Dr Gavin D Williams

There can be little doubt that God has been doing an amazing work in the African nation of Uganda. Since the fall of the dictator, Idi Amin in the early 1980's, Uganda has experienced a truly remarkable spiritual awakening. Millions of people have been converted; thousands of Churches have been planted; whole indigenous denominations and church networks have come into being. It has been a truly remarkable time and the impact of that awakening continues today.

In order to facilitate this rapid church growth, a new generation of Christian leaders has emerged. Some are wonderful and truly godly servants of Jesus and His church who operate in a level of spiritual anointing that we in the West can only dream about. But along side these men and women of God has arisen another group of so called 'Christian' leaders whose motives and activities are at best questionable and at worst fraudulent or criminal.

The following article by a Ugandan journalist sets out part of the challenge faced by those who sense a call of God to minister in nations like Uganda.

It is true that the gospel has been greatly embraced by the people of Uganda and that it is a season for the harvest of souls there. But sadly there is also another side of the story: Corruption is rife within Uganda... among Christians!
The influence of prosperity preachers (who dominate the airwaves on Uganda's two full-time Christian TV stations) have convinced the poor people of Uganda that Christianity is a faith which delivers blessings in the form of material and economic wealth. "Tithing" is taught by pastors throughout the country with such urgency and emphasis that it truly has become a false gospel; many preachers implying, and some directly state, that one's eternal security depends upon giving tithes and offerings.
Pastors often spend time privately soliciting funds from their often impoverished congregations with the promise that blessing will follow those who give and curses follow those that don't. Ministers come to the podium promising only to prophesy if their target for offerings is reached - then they pray a blessing upon the givers proportional to the amount that they have given. Some pastors say that if curses over people's lives are to be broken, then people must tithe directly to them rather than through the church. This practice is widespread.
The level of theological understanding among many African pastors is also disturbingly low: legalistic teaching is common everywhere. Many young men choose to become pastors, not because they want to shepherd God's sheep, but because they see being a pastor as a way to lift their status in society and to realize their material dreams.
Many foreigners coming to Uganda have learned the hard way that their meek and mild Ugandan ministry partners actually sometimes turn out to be wolves in sheep's clothing! Sadly, sometimes even good people who start out with good intentions are corrupted by the allure and temptation of wealth as donor funds pass through their hands. But there are also many good people in Uganda too. It is an exciting place to minister and to see the power of God at work.
But the sad fruit of this trend will be a cynical generation of young people who have grown up personally witnessing all manner of hypocrisy and excesses performed in the name of Christ within the Church. If there is not a revival of integrity within the Ugandan Church, there will be a sad loss of fruit when the tree ripens, because if they do this when the wood is green, what will they do when it is dry? [1]
As one who has been ministering in Africa since the 1970's and in Uganda since 2003, I have been exposed to both the very positive and the very negative sides of Christian leadership in the country. I am often consulted by those who are planning to minister in East Africa and surrounding nations. I believe that the time has come for me to document some of our experiences and those of others for the benefit of those who are contemplating ministry in this continent.

Our Purpose

The purpose of this article is to provide a timely warning to the unsuspecting foreigner who comes to Uganda with a heart to serve Jesus and His church. Most are blissfully unaware of the deceptive practices that have become accepted as legitimate by many Christian leaders in this land. As Christians, it is in our nature to trust. After all, that is the foundation of our faith in Christ. Trusting those whom we believe to be brothers and sisters in Christ is a normal and natural response. Sadly, many have learned to their bitter disappointment that their trust has been grossly abused.

I can only speak about what I have observed, personally experienced and heard from the experiences of others. I know that what I have written is true in Uganda. I strongly suspect that a similar situation exists in other nations of East Africa and quite possibly many other nations on the continent of Africa. To my grief, I have learned that determining who is an honorable brother in Christ and who is a deceiver is no simple matter. I hope others can learn from my experiences.

Initial Awareness

It is vitally important for any European (ethnically Caucasian) visitor to the land of Uganda to understand that all 'whites' are perceived as wealthy. Throughout Uganda, whites are known as Muzungus. To the mind of most Ugandans, to be white is to be wealthy.

This perception runs very deep in the culture. It stems back to the earliest times of colonialization and early missionary enterprise. With the arrival of the whites came the beginnings of life as they know it today. Hospitals, schools, missions, churches and government institutions were built by the white colonialists and missionaries. Still today, much of the Ugandan economy is supported by foreign aid provided by Western nations.

