Sister Sarah Kihuguru's Testimony
As I write this account of events that took place in Kampala, I fondly remember the saints in the Midwestern region of the U.S. who shepherded me, cherished me, and loved me. Throughout the nine years that I waited on the Lord, I never forgot you saints. I remember so many saints from all over the world, but these saints poured out their hearts.
Whenever I hear talk of the Midwest, I have fond memories of the saints there. I am the Ugandan sister that lived in the old Cincinnati meeting hall with the Miller family for about 15 months. I returned to Uganda in August 1996 and married my husband, Godwin.
I write this introduction because I am aware that my name has been mentioned as one who was involved in raising up the church in Kampala. Before I begin, I must also state that the church in Kampala was truly produced by God in life and by the prayers of many saints around the world. Because the Lord's work in Kampala began in an organic way, the foundation of life and truth that was laid preserved us throughout the distressing events that followed.
In February 2002 the Miller family visited us in Uganda. They also met the group of believers who were meeting in our house at the time. This was the first contact with saints from the Midwest of the U.S. in Uganda.
In 2003, more brothers from the Midwest, including John Myer (whom I had known from Cincinnati) and Keith Miller, visited Uganda again. They came on an investigative visit to see if Uganda was open for a gospel work. At this time, the Lord had given me a sister as a spiritual companion named Edna. She offered her home to host these saints, and she joined Godwin and me in the care and hospitality for the four visiting saints. Again these saints from the U.S. were able to interact with the believers who met with Godwin and me-a relationship was forming.
In May 2003, John Myer and Tim Knoppe came to Uganda to make arrangements for two brothers to move here with their families. This was a short, preparatory visit. We searched at that time for property where the two couples might live, and we also looked for property that might be used for a meeting hall.
In August 2003, Tim Knoppe and Steve Lietzau moved to Kampala. Shortly after, their wives joined them. There was much joy as we prepared for their move.
Around this same time, the denomination to which all those local saints who were now fellowshipping with us once belonged was conducting an eight-week "financial giving" series. The Lord used those eight weeks to remove the veil on religion, and many were able to see religion for what it was—a money-making enterprise. Believers were being told to tithe or else that they would encounter curses. It was during this time that Godwin, Edna, Brother Sam, Sister Rachel—as well as many others who met with us—began to see religion for what it was. It became clear at this point that the Lord was preparing some for His move here. The group of saints fellowshipping with us had grown so big that it became time to "branch." Many of the saints saw the deceit in what the denomination's pastor spoke, and they began actively seeking the Lord in the Word. The Lord was very merciful to these believers and started shining His Light on the Word. Their hearts were beginning to turn toward the Lord and away from religion.
In the meantime, just witnessing this caused me to give detailed fellowship to the brothers, through John Myer, testifying about the Lord's apparent preparation of some saints for His interest here in Kampala. This was the most exciting experience I ever had—to see the Lord draw people to Himself by wooing them, loving them, and proving Himself to them. This was so sweet! I did not even have the freedom to put in a word of influence or anything of the sort. The Lord was doing this by Himself!
Less than a year later, in 2004, a group of pastors from the same denomination mentioned above confronted us in order to find out what had drawn twelve people, most of whom were in leadership positions, to meet as the church in Kampala. The saints answered with words of life, testifying of how real Christ was to them. A week later, these pastors made an announcement to their congregation discouraging them from visiting "Godwin and Sarah Kihuguru's home." This announcement was made to a congregation of 12,000 people in Kampala, many of whom know us very well. Praise the Lord; it was just what we needed for our stand to be more absolute!
From that time, we had several visits from John Myer, the Millers, Titus Chu, and others from the Midwest. It was clear that they were planning to step up their work in Kampala, but we could not easily discern what the nature of that work would be until Keith Miller moved to Kampala to live after completing their ten-month labor in Cleveland.
