.
Pastor Bill Issa of Reconcilation Outreach Ministries states that he and a team of five Christians set out last Saturday to distribute copies of the film The Biggest Question at Miracle Center Cathedral in Kampala when they were met with opposition from police. They had just finished up a distribution at St. Lawrence University where approximately 300 students received copies of the Gospel film, which features Kirk Cameron, Todd Friel and RW Glenn sharing about matters of life and eternity. Issa serves as the Ugandan team leader for the global The Biggest Question distribution effort, headed up by Friel’s Wretched outreach in Minnesota.
“We first handed out some DVDs outside the gate of the megachurch, then decided to enter the premises of the church,” he explained, noting that Miracle Central Cathedral was hosting a large youth dance competition called “Dance Heaven” that night. “We reached the gate where the police had [set up] a very serious check point. They were checking anyone, everywhere.”
When the police noted that the Christians were distributing copies of The Biggest Question, they acknowledged that they had seen a number of people entering the building with the DVDs. They then asked the team to go inside the church to be questioned about the matter.
“I identified myself as pastor at ROM church, and that we had come to hand out the Gospel DVDs, [and that they] don’t have anything bad in them like pornography, terrorism, etc.,” Issa explained. “They asked us whether the DVDs were coming from their leading pastor Robert Kayanja and we said ‘no.’ Immediately they told us that they don’t allow any other Gospel there which is not from Kayanja himself.”
“I tried to reason with them that both us and their pastor have the same Master and same motive of winning souls for Christ, but they told me, ‘We don’t need any other Gospel here,'” Issa continued. “After that, they asked us to leave all our bags with them at the gate and enter the church to watch ‘Dance Heaven’ [and] that we could go back for them after the competition.”
The team then told the police that they had no interest in watching the dance competition, but rather to share the Gospel. The police advised the group to go back out onto the street if they wished to continue their activities.
Issa explained that he and the others positioned themselves in a strategic location where they could hand out the film to those entering the event. For a time, all went well — that is, until police noticed some of the youth leaving the building to find the Christians that were distributing the presentation.
“As we were there busy in our job, we saw one of those we had given a DVD come with a policeman,” Issa recalled. “When they reached us, the man told the police — pointing at me, ‘Here is their leader,’ and the policeman grabbed and took me away like a thief.”
“He took me inside the church gate and handed me to their chief, who gave me a very heavy slap, saying, ‘Didn’t I chase you from here? I will teach you a lesson you will never forget in life.’ At that point, he pushed me and I fell down with my bag full of DVDs,” he continued. “He took me near a wetland and asked another policeman to [stand] there guarding me, saying, ‘If he stands up a little bit, shoot him down.'”
Issa states that he remained in the wetland for several hours and spoke to the policeman guarding him about repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The others with the team had reportedly left for fear that they, too, would be arrested. Issa’s wife and children came looking for him, but were sent away.
After some time, the chief came out to see the pastor. However, Issa states that he was forced to endure even more suffering.
“The chief came and chained me onto a tree near the wetland and left,” he explained. “The place was very cold and full of mosquitoes. They were biting me everywhere, but I could not chase them because my two hands had been chained to a tree. After watching the DVD, they never found anything bad there, but decided to just make me suffer.”
Near 1 a.m., after the dance competition had ended, Ugandan police informed Issa he was free to go, but warned him to never return again. Because the church was 5 miles from his home, and Issa had no method of transportation, he was forced to walk the entire way after being unchained from the tree.
“I first went on my knees and said, ‘Lord Jesus, many people are being killed at night these days. Please protect me, Lord, as I start footing this long way back home,'” he recalled. “After that, I left slowly and reached home in the morning at around 5 a.m. I knocked, and when my wife and older kids saw me, they busted into tears, but I calmed them down and asked them to go together on our knees and thank the Lord for what He had just done. Those people had threatened to kill me [and] jail me for life [by claiming] that I was a terrorist trying to bomb the church of Kayanja.”
Issa states that his body was swollen from the multitude of mosquito bites, and that he has been feeling weak from the incident.
A representative with The Biggest Question told Christian News Network that they first became aware of the situation via Facebook, and immediately posted an emergency prayer request about the matter. Issa credits the prayers of the saints for his release.
“It is not normal to just be released,” Trisha Ramos with the US-based distribution effort explained. “They are normally beaten severely or are bribed or they ask for money.”