The 'whites' average Ugandans encounter in daily life enjoy a standard of life that most Ugandan's can only dream about. Fine houses and the latest motorcars are just some of the trappings of this perceived wealth. Most Ugandan's would be totally unaware that these symbols of wealth are provided by the company or government the Muzungu represents.

So when a visiting Muzungu comes from a country like America, UK or Australia, it is the automatic assumption of most Ugandans that this person has at their disposal untold riches which they are just looking for some opportunity to dispense either willingly or unwillingly.

When you enter the church, this belief runs very deep. Early missionaries paid to build the churches, schools and hospitals they ran for the benefit of the people. They employed and paid the pastors and other staff who were assigned to these institutions. The belief in Muzungu wealth has been reinforced in more recent times by unwise foreigners who have made available large amounts of money without questioning the cost estimates given to them or requiring accountability for the use of those funds. Sadly, this has given rise to a culture where it is considered commendable by many Christian leaders to relieve the foreigner of some of this 'abundant' wealth by any means possible. Some have become masters of deception even considering access to these funds to be a sign of God's favor and blessing.

The moment a Muzungu enters a church, the question on everyone's mind is, "What are they going to give us?" On occasions, as part of my welcome, I have been presented with typed lists of requests by the pastor. In such cases, people wait with baited breath to see what largess I will pour out on the spur of the moment. I am sorry to report that they are left sadly disappointed.

Individuals often approach me after services requesting assistance to pay school fees, medical expenses or to provide some other personal need. One man quite boldly asked me to give him a car. One hates to think what these people are saying to their friends when they walk away empty handed. The fact that a Muzungu might not have access to such amounts of cash is quite incomprehensible to many Ugandans. When you do not respond positively to their request, they assume it is out of meanness rather than inability.

It is into this environment that the unsuspecting Christian foreigner steps. He comes from an environment where it never occurs to him that his brother in Christ might manipulate costs, blatantly lie about expenses incurred or have carefully crafted schemes aimed at personal wealth generation at the visitor's expense. Being so ill equipped, the unsuspecting Muzungu often falls for the well laid schemes and continues to feed a culture of corruption that has grown up inside much of the church. The real tragedy is that these practices have become so deeply ingrained that many Christian leaders no longer even consider them to be inconsistent with their allegiance to Christ or at odds with Christian integrity.

Commonly Practiced Deceptive Schemes

Through my eight years of ministry in Uganda I have learned (sometimes from bitter personal experience) the common and not so common deceptions perpetrated on the unsuspecting foreigner. The true list is no doubt much longer than this but I hope the situations outlined below will serve to alert my readers to some of the traps laid for them.

1. Grossly Inflated Prices: Most Christian foreigners come to Uganda for the purpose of ministry to one branch of the church or the other. Inevitably they are asked to speak at a conference, crusade or training seminar planned by their local 'ministry partners'. In this case it is expected that the visitor will pay the costs of the conference or seminar at which they are speaking. It is common practice for the organizers to present budgets that are far above the actual costs thus insuring that they will be left with a sizable personal profit at the end of the event.

One colleague was invited to speak to a 4 day seminar for approximately 50 pastors. His hosts indicated that the costs for the event would be about US$12,000. Knowing that most foreigners expect a degree of partnership, the hosts indicated they would cover $6,000 of the expenses. When the colleague asked for my thoughts on the budget I was immediately suspicious as I know of almost no Ugandan leaders who would have access to such amounts. On the basis of my experience conducting training seminars in Uganda, I estimated the actual costs of such a seminar to be well below US$1,000. Had my colleague accepted their costing, the organizers would have made a healthy profit of at least $5,000 and contributed nothing to the costs. My colleague wisely did not proceed with the seminar.
In another more recent case, an Australian based ministry was asked to 'share' the costs of a training seminar at which their workers would speak. They were asked to pay for breakfast and lunch for the participants at a cost of 10,000 Ugandan Shillings (about $5.00) per person per day. The hosts indicated they would provide the evening meal. I was asked what I thought about the estimates.
I regularly pay a commercial caterer 6,500 Shillings to provide good quality food for my SALT School[2] participants for a whole day (3 meals). By serving the usual cheap conference food (posho and beans) at one or all of the meals the organizers would have a bill of much less than 5,000 shillings leaving them a healthy 100% profit.
In another case, a Ugandan pastor was asked to arrange transport for a visiting ministry team. He told his foreign visitors that it would cost US$75 per day to hire a basic 13 seater minibus taxi with driver. Subsequently I hired a similar vehicle at $30 per day. I later found out that the pastor actually owned the vehicle he told his visitors he had hired. He had deceived them at every level.