Prior to the Millers' arrival, Tim Knoppe and Steve Lietzau had brought the saints in Kampala into the Recovery Version, the Life-studies, and the knowledge of life and of the church. When they moved here, however, the Millers were secretive, forceful, did not fellowship, and acted suspicious of the serving ones who were already here. One of those sent to Uganda openly shocked the saints when she stormed off every time Tim Knoppe spoke, and one day, she slammed down a photocopied Life-study message in public protest for all the saints to see. We had never seen such behavior among the ones who had been serving us before, and it did not match the patterns we saw in the Word.
There was now a new focus on "a simple gospel"—to drop the Life-study of Genesis and instead focus on simple topics. Saints repeatedly expressed a need to offer believers something more than the gospel of salvation. We knew that too many Ugandans had little growth in life due to the degraded state of religion, and we knew that many would appreciate the gospel of the kingdom and God's eternal economy much more than only small topics on the gospel of salvation.
At this point we also noticed a focus on the use of Bibles other than the Recovery Version. Brothers working with Titus had prepared the Gospel of Luke "especially for Uganda," with footnotes that had different interpretations than the Recovery Version and seemed to have little depth of truth to support them.
When Titus came, we looked for accommodation in available hotels, but none suited his taste. He stayed at Tim and Donna's apartment, and they moved in with another couple temporarily. Saints wanted to know who this "Titus" was.
In several of the meetings Titus openly pressed my husband, Godwin, to give up his new job appointment in Tanzania, openly questioning him about details of the terms and conditions of the new job (including salary). Godwin was not very forthcoming with this information, as such information seemed too personal to give to someone that he did not know, especially in an open setting like a church meeting. Titus publicly asked me what I thought about Godwin giving up his job, putting me in an uncomfortable situation that suggested I could freely give my opinion about my husband; it felt that he tried to use me to press Godwin into making the decision to give up his job. That was a strange situation.
Godwin did not want to make such an important decision outside of contacting the Lord in his spirit, so that he could know by life how the Lord would lead him in this matter.
Titus told the saints that within three years we would know "all that we would ever need to know about the Lord's recovery." Some were bothered that a limit of three years had been placed before we would "exhaust" what we had tasted as being the inexhaustible life. But we were open—we had no reason to be suspicious. Titus proceeded to ask us not to get too much into the ministry books or else we would be "full of knowledge." Instead he asked us to read his books. (That sounded a lot like a promotion, but we couldn't see anything wrong with it at the time.) Titus gave many of us his books, and we read them: The Oneness and the One Accord , The Journey of Life, Ruth, and Sisters' Messages.
Titus also asked us to come up with simple African traditional songs and beats in order to attract the Ugandans to the meetings. Referring to the Ugandan saints, he said, "Don't ask them, just do it." It shocked us when we later recalled that he had made such a statement in our presence, as if we would not understand what he was talking about. Again, this was uncomfortable, but we tried to remain open and not take offense.
Soon after Titus left, there was a very strong turn to labor on campus, with saints praying and offering themselves and their time to support Keith's work there. Keith, however, started being selective about who he wanted—and who he didn't want—to help them. Two of the younger single sisters of college age were rejected, and others were selected. At the time no one made it clear to the sisters why they couldn't help serve on campus.
Within a few weeks, the saints began to realize that there was a different kind of work going on at the campus. This work was more mechanical, used natural effort and gimmicks, and had a strong emphasis on the Millers' "American-ness." No one was allowed to speak their enjoyment. Anything to be spoken had to be preapproved by Keith. He chose which sisters should contact which other sisters, and no one else had any say. He even insisted that everyone going to the campus had to use his transport.
When the Knoppes' son was getting married, they left Uganda to help with preparations for the wedding. Only a few days before they were due to return to Kampala, Keith announced to us at a Monday night prayer meeting that, because Donna had some "problems," the Knoppes would not return to Kampala. We later found out this was not the real reason.
While this news was very shocking to the saints, the Millers seemed very excited. Strange things began to unfold. One small example is that all the photos with images of the Knoppes in them on the church notice board were replaced with photos of the Millers.
