For a person that was awarded a scholarship to study ministry, at an international Bible college but upon graduation, he said his calling was in business not ministry or anything near to it, could not but leave many especially his sponsors disappointed. They could not understand how a man with a story of passion and dedication to the work of God could choose to do business.
Joshua Lwere, the senior pastor of Grace Assembly Church, Kampala and newly consecrated Overseer of the National Fellowship of Born Again Pentecostal Churches (NFBPC) in Uganda has had a love for God which was cemented by an illustration made to him by his mathematics and physics teacher; Dan Norad. That was in 1984 at Kako secondary school. He was in senior five. “I scored 99 per cent in a mathematics test and Mr Norad personally came to our dormitory to thank me,” he recalls.
Norad was a Christian who often shared about his faith with students. “He told me of an attempted assassination on (then) US President Ronald Reagan which was foiled by one of his bodyguards. On seeing that someone aimed at shooting his master, the bodyguard jumped in front of the President and instead of hitting the President, the bullet hit the bodyguard. I was struck by the sacrificial act of that bodyguard,” narrates Lwere.
Norad wanted to introduce Lwere to Jesus’s love for mankind. “He said that’s exactly what Jesus did for me. I was a sinner and supposed to die but Jesus died on my behalf. That day I decided to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour.”
Lwere was to undergo training and discipleship after high school by a one Florence Lubega. While majority of the people who attended Lubega’s training went away after training, Lwere chose to stay, not for a short time but for seven years earning no pay, only food and a place to sleep. “These were very painful seven years,” he says. “Every day I had to pray for grace but I chose to stay because of the training I received.”
Resilience and commitment later paid off for Lwere since he was recommended to study ministry at Harvest Time International Institute in California, USA. after which he excelled. He enrolled for a degree at Vision University still in California.
Asked whether he considered that the obvious choice after the course would be to start church Ministry, Lwere says, “I also thought so. “I had given part of my land here (Bukasa Nakulabye) to God, and brethrens in the UK had started fundraising for me to start a Bible college. The institute and the university in the USA where I studied had already given me letters of recommendation but then I felt that’s not what God wanted me to do.”
It was inevitably a big disappointment to his disciplers and sponsors. “They said they were not going to sponsor me to do business. If I were to receive support from them, it had to be ministry.”
Lwere says he had learned to listen to and understand the voice of God and it was not the first time God had advised him contrary to the popular wishes. “With my excellent performance in mathematics and physics at high school, I wanted to do engineering or maybe medicine but God said no. Then I thought I would immediately join Bible College but God said ‘not now’. So even when I later joined Bible college and God said ‘start business’ I knew he had a plan.”
The business was a computer training centre; in a field he barely knew anything. “I only knew five things on the computer; switch on, retrieve Word Perfect, type, save and switch off. So I asked myself how I was going to operate a computer training Centre.” He nevertheless rented office space and put a big signpost “Grace Computer Centre” and invited computer trainees. He also advertised for jobs of computer trainers. “Many people applied with big CVs. But being computer illiterate myself, I didn’t understand what was on the CVs. So after talking to them, I would say ‘I don’t trust what you have said. I will give you a class for three months on probation, only then will I know you’re competent’. Many agreed and so would teach my clients as I sat at the back. They taught very well thinking I was invigilating them yet I was actually learning.”
Lwere has since expanded his business enterprises. Today he owns a micro finance institution and a housing estate among other businesses.
Doing business, however, didn’t deter him from ministry activities. “I think the two are not separate but complimentary,” he says. He says in the year 2000, after sensing it was then the right time, he and his wife started a church, Grace Assembly Church, Kampala. Before that Lwere was active in the NFBPC activities since the organisation’s inception in 1990.
NFBPC is an umbrella organisation for over 30,000 Pentecostal churches in Uganda. He rose through the ranks, beginning as a clerk to serving as its Secretary General.
On June 1, 2013 Lwere 47 was, at a national ceremony at Kololo Independence grounds, consecrated General Overseer, replacing Apostle Alex Mitala.
To the Pastor, moral and ethical issues are the biggest challenges facing the Church in Uganda, for which discipleship and socio-economic transformation hold the remedy. Lwere is actively involved in training pastors across the country as well as conducting business management clinics.