2. Inflated Numbers. This is another variation of the inflated costs practice. On several occasions I have been invited to speak at regional conferences. Having been caught by inflated costs, I determined to give a partial subsidy rather than pay the full cost of the event. But my hosts were ready for my caution. They led me to believe that they were expecting a specified number of leaders to attend. I based my anticipated contribution on those numbers believing that each participant would share at least part of their cost by way of a registration fee or alternatively, by the share that the organizers were contributing.

On each occasion, when I arrived at the venue, my hosts requested my contribution 'up front' to enable them to purchase supplies ready for those who were coming. Knowing that venture capital is virtually nonexistent, I willingly complied. But the promised numbers never materialized. In one case, the promised 50 pastors were in fact 10, none of whom contributed anything. The conference concluded as soon as the organizer had expended my input. In another case the promised 100 was actually 25. In this case most were locals who returned to their homes for their evening meals and breakfast.

Today, on those rare occasions when I agree to provide some assistance, I refuse to hand over any of my share until the conference is well underway and the number of participants is obvious. I want to see the evidence that the participants have contributed and statements of costs involved. Only then will I contribute my share and then never more than 50% of what I know to be realistic costs involved. Not surprisingly, the number of such events at which I am asked to speak has dwindled to a mere trickle.
3. Transport Costs. The practice of paying transport costs to bring participants from their homes to conference venues was established by early missions and has been perpetuated by the large multinational aid and welfare organizations, both secular and Christian. Today, the provision of 'transport' has become an expected part of any conference where Muzungus are involved. Here too the unscrupulous ministry partner and conference participants are ready to reap a hefty profit at the expense of their foreign guest. There are several aspects to this practice:
a. Participants are in the habit of grossly inflating the actual travel costs. Since busses and minibus taxis do not issue tickets, organizers can only take the word of those involved as to the actual costs incurred. I know of situations where participants laid claims for 20,000 Shillings when their actual cost was less than 2,000. It is not unusual for people to come and register for a conference, claim their travel expenses and then fail to show up for any of the conference.

b. Organizers: I have seen conference and seminar organizers who submit massively inflated budgets for participants travel. On one occasion I was present when the organizer told the participants (in vernacular) that the foreign sponsor did not provide travel expenses. Although my understanding of the local language was limited, I understood enough of what was going on to be suspicious. My suspicions were confirmed by a judicious question to one of the participants. The foreign host was blissfully unaware that some quite uncomplimentary comments had been made about their selfishness and thoughtlessness in refusing to provide the expected travel expenses when they had in fact provided far more than was necessary. The organizer pocketed a substantial profit at the expense of both sponsor and participants.