An even greater concern among the saints was seeing some of the workers entering into the Knoppes' residence and removing some of their possessions. In Uganda, the only time something like this happens is when a man dies and his relatives wipe out all his belongings and leave the family with nothing. Many saints made this connection. Later we were told that the property was all for the work and that it did not belong to the Knoppes. However, to our understanding and based on some communications we had with the Knoppes, this was not entirely true. This event raised the attention and concern of most of the saints. It was the source of considerable concern and embarassment among us.
All attempts for us to contact the Knoppes so we could better understand what the real situation was were met with a godly covering of the situation by the Knoppes. Tim did not want to damage the saints. The Knoppes only wrote emails with Scriptures of encouragement and assured us that, even though they would not be returning to Uganda, they were where they were according to God's will and that God does not make mistakes.
The Millers often took center stage in both the Lord's table and the prayer meeting. Campus meetings were then set at the same times and days as the regular church meetings so that saints were forced to pick whether to meet at one place or the other.
Friday night meetings had been set aside for speaking from the Life-studies of the Bible. We had gone through Galatians, Romans, John, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, and at the time of Tim Knoppe's departure we had entered into John's Epistles. This reading of the Bible with the Life-studies was requested by the saints from August 2003, when the brothers first came, and it had remained a practice since then. It was profitable for the saints to enter into the truths in the Word. This meeting was by far the meeting where saints were most exercised, and the Lord had the most room to speak.
Brother Godwin, who had set time aside to labor in the Word and in the Life-studies before the Friday night meetings, was openly challenged (almost every week) by Keith, who would try to distract him by checking if the footnotes tallied with what Godwin spoke, and Keith kept saying out loud, "Uh-huh," in a disrupting manner. He was clearly resisting the flow in the meeting. Yet, those Friday night meetings were still so real and living! This was the only way for the Lord to really shepherd us during this difficult time when all we could see was a persistent undermining.
John Myer, during one of his visits, attended one of these Friday night meetings. During the meeting, he belittled our enjoyment of 1 John. He then spoke on Romans 16, but through his speaking we could tell that there was something else he was trying to convey to us. He spoke of Phoebe as if he was referring to one of the workers and was charging us to, "Let Phoebe in." Apparently this worker had told John that she was feeling so lonely and didn't feel like the sisters cared for her. This was very strange to us considering that some of us had hosted and cared for her and her family over the years, not to mention spending approximately $3,000 USD on airline tickets and gifts.
John proceeded to refer to me as the "first fruit" in Uganda in a way that felt very uncomfortable—he was flattering me. This really scared me. Later a new brother who had only been with us for a little while came to me before Tim left and asked who John Myer was, and he repented to me that he had a very bad sense about John's speaking that night. I tried to cover the situation, but the new one still felt bothered. He said he sensed that John was looking down on the saints in a condescending manner.
During this same visit, John Myer and another brother held a miniconference inviting all the contacts that we usually invite for the church's outreach work. Although they spoke on the church from Matthew 18 and on the lampstand from Revelation, what they were presenting to us was something that we had no idea was going to happen—the plan to divide the church into three or more districts. New ones who had been meeting with us for a number of months left, saying they could sense that the brothers from the U.S. had come to divide the church.
Under the disguise of fellowship, the workers used the local brothers to justify to the church the need for this division. At the end of the day, the only thing that made any sense was that the saints in the U.S. who had so faithfully supported us in paying rent for the meeting hall ($800 USD per month) could no longer sustain it. We were grateful and were not bothered, but we feared that the church would be divided by class, with the poor saints on their own in the Naguru slums, the more educated saints on their own in Bugolobi, and the campus students with Keith Miller in Makerere.
At the next church meeting John Myer and the other co-worker sent by Titus decided to have fellowship with the saints to find out what the saints thought about the move. The saints were grateful for the care provided by the saints in the U.S., but raised their concerns about division by class. At the end of that meeting, I was standing alone with John and the other co-worker sent by Titus Chu, and John pulled up his trousers, adjusting them, and commented, "Phew, that went well; in the U.S. it is so hard to do!" It was at this point that I realized that these brothers were not being totally forthright with their motive.
