September 1929 was an all-time 'low' for Dr Joe Church, missionary in the tiny East African slate of Rwanda. The country had just experienced the most terrible famine; his fiancee was ill in Britain and he feared she would not be passed fit for service in Africa, and he had just failed his first language examination. Worn out and discouraged, he decided to take a break in Kampala, the capita] of neighbouring Uganda.

Joe Church stayed with friends on Namirembe Hill and on the Sunday morning walked up to the cathedral. Outside it was an African standing by his motor-bike. His name was Simeoni Nsibambi.

'There is something missing in me and the Uganda church. Can you tell what it is?' Simeoni asked Joe.

The two men spent two days studying the Bible and praying together. In a subsequent letter home, Joe wrote. There can be nothing to stop a real outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Rwanda now except our own lack of sanctification.' Both men were transformed and Joe went back to Gahini in Rwanda a new person. Immediately conversions began to take place, and Christians started to confess faults and resentments to one another. Forgiveness was experienced and broken relationships restored.

The East African Revival had started. From Rwanda, it spread to Uganda and Kenya. Its effects have been more lasting than almost any other revival in history, so that today there is hardly a single Protestant leader in East Africa who has not been touched by it in some way.

A different revival

Revivals were by no means unknown in Africa in the early part of the twentieth century. However, with very few exceptions, they led almost immediately to schism and were often linked with anti-colonial feeling. The Africans, understandably, wanted a church of their ...

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