4. Construction Costs: In response to many social needs, especially in the rural areas, Churches and other Christian organizations from the West have provided millions of dollars to build orphanages, schools, clinics, hospitals, church buildings and homes for pastors and other infrastructure. While there are many such structures standing, those involved on the Ugandan side of things have frequently made a very healthy personal profit. Working on the basis of trust, unwise foreigners have handed over substantial amounts of cash (sometimes in the tens of thousands of dollars) to their ministry partners assuming that western standards of financial administration, integrity and accountability will be followed. Their requests for statements of accounts are often met with indignant responses and feigned offence as the implied suggestion that funds might not have been used as intended. The foreigner usually backs off at this point.
Example No.1 Clinics. A Ugandan pastor was entrusted with a substantial amount of money to build a clinic in his area. I saw the structure (still incomplete) and know that there were more than sufficient funds given to complete the project. He presented a request to the donors for further funds to complete the work. It completely escaped the foreigners that the pastor's home had undergone some rather extensive modifications at the same time. They would also have been blissfully unaware that everyone expects to pay for medical care in Uganda, even at the 'free' government hospitals.
Example No.2. Schools. A pastor was given funds to build a school for disadvantaged children in his area. The school was built. But what the foreigners did not know was that they had paid to establish a very profitable business venture for the pastor. The disadvantaged children of the area did not benefit from the school because their parents could not afford the 'school fees' required to attend the school.
What most foreigners do not know is that education is big business in Uganda. Ownership of a school is an easy means to substantial income. The trap comes in that the unsuspecting foreigner assumes that ownership of the school or clinic is vested in the local church or a community based NGO as we do in the West. Likewise, it is expected that the venture is being run as a not-for-profit venture purely for the benefit of the local people.
In reality the well meaning folks 'back home' have funded a personal business venture for their ministry partner. Do not expect the requests/demands for funds to stop once the school is constructed. The donors can expect frequent requests for funds to operate or extend the school. These too will frequently end up in the pocket of the pastor now a prosperous businessman.
Example No.3. 'Orphanages'. No one can doubt that there are many orphans in Uganda and much of Africa. The AIDS epidemic has extracted a heavy toll. But there is a fundamental difference between our Western understanding of the word 'orphan' and that of the African culture. To the Western mind, 'orphan' implies a child who has no parents or significant other person to provide and care for them. In Africa, the extended family network is very strong. In reality there are very few children who literally have no one. But people in Africa have learned that the term 'orphan' is a very emotive one for Westerners. It is interesting to visit so-called 'orphanages' during the school holidays and find them virtually empty. Ask where the children are and one is told that they have returned to their families. In reality, some 'orphanages' are simply boarding hostels attached to a local school and residents are required to pay boarding fees.
At this Juncture, I must make an important point. In the issues outlined above, I am not saying that every such institution is fraudulent or that every Christian leader is corrupt. I am simply outlining what I have found to be common practice. I merely plead for the investing foreigner to be aware of prevailing practice and to be sure that in providing resources for ministry in these lands he is does everything possible to ensure that good and godly standards of ownership, accountability and integrity are followed.
I believe it is the responsibility of the donors to ensure that we do not put unnecessary temptation in the way of our colleagues who may never have been asked to administer such relatively vast amounts of money and who are ill equipped to do so. We in the West have no concept of the challenges associated with poverty or of the social, family and cultural pressure that may be applied to one who is known to have access to funds regardless of the designated purpose of those funds.
5. Ghost Workers and Facilities. A major problem facing governments and donor organizations in East Africa is what are known as 'Ghosts'. These are facilities, workers and other ventures that exist on paper but not in reality. In early February 2010, Uganda's New Vision newspaper carried a report of a recent audit of the Health department in Kampala which uncovered no less than six such health facilities. These facilities existed on paper, drew large amounts of funds for operational and staff expenses. But they simply did not exist in reality. They had been established by senior level public servants who regularly pocketed the proceeds amounting to billions of shillings.
Similar audits of government schools, military units, government offices and NGO's have uncovered literally thousands of workers who are paid regular salaries and benefits but who simply do not exist. Their salaries and benefits are pocketed by corrupt senior officials, unit commanders or headmasters. The newspapers regularly report the uncovering of such situations.
The Christian Church is not exempt from this kind of rort. As a foreigner in Uganda, I have often been exposed to the needs of 'orphans', impoverished communities and inadequate medical and educational facilities. Frequently I am asked to assist in meeting these needs. It is very easy for the well intentioned foreigner to return home and raise the funds to establish the requested facility. It is only natural that the funds are subsequently released to the 'trusted' ministry partner.
Soon the flow of pictures and reports satisfies the unsuspecting foreigners that their dream is rapidly becoming reality. But too often the pictures are of something else altogether and their generosity is 'eaten', to use a local expression.
A visit by the donors is not a problem. The local ministry partner merely pays a generous fee to the bursar of a similar institution and it becomes theirs for the day. A few well placed signs and the foreigner is easily fooled into believing that dream has become reality and returns home with glowing reports of a job well done. Because we see what we want to see, we are easily deceived.
I recently heard of a major project funded by donors to a well known Christian NGO. The project was to establish a major business venture which would provide ongoing funding to operate legitimate children's homes and an associated school which had been established and operated by the NGO over several years. An amount of several million dollars was given by major donors.
Over the subsequent months progress reports, photographs and finally a certificate of completion were supplied to the NGO and their donors by their senior officers of the organization in Uganda. They were given to believe that the business venture was up and operating. But in reality, nothing had been done on the site. It was not until those who worked at the children's homes wrote requesting funds to replace a water pump that the fraud was uncovered. The case is now before the courts but it is unlikely that much of the funding will ever be recovered.
Similar things exist at all levels. Not every photograph of an 'orphan' tells the complete story. Children are everywhere and love to have their photo taken. Take out a camera and they line up for their snap.
