Apolo Kivebulaya, Missionary 30 May 1933
(from the Anglican Calendar)
After Christianity had gained a foothold in Uganda, in eastern equatorial Africa (see James Hannington, Martyr, 29 October 1885, and the Martyrs of Uganda, 3 June 1886), the tribal chief of Boga, a village in western Uganda, just west of the Great Rift Valley, requested that missionaries be sent to his people. Two Ugandans were sent early in 1896, and they made some converts. But their firm stand against sorcery, polygamy, and drunkenness offended the chief, and he cut off their food supply, thus forcing them to leave.
A young soldier, Apolo Kivebulaya, had been converted a short time earlier, and after his baptism had declared his willingness to serve as a catechist, or lay instructor, in western Uganda. He was accordingly sent to Boga late in 1896. He grew his own food, and so could not be forced out by having the market closed against him. But his stand against sorcery, polygamy, and other practices roused strenuous opposition. Then a sister of the chief died in an accident for which Apolo was blamed. A mob seized him and beat him severely, and then turned him over to the British authorities for trial. He spent several months in jail awaiting trial, and was greatly discouraged. His missionary enterprise appeared to have collapsed, and the British authorities seemed to be on the side of his accusers. But in prison he had an experience of the presence of Christ, and his faith was strengthened. Eventually the charges against him were dismissed, and he returned to Boga, where his preaching and the example of his life bore fruit. He declared the Good News both to the people of Boga and to the pygmy peoples of the neighboring forest area. Many persons were converted, including the chief who had opposed him so bitterly.
In 1915 the border was altered, so that Boga, formerly in western Uganda, became part of the easternmost section of the Belgian Congo (known since its independence in 1960 as Zaire, although since the recent change of government in 1997 there has been talk of changing the name back to the Republic of the Congo). After this change, Apolo became a permanent resident of Boga, no longer making visits to Uganda. He devoted special attention to training others to take over the leadership of the community from him, so that when he died on 30 May 1933, the Boga church continued to flourish. However, it remained a small community (territory about 50 miles across) and an isolated one (its bishop was across the Great Rift, in Uganda, and contacts with him were necessarily infrequent). In 1969 Mr Theodore L Lewis, an American Foreign Service officer attached to the American Embassy in Zaire, visited Boga, beheld the strong Christian commitment of the people there, and the vigorous life of the Church (though there were fewer than a dozen ministers to care for about 25,000 members), and urged the Church to establish a bishop there and provide support and encouragement and outside contact for the Christians of the Boga region. In early 1972, with the support of the CMS (Church Mission Society) in England, Boga received its first bishop, Philip Ridsdale, an English missionary who had served in Uganda and Boga. (All subsequent diocesan bishops in Zaire have been black Africans.) Today the Anglican Church in Zaire is a Province under its own archbishop, comprising six dioceses, with about 500,000 members, and is widely spread throughout the country, particularly the eastern half.
The above account is based largely on the book, African Saint, by Anne Luck (SCM Press, London, 1963), and on a personal communication from Mr. Lewis, mentioned above.
written by James Kiefer
Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Apolo Kivebulaya, whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of Boga in central Africa. Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.