BY IVAN NAIJUKA
The vibrant Stephen sits leaning on his chair and welcomes me in with a big smile before he offers me a seat, “You are welcome my brother!”
Rev. Dr. Stephen Mug’oma was recently installed the first principal of Uganda Christian University (UCU)’s second constituent college, Mbale University College.
Born in Bumasikye, a village 24kms from Mbale Municipality towards Tororo in eastern Uganda, Mung’oma attended Bumasikye Primary School, Nabumali Junior Secondary School and Nabumali High School before joining Makerere University in 1969 to do a Bachelor of Arts in Literature in English. Throughout his studies he would excel and be on top of his class.
“Whenever I would go beyond the third position in class, I would cry and feel as if they had cheated me,” he explains.
He admits that during his education, things were tough. “We did Cambridge Certificate Examinations at O-level, they were not simple but we managed to pass.”
“I loved God and served Him a great deal. Further, I was glad to have joined the university when I was saved. I got saved in 1966,” he recalls.
Later, due to his commitment to spiritual development, Mung’oma studied theology at Bishop Tucker Theological College in Mukono, an institution that metamorphosed into UCU in 1995.
He then got engrossed with several Christian movements such as “Young Christ Ambassadors Fellowship” which he started with fellow students while at Nabumali High school. Mung’oma and friends also started the Deliverance Church that still stands up to now.
“At the university, I excelled in Literature in English. So the Head of Department, Professor David Cook, called me back for a Master’s degree in Literature, which I finished in 1972; and ended up teaching at the university.”
In the year 1983, Mung’oma went to study at Fuller Theological Seminary in USA where he obtained a Master’s in Missiology before being ordained into ministry.
He would later attain his PhD in Intercultural Studies concentrating on leadership from the same US college.
“I never wanted to be ordained. Fortunately most of my friends kept encouraging me, particularly John Ssentamu, now the Archbishop of York, advised me to go for it,” he narrates.
Earlier in 1973 when Mung’oma had finished his Bachelor’s degree, he got married to Rachael Kakai Masatte.
“We met while still at Nabumali High School. She was in Senior One while I was in Senior Five. We became friends until we married in 1973. God has blessed us with eight children: five girls and three boys, and we now also have six grandchildren. All our children stay in the USA,” he says.
Mung’oma explains how teaching during that era was not a bed of roses because of the ‘bad regime’ at the time.
“Whenever you could teach something contrary or annoying to the people in the government, they would incarcerate you immediately.”
He recalls that when he saw the way Bishop Janani Luwum died in 1977, he went into self-imposed exile in Kenya.
He later returned to the country and over his illustrious career, Mung’oma has worked at Makerere University, the Province of the Church of Uganda as the head of Missions in 1991.
Mung’oma then became the director of the 13- year-old Mbale Study Centre before he was appointed principal by the University Council effective January 1, 2016.
Under his helm, Mbale University College, as it is currently known, has grown from a study centre of merely 46 pioneer students in 2003 into one that educates thousands of students from Eastern Uganda stretching to the western part of Kenya across for campuses.
These are the Canon Mungati business campus, situated a kilometre away from the central campus in the west, the theological campus at Nabumali (7 kilometres east) and the Nabuyonga Rise campus of Postgraduate Studies and Law, in the south.
He was installed by the Chancellor and Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali, at a colourful ceremony at the St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Mbale.
Mung’oma is a great reader and idealist. His favourite quote is from Napoleone Hill and it reads: “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
He argues that in this generation where there are many forces working against us, it is important to reflect on the past so as to secure a platform to see and listen to a new purpose and a new sense of direction.