6. You are our only Sponsor. This is another favourite among the unscrupulous. A basic rule in East Africa is never let a potential sponsor/donor think there is anyone else even remotely involved in their project or program. It is common practice to tell sponsors that they are the only one. If they do not give, people will go hungry and even die.
I once saw a copy of an email from a senior Ugandan pastor who wrote to several contacts in Australia soliciting emergency funds to feed 'orphans' under his care. The letter included phrases such as, "Our children are going hungry because we do not have any money to feed them. As you are our only sponsor, if you do not help us, the children will starve." I subsequently discovered that this same letter was sent out to multiple contacts around Australia and elsewhere. It was totally untrue.
Perhaps my most memorable experience happened to me personally a few years ago. I had come to know a respected regional leader on quite good terms and had mistakenly believed I could trust him. I had agreed to conduct a series of leadership training schools for his network of churches. In addition, I was considering bringing a team of workers to be involved in a primary school which he led me to believe he was running as part of his ministry.
I was escorted around the school and shown the fine buildings "... which we have built at our own expense." I was told that 60% of the children in the school were orphans who could pay no school fees. "We pay for these children out of our own pocket," I was told. I must admit to certain misgivings as I looked at the large well built school and met the staff of twenty or more teachers and administrators who ran the school. But I was still very naïve and wanted to trust this man.
As we talked, he informed me that he had no donors or sponsors for the school or the orphans. He told me that they had never had a visit from a visiting team from the West. Our team would be the first. Unwisely, I wrote off the apparent inconsistencies in his story to my own failure to fully grasp the situation. I also acknowledged the miscommunication that is inevitable when people of widely divergent linguistic and cultural backgrounds talk. I moved ahead with plans for our partnership.
In the grace of God, something happened which put a halt to our plans. I subsequently discovered that the school was totally funded by a major aid organization in Europe. The school had been build by that organization who continued to cover all costs for children, staff and operating expenses. Very few of the students were orphans. The school regularly received visits by teams of teachers and other resource people who came to assist with the operation. In fact, the school was under another ministry to which he was only indirectly related. Virtually everything that man had said to me was untrue. Sadly, I have discovered that this kind of deception is all too common.
7. Unwillingness to Submit to Accountability. People from the West expect to be held accountable for funds we handle. We are used to accounting practices and multilevel auditing. We expect to provide receipts and other records for funds advanced to us. We do not see this as an infringement on our rights or a suggestion that we might be corrupt. It is simply a part of life. We recognize that such accountability provides a substantial protection for everyone, ourselves included.
Sadly, due to the lack of wisdom of many foreigners, such levels of accountability are often considered to be an infringement on the rights of people in the Developing World. I have seen Christian leaders grow extremely angry when asked to provide the most basic levels of accountability believing that such a request implies that they are corrupt. They simply do not understand the systems that we consider to be normal in good operating practice.
Unfortunately, the unwise actions of foreign Christians have fed this culture of corruption in the Church. In their desire to assist the needy, alleviate crushing poverty or fund worthwhile community projects they have entrusted substantial amounts of money to their ministry partners assuming that the standards of accountability and accounting which we see as normal will be followed. They have failed to make clear the need for accountability or set in place the structures to make sure that such accountability is even possible. When they have subsequently asked for the accountability which they consider to be fundamental to good practice, they are met with angry responses by people who now feel that they are being considered dishonest.
I have seen large amounts of money handed to ministry partners with the assumption that, because this one is a brother in the Lord, all will be done in integrity and honesty. I have witnessed the disappointment when things are subsequently shown to be different to that which is expected. Sadly the temptation to misappropriate funds is just too big for people who could never have imagined having access to such amounts of money.
One colleague commented, "I sometimes wonder if our western money has corrupted otherwise faithful people of God." His words are sadly true.
On one occasion I was asked to fill in for colleagues from another organization. They were unable to fulfil a commitment and I was asked to deputize. I indicated to their ministry partner that as I was accountable for the funds entrusted to me by this organization, I would require accurate records of all expenditure and a statement of account at the close of our visit.
To say that the man became exceedingly angry is an understatement. "I refuse to live under such bondage," he retorted. "I live in freedom." I reported this response to my colleagues who instructed me to let things be. Over the next two weeks I watched as this man used the funds which had been entrusted to him for a variety of personal and other expenses. His motor car underwent extensive repairs and I watched as he dispensed largess to all and sundry. It had been the habit of these colleagues to provide transportation costs to the students coming to their school. On this occasion the ministry partner told one and all that no transport allocation had been received. He pocketed much of the proceeds.
8. Urgent Requests for Help. Once the ministry partner has his Muzungu 'on the hook', the list of requests for money and urgent assistance come with monotonous regularity. "My wife is seriously ill in hospital and needs expensive medical treatment." "My children are about to be sent home from school because I cannot pay their school fees." The urgency factor linked with the human need is well known to draw a quick response from most Western donors.
I knew of one such request /demand sent to colleagues in the West. The ministry partner sent word to his friends abroad to the effect that his wife was in hospital urgently requiring a life saving operation. Naturally they responded. When I next saw the woman concerned, I enquired as to her health and recovery from the operation. She did not know what I was talking about. "I have been in perfect health for years she said." Clearly she did not know of her husband's deception of his Western associates.
A recent variation on this practice involved criminal elements gaining access to the internet email accounts of Christian leaders in Uganda. Since most people use the free email services of Yahoo, Gmail and the like, once a criminal gains access to the account, he has full knowledge of all that persons connections abroad and their email exchanges'.
From that point it was a simple matter to create and disguise a factious email account and then to send an urgent email indicating that the contact's spouse was seriously ill in hospital and requiring urgent and expensive medical attention. Several of my very reliable ministry partners in Uganda were victims of this form of identity theft. I have no doubt that the perpetrators of this scam made a healthy profit before they were finally caught and sent to prison.
The above list of fraudulent practices perpetrated on unsuspecting and trusting foreigners by no means complete. So long as there are foreigners willing to part with their funds, there will be people in Africa who are more than willing to assist them to do so in any way that is expedient.

