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The Most Reverend Dr. Stephen Kaziimba (center), 9th Archbishop of the Church of Uganda.

On March 1, 2020, two-time WTS alumnus Stephen Kaziimba was enthroned as Archbishop of Uganda, the head of the Anglican Church in Uganda. President Felix Theonugraha and his wife Esther, Development Director Andy Bast, and Associate Professor of Church History David Komline traveled to Uganda to represent Western. Current Ugandan student Isaac Ssebyala was also able to travel back to his home country to witness the historic event, thanks to some local donors.

The Words of Hope team in Uganda with the WTS delegation. Director Titus Baraka is fourth from the left, standing.

“It was an incredible global church moment,” said President Theonugraha, “and seeing our two-time alumnus selected to head up a 12-million-member church was amazing.” The six-hour event was attended by the president and vice president of Uganda, archbishops from all over the world, and nearly 3,000 people.

Mary Nabakooza was the first Ugandan to attend Western, coming in the fall of 1999 to complete a Master of Theology (Th.M.) degree. Ten Ugandans have followed, many being experienced pastors with degrees from Uganda Christian University and the Bishop Tucker School of Theology. Stephen Kaziimba first attended Western in the early 2000s to earn a Th.M. and returned for a Doctor of Ministry degree, which he earned in 2007.

President Theonugraha is very interested in investigating partnerships and an exchange program with Uganda Christian University and the Bishop Tucker School of Theology. While in Uganda, he and Dr. Komline met with the vice chancellor and professors of the schools.

“I want our students to learn from an area of the world where the church is vibrant and growing,” he said. “We can expand our knowledge of what God is doing and learn from the people who are there. We have resources we can offer to them, too, for mutual learning.”

2016 Th.M. graduate Godfrey Kyome greets his beloved professor, Dr. David Komline.

The Uganda-WTS pipeline has been aided by Words of Hope (WOH). Students Titus Baraka and Stephen Kaziimba became involved with WOH while studying at Western and advocated for the organization to expand to Uganda. From humble beginnings in an outbuilding on the grounds of the Archbishop’s residence (with chickens cawing and dogs barking in the background of radio programs), Words of Hope Uganda now broadcasts out of a beautiful building on the grounds of Uganda Christian University. Titus directs the ministry, with mobile studios in dioceses all around the country offering programs in 14 languages.

Titus served as host for our delegation while they were in Kampala. At one point during their week-long stay, the WTS group joined Titus for a regular gathering he leads for people dealing with drug addiction, alcoholism, and intense poverty. The meeting lasted for three hours, filled with remarkable testimonies of transformed lives. Titus later reported that he uses a lot of the family systems theory he learned at Western for his ministry.

As the meeting was winding down, a man asked President Theonugraha to come outside and bless his boda boda (motorcycle used for transport).

“My first thought was that I’m not the blessing bearer—Jesus is the one who is going to bless you and keep you safe,” Felix recalled. But then he realized this is part of contextualization, and it’s not much different than people in the West walking around a building and praying for all the things that will happen inside. So he blessed the boda boda.

“This is the type of horizon-broadening experience I hope we can bring to our seminary students,” he said. “We want them to step into these cross-cultural moments.”

The trip happened just before COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic, and since then we’ve learned of another impact of our Ugandan graduates. Because of the pandemic, the president of Uganda asked Archbishop Kaziimba to lead worship from his house. What was the only organization to have the technology to livestream? Words of Hope Uganda. Now five million people a week are regularly watching the livestream and hearing the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

On March 1, The Most Reverend Dr. Stephen Kaziimba became the the 9th Archbishop of the Church of Uganda at Namirembe Cathedral in Kampala, Uganda. More than 3,000 people attended the colorful ceremony, including the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni.

Dr. Kaziimba is a two-time graduate of Western Theological Seminary, having earned a Master of Theology degree in 2003 and a Doctor of Ministry degree in 2007.

At the invitation of Dr. Kaziimba, President Felix Theonugraha traveled to Uganda to join in the celebration, along with his wife, Esther, Dr. David Komline, and Andy Bast. There they reunited with several WTS alumni, learned about their important work, and visited Uganda Christian University to explore opportunities for collaboration, cooperation, and mutual learning.

