Stephen Senfuma is the senior pastor at United Christian Centre in Kasubi. While his preaching and teachings have had a profound influence on followers, it is his personal life that is even more inspiring.
As he marks 25 years in Christian ministry, Senfuma offers a tell-it-all account of a forsaken child that did drugs and contemplated suicide to a respectable man of God.
My name is Stephen Senfuma. I’m the seventh born in a polygamous family of three wives and 23 children. My mother was the youngest and she begat 16 of us. My father was a World War II veteran and was rewarded with land where he had coffee, banana plantations and cattle. Because the wives always competed for our dad, our home in Kayunga had a lot of much jealousy and sorcery.
However, my dad provided for his family apart from my mother and her children. This hatred towards us resulted in some of us leaving home. Strangely, he enjoyed and applauded all nature of fighting amongst us and even betted money on winners.
His slogan was: ‘Fight and we see the strongest.’ Such a character instilled a fighting spirit in us and little wonder that later I joined Kungfu and boxing. My dad was violent and abusive, his conversations centred on fighting and wooing women, this psychologically tortured me and some of my siblings. That’s why I implore parents to avoid cruelty towards children as this scars their lives forever.
Despite the fact that our father was rich, we lacked basic needs and often went to school barefooted. He educated me up to primary three and stopped; so, I had to get school fees by performing with a local traditional dance group as well as ferrying matoke to the market.
I did this up to primary six and I later came to Kampala. I did several odd jobs, including making and selling pancakes and pushing handcarts. I also worked as house boy on four different occasions. I lived in great misery to the point I contemplated suicide, but couldn’t afford poison or a rope.
I took up boxing and Kungfu at Nakivubo stadium and registered with Kampala Boxing Club with a motive of gaining self-defence skills and confidence. I was convinced that nobody loved me since my own father had rejected me, therefore boxing and opium became my companion hence becoming an addict.
Under the influence of opium, I and my peers would never feel satisfied in training until one of us bled, our slang was; blood was flour opium or mawidi, and we called each other kyawupiri mwana. Taking opium is real madness; one time we were all high and tried to jump over a cliff in order to grab an aircraft flying overhead, we fell to the ground and sustained injuries.
Many times I would utter vulgar words to anyone who held a bible as I hated it simply because it referred to God as our heavenly Father yet I hated my biological father. My negative perception of my father caused me to hate myself and life while in the process drawing me to opium for comfort and peace of mind. This is typical of people with wounded hearts (inner man); they find solace in smoking cigarettes or opium, booze and going to discos.
Many evangelists preached to me and had to endure my vulgarities as I rubbished them and their ‘mzungu Christ’. One day, I lured a lady preacher into my one room with the intention to harm her but the words she spoke to me started my journey to salvation; ‘One day you will get saved, despite your stubbornness,’ she said.
Little did I know that this was a prophecy as three months later, I surrendered to Jesus despite my gang insisting ‘kyawupiris’ don’t get saved. I also had a lot of questions concerning death, the answers came through a neighbour who said to me: ‘when a person dies without accepting Jesus Christ, one goes to hell but when you accept Christ, you go to heaven.’
In my life I used to fear two things; a gun and death but I was surprised when he boldly talked about death and resurrection. This persuaded me to get saved, a turning point as I immediately stopped opium use and womanizing, though I retained my boxing passion.
One Sunday morning I was alone; for I was always the first one in church, then I had a voice: ‘Stephen I am the Lord your God, leave boxing for I have called you to go and preach my Gospel,’…it continued: ‘Guard yourself against women, money and vain glory.’
I looked around but there was no one in the room. That day, I cried and asked myself; if my father never loved me, who else can love me? But God loved us and gave us his only begotten son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. I became zealous for winning souls, I preached the gospel at every given opportunity.
In Mityana, 52 converts formed the first church I pastored. Later, we held a crusade in Kayunga, together with brother, Ssalongo Moses Mwesigwa. I started a church for the converts but we lacked finances and went hungry most times. This is why I encourage my fellow ministers to do some work for sustainability of their physical life like Apostle Paul who ministered and made tents for a living. We also held a crusade in Zengebe, Nakasongola where I stayed to pastor a church that still stands to date.
