(September 27, 2010) – Under heavy security the Love Kampala Festival with evangelist Andrew Palau concluded Sunday evening before an enthusiastic crowd with tens of thousands of people.
The two-day festival at the Kololo Airstrip in Uganda's capital city drew several tens of thousands people. The 44-year-old Palau addressed thousands more at every level of society in outreaches to public schools, universities, prisons, and slum neighborhoods. Palau also spoke at a leadership dinner attended by members of Parliament, a banquet for women, and a sports event attended by some of Uganda's top athletes.
Palau told each audience how Jesus Christ had rescued him from the addiction of alcohol, drugs and promiscuity. "God loves Uganda and he loves you," he said. "God wants you to know that you can experience true freedom through His Son Jesus Christ."
Uganda made world news this past summer when the al Qaeda-linked Somali terrorist group known as al-Shabab set off two bombs in Kampala killing 76 people. The weekend before the festival Dutch military police boarded a KLM flight bound for Uganda and arrested a Somali man on suspicion of terrorism. Seven members of the Palau team were on the plane. The next day police in Kampala issued new guidelines for all public gatherings in the capital including the festival. All festival attendees went through metal detectors.
Amidst the security concerns, Ugandan military hero Major General Elly Tumwine praised the festival for its positive message of love and hope. He said, "Wherever there is light, darkness runs away. Wherever there is love, fear goes away. Wherever there is hope, hopelessness goes away."
He said the historic nature of the festival with its emphasis on the love of Jesus Christ shows Ugandans are excited about the future and will not allow fear to win.
Major General Tumwine wrote a song for the festival called "God Loves Kampala" that was sung to kick off the festival to the delight of a cheering crowd. Other musical performances were provided by American recording artists Nicole C. Mullen and Dave Lubben, Jamaican reggae and gospel singer Papa San, popular Ugandan artists Wilson Bugembe and Beth Mugisha, as well as the African Children's Choir. The very visible presence of uniformed police and security personnel did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd as they danced, jumped and sang to each musical performance.
The festival received extensive media coverage with 44 media outlets and 63 journalists reporting on Palau's visit. And through a partnership with Trans World Radio (TWR), the festival was broadcast live to 30 African nations and was available worldwide via the Internet.
The Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda, said the festival was a foretaste of heaven as it united more than 1,000 churches from all denominations with the common goal of lifting up the name of Jesus. He commended the festival for the strong unity it achieved among denominations and for putting love into action.
The festival saw the Christian community team up with service agencies to take on numerous community projects. The effort was patterned after the Luis Palau Association's (LPA) Season of Service initiatives that have become a sustainable legacy of Palau festivals around the world.
Projects included medical clinics, blood drives, food distributions, clean water projects, sanitation, and neighborhood renovation work. Uganda is one of the world's poorest countries with tremendous social service needs. Palau said the best social action is encouraging people to become faithful followers of Jesus Christ which then instills in people a desire to care for their family and community.
Palau visited a slum area that is home to more than 8,000 people that received from the festival its first ever public toilette facility. And he addressed a hillside community with no running water that was provided a water retrieval and storage system.
Palau was joined throughout the festival by the Livin It® action sports team showcasing world-class BMX biking, freestyle motocross and skateboarding professionals who dazzled their audience with extreme sports stunts never before witnessed by most Ugandans.
The athletes performed at the festival and four prisons, including the maximum security prison that houses some of Uganda's most notorious criminals and terrorists. The team spoke to more than 3,000 inmates and thousands filled out decision cards saying they had prayed to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. A group of chaplains, pastors and prison ministry volunteers were trained by the Palau Association in how to disciple these inmates. All told, the festival trained several thousand people in friendship evangelism and decision-maker follow-up.
KidStand Ministries from Ft. Worth, Texas, partnered with the festival to provide ministry to schools. The festival children's area was jammed each day with primary school-aged kids. The KidStand team encouraged the children to become followers of Jesus and to take a stand for honesty and character.
Some 350,000 invitation pieces to the festival were distributed throughout the city including 30,000 that were handed out by more than 200 of the city's "Boda Boda" motorcycle taxi drivers.
According to Dr. Tim Robnett, vice president of LPA Alliance Ministries, "The festival accomplished the goal of fostering a new level of trust and collaboration among churches which will lead to future locally-run evangelistic campaigns and church growth. From the beginning our purpose was to create a sustainable network of church, business and government leaders willing to work together so as to meet the spiritual and physical needs of the region."
While Palau was in Kampala, Alliance partner evangelist Jose Zayas led a team of 15 Americans and 20 Ugandans to Rukungiri where they spoke at high school assemblies, universities, prisons, hospitals and their own open-air festival.