Nine years ago, Pastor Robert Bagonza from Uganda contacted my colleague, Denise Stein, and asked if we could equip his church to support women facing unplanned pregnancy. He told her other local pastors wouldn’t partner with him because they felt the needs of their congregants were too great to start any outreach to “those types of women.”
So we sent him the curriculum we were piloting in a few Chicago churches. He let people know his church would start a support group. Sixty-nine women came to that first meeting!
Today, there are 53 churches supporting over 4,580 women in Uganda (and neighboring Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo) through ProGrace Connection groups!
These are local churches, many of them small, without big budgets, grand buildings or influential connections. They just believe God wants them to extend grace to vulnerable women and children — and they are doing it.
Denise and I were in Kampala, Uganda in January 2019, and we spent a day training 150 more Christian leaders.
These are some of my favorite comments we received after the training:
- “The Holy Spirit was moving here among us today.”
- “I have been a Pharisee in the way I viewed women facing unplanned pregnancy! But no more!”
- “There are so many more pastors who would love to hear this! Will you come to our city?”
What is happening in Uganda?
God is tearing town a very old stronghold. Only 100 years ago, single women who were pregnant (even if by rape) were exiled to an island to die. This came out of a “Christian” conviction that sex outside of marriage is wrong. But think about what this meant — both the woman and the child died for this sin, while nothing happened to the man. This sounds like the evil one twisting scripture because he wants to kill and destroy.
Today, abortion is illegal in Uganda. But even though women aren’t sent to an island anymore, they still face great discrimination. They find themselves in desperate situations that threaten their life and the life of the child. And it’s not just single women, it’s also married women whose husbands abandon them, as well as rape victims. Sometimes they will have illegal abortions, or will leave the baby out in the elements.
What keeps the Church from stepping up?
Even with this desperation, what has kept the Church in Uganda from stepping in and coming to their aid? The answer is legalism — the idea that the sin that led to a woman’s pregnancy is worse than the sin of others in the church.
And what is God using to tear down this stronghold? The answer is grace. It’s no different than what Jesus did when He was here. He opened people’s eyes to the truth of the Kingdom of God. Only His grace, not the law, transforms any of us
This isn’t just about the Church in Uganda. The enemy has also tried to keep the American Church bound in legalism too. Our local churches are afraid to support “those types of women” because we don’t want to condone the sin that led to the pregnancy.
But are we exiling them and their child to an “island” to die? Maybe not physically, but what about emotionally and spiritually?
What happens to women who are isolated by their church?
A recent study shows that 4 out of 10 women who have abortions were church-goers at the time, but only 7% of them talked to anyone at their church before they made that decision. They make the decision in isolation and don’t talk to anyone at church because they fear judgment.
When our churches aren’t the first place a woman goes for help, we have to look inside and ask why. Are we really living the gospel of good news? Do we believe we all are equal at the cross, no matter what we’ve done or haven’t done? Do we believe Jesus paid for all our sins so we could become the righteousness of God?
The Church should be the hands and feet of Jesus.
I am humbled and grateful that God has used me in some small way in what He’s doing through His Church in Uganda. Not only do these churches facilitate support groups, but they actively help women find means of being self-sufficient through group farming projects and making items such as baskets and purses. The churches are being the hands and feet of Jesus in a very desperate place. All because God has awakened them anew to the power of His grace.
My prayer for the Church.
I pray we in the American Church will learn from our African brothers and sisters. I pray we will look to grace, not the law, when faced with the issues of unplanned pregnancy and abortion.
I’m also praying that more of us in America will support our African brothers and sisters as they are launching creative programs to help women become financially self-sufficient.
For more information on how you can support ProGrace Uganda, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To send a donation to support this ministry, go to www.prograce.org/donate, and then email us at email@example.com to let us know your gift is designated to Uganda.