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First Lady hails Watoto for looking after orphans, vulnerable women in 40-year anniversary message

First Lady Mama Janet Museveni flanked by Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng greet Watoto Church pastors at Kololo Grounds on Sunday, June 23, 2024 (Photo/Courtesy)

Kampala, (UG):- Uganda’s First Lady and Minister for Education and Sports, Hon Janet Kataha Museveni on Sunday poured out praises to Watoto Church for spreading the Gospel, reaching out to orphans and the underprivileged since its establishment in 1984.

Mrs Museveni who was presiding over as the Chief Guest as the church celebrated its 40th birthday at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds highlighted the Church’s achievements, whose unique gospel has changed the lives of many Ugandans, especially youths.

“You have achieved outstanding results, in greatly improving the lives of the people of this country. “You have rescued and cared for more than 5,500 orphans. You have raised them in a family setting and taught them to be Godly and productive citizens,” Mama Janet stated in her speech to tens of thousands of faithful at Kololo.

The First Lady also commended the church for empowering more than 6,500 vulnerable women with vocational and entrepreneurial skills, providing them with start-up capital and instilling Godly values. By improving the lives of women, Mrs Museveni said the church has “indirectly bettered the lives of countless children.”

Watoto Church Team Leader, Pastor Julius Rwotlonyo (L) and First Lady Mama Janet Museveni cut the cake to mark 40 years of Watoto Church in Uganda

Watoto, founded in 1984, currently boasts of three children villages; Suubi (on Masaka Road), Bbira (on Mityana Road) and Laminadera in northern Uganda (Omoro District). In all these three villages, the church offers food, clothing, medical care, and education to the orphaned and disadvantaged children, most of whom are picked from the streets and others abandoned by their parents/guardians. 

Church preaches peaceful transition

The Speaker of the day, Retired Archbishop, Rt Rev Henry Luke Orombi in his sermon praised Watoto Church founders Gary, 71, and wife, Marilyn Skinner, 69, for passing on leadership to the next generation of leaders, urging other leaders in the country to embrace the same. The Canadian missionaries on February 3, 2023, retired from leading Watoto Church and passed over leadership to Pastors Julius and Vernita Rwotlonyo.

Rev Orombi also hailed Pastor Gary for being an exemplary leader who walked in the shoes of humility and integrity throughout the 40-year journey at the helm of the Kampala Pentecostal Church (as it is formerly known). The former Archbishop, however, castigated the corruption acts which he said are plaguing the country and depriving quality service delivery to the common Ugandan.

“This country is limping because of corrupt people who are robbing the money and resources of this country but you have given them a clear example and I believe that many of the leaders will see that from you,” Rev Orombi preached, before asking God to enable a peaceful leadership transition in Uganda, inspired by the smooth transition within Watoto Church.

Watoto Church faithful in awe of praise as the church celebrated its 40-year birthday in Uganda

“Now Uganda is learning something else very important, that it is possible to have a peaceful transition from one leader to the next. You have peacefully stepped aside to give this young dynamic pastor and his wife to take over as you watch. For Pastors Gary and Marilyn Skinner to walk and step aside, these are miracles of the 21st century,” he said, attracting a loud applause from the congregation.

“My prayer for our country is that may God grant our country a peaceful transition, in leadership. Why? We must preserve the gains we have for the next generation. It is possible.”

Another speaker, also founding member of Watoto, Pastor Chris Komagum reiterated the Archbishop’s message hailing Pastor Skinner for being a servant leader for all the years he headed the church.

In one of the memorable incidents, Mr Komagum recalled how Mr Gary, despite being the senior pastor once cleaned toilets at the Normad Cinema Building (now Watoto Downtown) during its early years after moving from grand Imperial Hotel.

“When we moved away from Grand Imperial Hotel and we went to now Norman Cinema, which is now Watoto Downtown, the place was filthy but Gary washed the toilets and yet he served as the senior pastor,” he said, emphasising leadership is not about position, pomp, pleasure, prestige but humility.

The Big 40 Cake for Watoto’s 40-year journey

The Founding Pastors, Gary and Marilyn Skinner expressed their desire to be remembered for serving the generation and inspiring the next but affirmed that, despite stepping down from church leadership, the best is yet to come for Watoto.

The Big 40 event concluded at 8 pm when the praise rally, featured by Us based music group Bethany Music, the Watoto Worship Academy and Children’s Choir, and local gospel artistes Brian Lubega, and Sam Kimera, among others gave the faithful a non-stop four-hour session of praise and worship at a fully-packed Kololo grounds.

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