What has given rise to this situation?

How has this culture of deception and corruption come into being in a place where there can be no doubt that God has done a real and wonderful work of grace? With the help of trusted African leaders I have come to see two sides of the coin.

1. African Opportunism. African culture is by its very nature opportunistic. This goes to the heart of the hunter/gatherer culture. Hunter/gatherers depend for their very survival on making the most of unexpected opportunities. An animal unexpectedly grazing in a quiet glade; the chance finding of a favoured delicacy in the bush. Life itself depended on being opportunistic. No matter what the situation, it is the very nature of the African to 'grab it while it is there'. One leader once said to me, "If I do not need it, I will soon find someone who does. So I take it when I have the chance."

In our early visits to Uganda, my wife and I were in the habit of bringing cheap 'reader' type spectacles to assist people with poor sight. At one pastor's training school we announced that we had such things and invited any who had difficulty reading their Bibles to come and see us. The entire school lined up to take advantage of this 'opportunity'.

One pastor quite blatantly lined up a second time. When I challenged him, he denied receiving anything earlier. Later I saw him with two pairs of glasses in his pocket and challenged him about his deceit. The fact that I was upset as his deception meant nothing to him. "I am sorry," was his only reply. He was not sorry for the deception but for the fact that I had exposed his lack of integrity.

It is a regular occurrence in motor accidents for every item of luggage to disappear before any move is made to assist the injured. This is especially true if the vehicle is carrying Muzungus. People just grab and run taking the opportunity to get whatever they can in the hope that something useful will be found in the items they take.

It is my belief that this 'opportunism' that is so inherent in the culture as become a significant spiritual bondage from which the church in much of Africa needs to be delivered. It is now so deeply ingrained in the culture of the church that few but the most spiritually discerning leaders recognize the problem.

2. The Legacy of Early Missionaries: As I have noted earlier, early missionaries to Africa provided virtually everything. They built hospitals, churches and schools. They employed and paid the pastors and other workers and covered all their expenses. This practice helped to entrench a two fold belief: Firstly, the belief that the every Muzungu is wealthy beyond belief. Secondly, that it is the right of the African and the African church to gain access to that wealth by any means possible.

3. The impact of Prosperity Preachers: The prosperity gospel has had a devastating impact of African society in many ways. For people raised in poverty, the promise of abundant wealth made by many of the prosperity preachers is irresistible. All across Africa, Christian television stations deliver an endless line-up of programs declaring this message. False cults have arisen to further propagate the prosperity message.