In 1991, I got married to my late wife, Jane Senfuma, who was from Matugga Prayer Palace. I honestly told her that I don’t have silver and gold but I possess that which is greater than all; Christ my hope of glory. She accepted to marry me and introduced me to her parents who I also briefed about my little financial status. We had a simple introduction and we planned to be wed in church without a ceremony.
However, the pastor encouraged us to let the church stand with us in organizing the wedding. We went back to Zengebe and started a bakery where I employed some youths who convinced me to train them in boxing.
But, I kept hearing a voice saying; “Stephen you are back into boxing, Senfuma remember how far I have brought you!” Later I got injured during practice and was forced to abandon boxing and obey God’s voice.
I left Zengebe at God’s command in 1993 and on arrival in Kampala, I attended Heritage Revival Church Kasubi whose pastor had abandoned the church for over seven months due to his personal challenges. This scattered the believers and about 70 of us utilized Good Times primary school to start a fellowship and that is how United Christian Centre (UCC) Kasubi was born.
We put up a temporary structure in a fellow believer’s courtyard and then the Lord guided us into prayer plus fasting which created unity and establish the foundation of praying and fasting ourselves instead of relying on the pastor’s prayers. Finally, in 1996 the Lord blessed us and we bought land in Kasubi where we built the church to date. We met various challenges in ministry; especially at the new location and these we have overcome thus the visible and evident transformation on Kasubi.
The area was littered with shrines, dangerous hideouts for drug addicts and dens of robbers. Meanwhile, prostitution and killings were rampant plus all vices found in slum areas. However, the church overcame these challenges and over the years it has triggered developments and in the community as God positively impacts men, women and children.
In 2006, Jane went to be with the Lord when we got a motor accident. We had been married for 15 years and had three daughters. In the wake of Jane’s death, even before burial, many ladies troubled me with love letters requesting for marriage.
I communicated to church and my children about this. One of my daughters advised: ‘daddy it’s high time you married again,’ and the rest added: ‘daddy we shall pray for you to make your own choice.’
Together, we prayed for this matter at our family altar and God gave me the grace to choose from the church a lady called Favour Senfuma, who had all the qualities I desired in a wife.
I finally proposed to her but she got so scared, though later she accepted. Earlier on, I had given her a test that she passed. I thought to myself, this chapter is closed since, unfortunately, it was far from over. More keep coming up to date, though all the temptations by ladies do not move me as earlier on while staying with my newly-married brother in his one room, I learnt to abstain and live in self-denial for Christ’s sake. I also recall that God warned me of three things; women, money and vain glory.
INNER MAN INFLUENCE
God revealed to me the mystery of the inner man, and this is the basis of my current ministry as I teach and guide the believers to understand the great value, greatness and depth of the inner man plus the eternity of the spirit of man.
We have annual conferences where in-depth teachings purposely for renewal inner man and healing to the heart in different churches and regions. I have preached in the media and nations on the inner man and my first invitation was to Northern Ireland, many were touched by my testimony and recovery from drug addiction. God has given me the grace to speak and even preach in English, though previously I moved with an interpreter.
This August 2019 as we celebrate 25 years of United Christian Centre Kasubi, I thank God for all I have, I am and will be. God does not owe me anything, instead I feel indebted to Him for all his goodness to me, Ebenezer. By His grace, I have been able to lead this ministry for over 25 years, established a radio station – Innerman FM (107.5) and authored nine books while overseeing 38 branches in Uganda.
The ministry has schools; Inner man pre and primary school in Kasubi and Zengebe. We recently started Stevour Christian High School, an institution to instill Christian values while educating children to be the future of Uganda. We also partner with Compassion International in Omuntu w’Omunda Child Development Centre, a project that helps more than 450 needy children and caretakers.
I have seen the promise come to pass, that God gave me that many people will discover their calling through my teachings and serve the Lord; that’s my joy.
As told to Caroline Namyalo