Rev. David M. Bast, WTS ’76

By Rev. Timothy Brown ‘76

In a recent book, Kevin VanHoozer describes theologians who do their theologizing with the world looking over their shoulders. They commend, argue, urge, offer up, and call out to real people living 9-to-5 lives in the crucible of the real world. The stakes are high because the consequences are eternal. These theologians do not have the luxury of endlessly deferring arguments, because for them, the hour has come and the time is now. Like the Apostle Paul urging young Timothy to “come before winter,” there is an urgency about these theologians that you rarely see in others.

David Bast is that type of theologian. Through his countless journeys to the hard places of the world where most Western evangelists rarely go, Dave has been present:  Uganda, Armenia, Indonesia, Bhutan and so many more. Dave has preached the good news of Jesus in season and out of season and in multiple places around the world. For this we honor him as our Distinguished Alumnus of 2018.

Dave with Ugandan children.

 

Dave Bast, a 1973 graduate of Hope College, studied at Fuller Theological Seminary and Calvin Theological Seminary in addition to Western. After earning his M.Div. in 1976, he served as a pastor in three congregations:  Hamilton Reformed Church, Hamilton, MI; First Reformed Church in South Holland, IL; and Fifth Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. In each congregation Dave distinguished himself as a thoughtful and articulate preacher and a diligent and caring pastor.

Dave and his wife, Betty Jo, live in Grand Rapids, MI. They are the parents of four children:  Andrew (married to Katie) who is director of development at WTS, Peter (married to Sarah), Jane (married to Lars Olson), and Anne (married to Paul Davis). Dave and Betty Jo have seven grandchildren.

In 1994 Dave joined Words of Hope, where he served as president and broadcast minister for 23 years. Words of Hope is a ministry affiliated with the Reformed Church in America that helps Christians use media to build the church in many difficult-to-reach places. Words of Hope has ministry partnerships that produce programs in over 50 languages, primarily in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. In his retirement, Dave continues to co-host a weekly half-hour audio program called “Groundwork” that digs deeply into Scripture as a foundation for our lives. It is aired on 170 radio stations in the U.S. and Canada.

Dave with Jon Sherrill ‘99 and Jan Fields in Istanbul for an Iranian discipleship conference.

Another distinctive outreach dimension of Words of Hope is their teaching conferences in the Muslim world to strengthen and encourage Christian church leaders in Muslim-majority nations. Dave has logged well over a million miles traveling all over the world for the sole purpose of equipping local leaders to do their work where they live and in their own language.

I have joined Dave on several of these trips as a kind of “back up teacher” to lighten the load. They have been some of the most meaningful teaching moments of my career. I remember vividly sitting on the top floor of the Carlton Hotel in downtown Istanbul crowded around a conference table with 20 Christian converts from Iran, people who were previously Shia Muslims. They had come to Turkey for 4-5 days of biblical expositions by Dave and teaching on Christian practices by me.

Tim & Nancy Brown and Dave & Betty Jo Bast with the Mityana Diocese in Uganda, where WTS alum Stephen Kaziimba ‘03, ‘07, is the Bishop.

On one of our trips Dave did a series of expositions from Romans 5-8 that were the finest I have ever heard. I was stunned, transfixed really, as Dave went verse by verse through these remarkable chapters from the book that we love. My right hand flew across my note book growing weary from writing. In that moment I so deeply wished all my students could hear what I was hearing.

Dave with Dr. Kurt Selles, Executive Director of the CRC’s Back to God Ministries Int’l, meeting with radio listeners in Jharkhand, India.

In his classic work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, the venerable 17th Century Puritan preacher, John Bunyan, describes his ideal preacher and pastoral leader. He could have had Dave in mind when he said, “He had eyes lifted up to Heaven, the best of books in (his) hand, the law of truth was written upon (his) lips, the world was behind (his) back; (he) stood as if (he) pleaded with (all), and a crown of gold did hang over (his) head.” Dave has committed his life to embodying that portrait, and Western Theological Seminary blesses the Lord for the life and witness of the Rev. David Bast, proudly naming him our 2018 Distinguished Alumnus.