As the days passed, we realized that there was a new focus directed from the workers in the U.S. to only focus on the campus, and to let the Naguru saints loose to go back into a denominational form. Funding for a temporary structure for these saints was almost immediately available. The more educated saints, however, were left to fend for themselves, with the expectation that they would eventually die out.
One sister was so bothered. Her sense was that this was a directive from Titus Chu. She felt strongly in her spirit that the idea of going back into denominations was not by life. She continued to express her concern to the responsible brothers until one day she requested them to write to Titus to inform him what damage his directive had caused to the church. This dear sister's growth in life brought her such clarity, yet she needed the covering of the church and the brothers.
Soon we also discovered that two pastors—within whom the Lord had been operating to pay the price to leave the denominations they were leading and to enter into the Lord's recovery—were now being encouraged to remain with their denominations in order to create two more "districts" and to call themselves "the church in Kireka" and "the church in Bukoto." Bugolobi, Kireka, Bukoto, Naguru, and Makerere (campus) are all suburbs of Kampala City. There was no fellowship with the brothers in the church about the best way to care for shepherding the new ones and raising up the Lord's testimony in these places. By all appearances, the only reason for dividing was so that each could do according to their own preference.
When we stopped meeting in the hall, it seemed that some were scrambling to divide up the furniture and other property in it—this was most shameful to the saints.
The Bugolobi saints found a meeting place and paid rent there. Keith Miller used to come and see if they were dying off and to find out if the saints he had hand-picked for campus were continuing to meet there with us. He would ask them why they were meeting in Bugolobi, and their response was, "We are one church—not many churches." He continued to pester them until they were so frustrated that they started hiding whenever they saw him.
There are many details of deception and manipulation that would be difficult to adequately convey to anyone who did not pass through it. Needless to say, we received no care. The workers only seemed focused on the success of their own work, to the extent that they were willing to compromise the truth, particularly related to the church, to open doors to their work.
This pressure to succeed led to more and more empty boasting about the number of people that Keith Miller's work has brought into the church in Kampala. He began suggesting that up to "350, 400 people meet as the church in Kampala." This is very misleading.
Due to poverty in Uganda, if a "muzungu," or "white person"—especially an American—invites you to a meeting and is willing to pay for transport and food, people rush for such opportunities with the hope that they may get financial assistance to care for their children, or maybe even the chance to go to America. What saints in the U.S. may not be aware of is that crowds of people might come. When cameras are there at the meetings, many might even come just to be in what they think is an American movie.
The reported attendance numbers were totally unrealistic; one needs to have a really keen eye to look at all the pictures Keith Miller has sent to the churches in the Midwest—to see if the same faces ever appear in more than one of those pictures. If you look carefully, you will find that there are new faces every time. Actually, those are just crowds of people who came to one or two meetings (satisfying Keith's drive to depict large numbers) and satisfying their own need to feel like they are somehow associated with something "American," or to at least gain something in return.
While Keith Miller kept recording crowds of people that came to individual meetings, John Myer, in communicating with the saints meeting in Bugolobi, would laugh and mock the saints for being so few. We had nothing to show, and the pressure to do a natural work kept rising up. The Lord would speak in His Word, saying, "I will build My church." The Lord was just affirming to us that He would not tolerate any mixture that would get us into a work of fruit-bearing in a natural way, rather than in a way that was through death and resurrection.
In his serving the saints, Tim Knoppe did not allow anyone to elevate him on grounds of race or class. He quickly put straight any natural thoughts within some of the saints. This caused the saints to reciprocate with a similar service. Tim fought anything of the clergy-laity where people would call him "man of God" or "Pastor"; he insisted on us turning to the Lord in much prayer and fellowship, and by life rather than by our natural effort. This was a training for us—rather than telling us what to do, he wanted us to learn to turn to the Lord. We had been learning to take Christ as life, and as Christ in us grew, we learned to serve by life, coordinating and fellowshipping by life.
During this difficult time under Titus' work, the Lord reminded us that He Himself selected us and put us together—we all have nothing in common. Only He could put us together. He reminded us that He was the One who convinced us to pay the price and leave our past to enter into His recovery, and that only He will build His church. Amen.