One aspect of the prosperity message is that wealth is perceived as a sign of God's favour and therefore evidence of one's spirituality. This perception has led to a 'wealth at any cost' attitude. An outwardly prosperous pastor is a very attractive proposition to many since they believe it to be a sign of God's favour. There is the hope that if one aligns oneself to such a pastor, there may be a flow on effect and they too will prosper. Conversely to be a pastor who lacks the outward displays of wealth leads to the perception of lack of spirituality and the favour of God.

4. Unwise Foreigners: The other side of this sad situation has been the actions of many unwise foreigners. In their desire to assist real human need and believing that the same levels of trust apply in Africa, they have handed over substantial sums of money without requiring even the most basic budgeting or accountability. This has provided an environment where the leaders can divert significant amounts of the funding to personal ends without fear of their deception being uncovered. As a result the exploitation of foreigners has become a national game and those who are most successful feted as folk heroes to be admired. Surely we in the West bare a substantial responsibility for our lack of wisdom and understanding of the culture of Africa.

Advice to Foreigners contemplating ministry in Uganda

1. Be aware of unsolicited emails from a 'pastor' or 'bishop' inviting you to minister to their network of pastors. Westerners are well known to be very responsive to such emails. As a result many people including some pastors spend hours in internet cafés scouring the internet for potential 'ministry partners' or supporters. While some may be sincere, many are fraudsters who have little or no ministry but who know the language. Some are indeed pastors who are simply looking for another gullible Muzungu who will be their source of funds.

2. Before you agree to any form of partnership, ministry or sponsorship, look for some independent verification as to the integrity of those with whom you are dealing and the veracity of the figures you are being quoted. This is a very difficult challenge for those who have no known connections in the land. Sadly, we have learned that one must be very suspicious at every step until the ministry partner has proven themselves to be faithful. It is almost a situation of 'guilty until proven innocent.'

3. Even if you agree to provide a measure of sponsorship or partnership in a venture, never pass over those funds 'up front'. Insist on partnership. Insist that your ministry partners put their part in first and only make your contribution when the number of attendees is clear and there is clear evidence that their participation is a reality. Resist all attempts to override this principle. We find it best to base our contribution on a fixed amount per person per day rather than a capital sum.

4. As a general rule, true expenses will often be approximately 50% or less of the figures quoted to you by unproven ministry partners. Make your own enquiries from independent sources if you are able. Find someone who is not directly connected with your ministry partner. Ask an innocent question such as, 'how much would you expect to pay for lunch at a local hotel?" This will give you some ideal as to the real costs. At the time of writing this article –June 2010 - we were paying a commercial caterer 6000 Ugandan Shillings per person per day for three meals of good quality food including meat at least once each day. On this basis, a sponsorship of 3000 shillings per day would be advisable.

5. Never agree to pay transport costs for participants attending your conference. It is most often used as a means for organizers to gain more for themselves. We have found that if people are serious about accessing the teaching you are providing, they will find the relatively small cost of transportation.

6. Make it clear to your ministry partner that the first lie or act of deception, the partnership will cease immediately. And make sure you keep your threat. If possible get any agreed amounts in writing before you proceed. That way there can be no later claims of misunderstanding.

7. If you are purchasing things for the benefit of a ministry or person, make the purchase personally. Insist on dealing with the supplier directly. Do not hand over significant amounts of cash to your ministry partner. Inevitably your partner will tell you that your presence will inflate the cost. In that case tell them to go to the supplier first and negotiate the price and then go and personally pay the supplier and demand a receipt. If the item being purchased is a major item such as a car or motorbike, make your own enquiries before agreeing to the price.

8. Recognize that most receipts mean nothing particularly from smaller suppliers. In such cases receipts are for the convenience of the purchaser not the account keeping purposes of the supplier. Most shops will put any figure you request on the receipt. A receipt is often no indication as to the real price paid.

9. As a general rule, do not agree to provide ongoing support for national workers especially pastors. In the first instance pastors should be supported by their churches. Foreign support often establishes the pastor in a lifestyle and economic structure far above their people and this is not healthy. Secondly, those receiving support from abroad will naturally adopt a lifestyle and associated expenses (education etc) that reflect the new level of income. When after some years your organization's priorities change and support is redirected, the externally supported worker faces untold hardship at maintaining their children in school or other aspects of lifestyle that have by now become part of the landscape of their life.

