Shining A Light on the Dark Continent

Planting the Seeds of Chaplaincy

Capt. Richard Ssejemba, course coordinator for the Uganda People’s Defense Force School, asked Dave how he could go about starting a chaplain’s program in the UPDF. Ssejemba was one of the 44 people who attended the Palm Sunday service Dave led on April 17, 2011 at Camp Kasenyi, Uganda, near Kampala.


After services, he and Dave sat down to talk about the need for military chaplains in the UPDF. “He commented that when people join the UPDF, then religion is forgotten. There are lots of soldiers with AIDS and other issues that chaplains could help with, plus worship,” Dave said. He told Capt. Ssejemba chaplains act as human, spiritual, and ethical advisors to leadership, which could help prevent atrocities in war and conflicts.

Dave and Navy Chaplain Steve Beyer serve communion.
Dave and Navy Chaplain Steve Beyer serve communion.


In his eight years at Camp Kasenyi, Capt. Ssejemba told Dave the Palm Sunday service was only the second worship service held at the camp. “He and many others in the UPDF thanked us for coming and conducting worship. Many wanted Bibles, which (the Navy) Senior Chief had in supply,” Dave said.


The Palm Sunday communion service was “very moving to see Ugandan military, Ugandan government, U.S.  Military, U.S. Embassy and U.S. AID workers gather around the table of our Lord, as brothers and sisters in faith, enjoy each other and worship together,” Dave said. After service, a birthday cake was hastily turned into a Palm Sunday cake by wiping out the word “birthday” and substituting “Palm Sunday.”  “You could see where birthday had been written,” Dave said.


Capt. Ssejemba wanted to know the best way to get new chaplains. “He asked if they should select them from the ranks or pick from outside the military and train them.” Dave suggested using trained or ordained ministers and priests who were already educated and then train them in military ways.  “This would prevent a ‘state’ religion and they’d get interested clergy instead of ‘forced’ chaplains,” he said.


Dave gave Capt. Ssejemba his card, Navy Chaplain CAPT John Cutler’s (Dave’s boss at Camp Lemonnier) e-mail to follow up, and Capt. Ssejemba would talk with the UPDF Chief of Operations and Training about starting a chaplain service.


“I told him this is part of what we do – help militaries develop chaplain services and Chap. Cutler would be visiting Uganda again at the end of May,” Dave said.


“He was very interested. Let’s see how God waters these seeds that have been planted,” Dave said.


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