The old rugged cross still stands. It cannot be broken by poverty, torn down by grief or uprooted by trials. It stands through the test of time and the stain of tears. Just ask Sam and his wife Sylvia about the power of the cross. They have taken a stand for Christ and the cross has stood for them.
In 2010 Shem and Catherine Mabongor, leaders of Open Chapel International, purchased 8 acres of land in Nawampandu village, in Bulange subcounty in Namatumba district in Uganda. The original reason for buying the property was to plant trees in order for the vocational training center to have wood for the carpentry workshop. There was also a swamping area suitable for planting rice, a popular cash crop in that area. Pastor Shem asked his cousin Sam Matekha to help him with the farming. They struggled to plant the trees and rice. Harvesting the rice was a huge work that they had not anticipated. They decided rice was a difficult crop to produce, yet the Lord had other plans about what He wanted them to harvest.
During daily morning and evening prayers Pastor Shem and Sam were joined by curious neighbors. As they prayed and shared the Word of God, people began responding. At first just a few gave their lives to Christ, then the fledgling group was joined by more converts. Soon a church was born.
Pastor Shem asked his cousin Sam to be the pastor of the new church. A small house was constructed along with a pit latrine/bathing area, later a kitchen was added. Soon the government came in a drilled a borehole well for the community just a stone’s throw away from the house.
Pastor Sam and Sylvia
A brief history of this man and his family shows:
1. Sam and Sylvia’s first four female children died as a result of a curse a jealous aunt (and witch) had put on Sam when he was young. Sam and Sylvia gave their hearts to Christ and received from God four more daughters. They now have seven children, the last two are twins.
2. At a huge financial cost, Sam and Sylvia chose to sanctify their marriage twenty years after they first joined together. Many of the local pastors had never attended a wedding before.
3. Extreme poverty is a struggle against drought, poor crop yields and swarms of insects. Sam and Sylvia have been scratching at the soil for as long as they can remember. But now they are seeing the Lord bring for a yield that is a testimony to the pagan neighbors. Farming is still very hard work, but Sam and Sylvia are winning the battle to produce enough food.
4. Sam doesn’t know English, in fact he never finished elementary school. Against all odds he is getting his associates degree in Theology from All Nations Bible School. A soldier ready and equipped for the work of the Gospel.
Question: Why marry after twenty years of being together?
Pastor Sam Matekha along with Sylvia and their children moved to Namatumba in 2013 and began pastoring the new church. Later, Pastor Shem helped Sam pay the outstanding dowry to Sylvia’s parent and obtain the necessary letter from her family to enable them to be officially married. Pastor Sam and his wife Sylvia were wedded (sanctified their marriage) in the church at Namatumba in September 2015. They have 7 living children: Joshua, Shedrach, Ruth, Dorcas, Angel, Isaiah, and Kana.
Answer: For the Glory of God’s name.
None of the members of the surrounding community had ever seen let alone attended a wedding. That includes pastors in the area as well. God was glorified through the regal display of God’s splendor as Sylvia (mother of 7 living children) walked up the aisle in a white dress. Actually Sylvia danced up the aisle. She was radiant! It was interesting that Sam, who had fathered 11 children with Sylvia received her with a look of complete awe and holy fear of the Lord. But soon the ceremony turned to joy as his new bride was officially made his wife. The whole thing was a lot of fun.
Question: Why raise up Godly leaders in the area?
When Sam was young an aunt who was also a witch became jealous of him and cursed him saying, “May you never have a female child that live to maturity.” Before Sam and Sylvia gave their lives to Christ, every female child, four in total, died either in infancy or as a toddler. They were devastated. The curse was real and had power in their lives. But after making Christ Jesus their Lord, this precious couple believed Joel 2:25 “I will repay you for the years the locust have eaten.”
Sam and Sylvia had two living sons Joshua and Shedrach. Soon Ruth was born to them. They waited to see if she would survive. She did and even thrived. Then another daughter was born. With the girl’s bright smile, Sylvia felt she had to name her new little girl Angel. Then came Dorcas, very serious and intelligent even as a baby.
All the girls lived past babyhood, that was a milestone. Then they began walking, talking, then going to school. It was evident the curse was broken but there were only three daughters and the Lord has promised them four.
Answer: They may save your life!
The maternal and infant mortality rate in Uganda is one of the highest in the world. Sylvia was in labor with her last pregnancy she was taken to a local clinic with very limited resources. When it was discovered that Sylvia was having twins. The labor was intense and went on for hours. There was massive blood loss and still the babies didn’t come.
Sylvia was weakening, losing the fight. Pastor Sam was in shock. His wife was dying before his very eyes and there was nothing he could do. Just then, the lead elder of the church came to the clinic. He took on look at the situation and sprang into action. He was the one who scooped Sylvia up in his arms, carried her to a motor cycle taxi and sat with her on his lap. From his own pocket the elder paid the motorcyclist driver to take them to a better clinic. This man, who was saved under the pastoral hand of Sam Matekha, literally stepped in and saved his wife’s life and the lives of twins Isaiah and Kana. God had given the family the fourth girl and another son as well!
What kind of man could step in like that with the wisdom of God, using his own money? That is the kind of leadership that is fostered through Open Chapel in Namatumba.
And Now –
Pastor Sam does not speak English very well. In fact, he never finished elementary school. But he has a heart for people and a hunger to know the Word of God. Because of your partnership, Open Chapel International was able to pay for Pastor Sam to attend All Nations Bible Training. He went part-time for two long years. He struggled to keep up with the class. Often the instructor switched from English to Swahili just to make sure Sam understood. Everyone went the extra mile. Sylvia at home took care of the young children alone. When not attending class, Pastor Sam and Sylvia and even the children farmed the land. They planted rice, peanuts, millet and corn. Farming by hand on the equator is tough toilsome work. But the family persevered. Pastor Sam finished his course and gained an Associates Degree in Theology in 2017.
Please pray for this dear family as they struggle to farm the land, raise their children and raise up a congregation of believers.