Most of you were with us this past Lord’s Day as Pastor Vanensio Bamwitirebye from Uganda preached from John 2:12-23 (you can find his sermon at our church website). I had the privilege of joining Pastor Vanensio and a few other people for lunch following our service. Among other things, he shared the story of how God brought him to saving faith in Christ. Trusting you’ll be as encouraged as I was, here’s the written version of Pastor Vanensio’s testimony:
I was raised in a Catholic Family in a village in Bundibugyo District in Uganda. I did well in school and I was invited to attend Catholic Seminary to become a priest. This was a great honor for the village and for my family. I lived in the Parish House with the Priest at the School. One day at chapel, some missionaries from Philadelphia were invited to address the 700 students of the school. They started explaining the Gospel from the Bible, and told us that our Salvation was based solely on our faith in Jesus Christ plus nothing. As a seminarian this was blasphemy and I raised my hand and challenged them, that they were wrong. Salvation was based on Christ plus Mary, the Saints, the Sacraments and our standing with the Catholic Church. All of my friends were shouting, “Yes Vanensio, you tell them, you are the man!” The missionary replied that I should show him the verses in the Bible that supported my position, and I answered back, that “if you will come back tomorrow, I will present the Bible verses to prove that you are wrong”. The priests were the only ones allowed to read the Bible.
That evening I explained to the priest about the missionaries and what they had said, and that I wanted him to give me the verses that support our Catholic beliefs about all of the church requirements for salvation, and counter this “Jesus Plus Nothing Salvation”. He told me that the Catholic Church does not have to defend their beliefs, that they just are. I was troubled by this explanation.
The next morning we drove into the school yard and I saw the missionaries and all of my friends there. I told the Priest that he must give me the verses to present to the missionaries, or maybe he didn’t know what he believed. He simply reached into his pocket and pulled out a small tablet and a pen and wrote a note that I was no longer a candidate for the priesthood, because I had challenged a priest. He had a truck loaded with my stuff, and I was driven back to my home in the village. My parents were mortified and embarrassed, because I had disappointed them, the village, and the church, and they kicked me out of the house.
I went and stayed a couple of days at my uncle’s house and cried and cried about my situation. But something caused me to want to know what what “Jesus Plus Nothing Salvation” was all about. I then walked 8 kilometers to where the missionaries stayed and when they saw me they said, “Hey Vanensio, we did not see you at school the other day”. I explained what had happened and asked them about their “Jesus Plus Nothing Salvation”. They opened the Bible and read verse after verse about Jesus’ love for us and that salvation was a free gift and we did nothing to earn it. I listened and sobbed and sobbed, and repented of my sins before Jesus. This is the message that I now preach wherever I am able.
Amen – to God be the glory!!
Because Christ lives, and is returning,