10. If there is a strong reason to provide 'start up' support for a worker in the initial phase of a new ministry, make it very clear that this will be for a specific period and then it will cease. Remind them of this limitation periodically and enforce it. Make sure that the support you provide is at levels that are relative to what others in the culture are being paid in similar situations, even it that seems pitifully small in your own terms.

11. Western evangelists – please stay at home in your own culture. Uganda has some of the finest evangelists in the world. These men and women know the language, culture and spiritual dynamics of their own land. They are the ones best suited to proclaim the Gospel in ways that are relevant to their own people. Crusades sponsored by foreign evangelists have netted a healthy profit by local connections who exploit the gullibility of the visitor.

12. Always have an escape plan. Do your best to have an alternative exit strategy if you discover that your ministry partner has been deceiving you. This is especially so if you are ministering in rural areas away from major towns or cities. Before you head off to your ministry area, seek to make contact with a driver or transport company who your ministry partner knows nothing about. Have arrangements in place for them to send a driver and vehicle should it be necessary.

13. Always take an old mobile phone with you. SIM cards can be purchased for just a couple of dollars at the airport and prepaid airtime is cheap and readily available. In this way you have your own independent communication. Have the number of your embassy or high commission in your phone. If possible, have the phone number of another contact in the country in your phone. This should be someone unknown to your ministry partner.

Foreigners and Ethical Practice

Sadly the lack of ethics and unethical practice is not only on the African side of the equation. There are foreign based ministries who come to these lands for very mixed purposes. Most ministries know that stories and photographs of huge crowds and accounts of miracles are a powerful magnet for donor funds. In Africa it is not difficult to draw a large crowd if one knows the right people. It is not difficult to find someone who will testify of a miracle (real or imagined) for the possibility of influence or recompense from a foreigner. Remember: the African is the ultimate opportunist.

I simply plead for those who come to these lands from the West to come with a simple heart to serve the Lord Jesus and the Church and people of the land and not for their own ulterior motives. I plead for those who come to minister in these lands to take time to study the culture and the ways of thought of her people. The world view of the African is vastly different from that of the person from the Western World. The spirituality of Africa is different from the spirituality of the West. It is not to say that one is more valid than the other – just different. And we must understand those differences if we are to minister effectively to the hearts and minds of the people of Africa.

If you believe God is calling you to minister here, get to know people from Africa who have come to live in your own land. Ask them to tell about their land, their people, their ways, their hopes and desires. Ask them about the struggles and realities of living in their former homeland. Get to know their heart and come to love and respect them for the beautiful people that God has made them to be. Come to these lands with a deep sense of respect for their resourcefulness and the courage it takes to survive despite often crushing poverty. Come ready to listen, to learn and go home changed.

One thing I say to anyone who wants to accompany me on one of my missionary journeys is this: 'Come expecting that God has more to teach you than you have to teach the people. Come with the heart of a learner. Come to listen and be changed. If in the process you manage to leave a few seeds behind, that is an additional blessing for which you need to give thanks and praise to God.

In Conclusion

I am sure that some who have read this article will feel that I have been too tough. Many will read these things and quietly say to themselves, "Not my ministry partner!" But sadly the things I have written here are all too true all too often.

I simply say to you, for your own sake and for the sake of the church in Uganda, exercise great caution and wisdom in your partnerships. Be aware of prevailing attitudes and actions and do your best to protect yourself and your ministry from these deceptions. A lot more wisdom and careful practice may well prevent otherwise good men and women from falling into the traps the enemy would so gladly set for them.

And remember: there are many wonderful men and women of God in this land. They carry a level of anointing and spiritual authority that we in the West only dream about. Seek them out. Learn from them. If possible, bless them wisely and carefully always being deeply respectful of the work of God that is happening in this land in and through them.

Prepared by Dr Gavin D Williams LTh, DPMin.

President of LttN Ministries Inc, Australia.

[1] This article was sent to me by email. Unfortunately the details of the author and publication were not included. Multiple attempts to locate the original source have been unsuccessful. But experience in Uganda tells me that the case stated in the article is sadly true.

[2] SALT stands for School of Advanced Leadership Training. It is a two year course involving six one week intensives and extensive practical ministry and spiritual development between sessions.