Cascade Views Podcast - Alex Mutagubya - Please excuse digital transcription errors (-
uganda, people, business, community, alex, life, challenge, ministry, america, church, school, purpose, resource, perspective, born, influence, university, home, man, central oregon
Michael Sipe, Narrator, Alex Mutagubya
Alex Mutagubya 00:06
This man, one time he comes into the class and says, stops in the middle of a lecture and says, students, you think community development is a profession. Not it's not. It's a calling. Now, from my Christian perspective, calling was a huge thing. I had given my life to Jesus when I was 14 years. But I had these two parts. I had my Christian walk, and I had a career path I was running after. As this man spoke, these two things might spark this thing. It's not a profession, it's a calling my path, my Christian walk, and career paths just collided. That night I could not sleep. And it made sense that if the world is going to be transformed, if we are going to see some real lasting change, transformation has to first happen in the heart of someone before we can see it in our communities.
Welcome to cascade views a discussion with Central Oregon leaders. Your host is Michael SIPE, local business and community leader Best Selling Author of the Avada principle in candidate for Oregon State Representative for House District 53, which encompasses southern Redmond, Sisters, Tumalo and northern Bend. The purpose of these discussions is to share the views and insights of local leaders from a variety of community sectors on a range of timely and important regional and state issues. With that, now here is your host, Michael SIPE.
Michael Sipe 01:47
This is Michael SIPE, and I'll be your host. Today, my guest is my new friend Alex Mutagubya. Alex is a senior pastor at the City Church luzira in Kampala, Uganda, he and his wife and CO pastor faith and their incredible worship team to cinza are here in Central Oregon on a multistate tour that's getting extended due to the travel restrictions caused by COVID-19. Although this is difficult for Alex and his family and team, we're really beneficiaries that they stay here with us. Alex has an amazing life story and the work he's doing in ministry in business. It's truly inspiring. And I don't want to steal any of his thunder by trying to summarize it. So without further ado, let's just jump right in with Alex.
Alex Mutagubya 02:31
Thank you, Mike. It's really good to be here. Yes, I'm super thrilled. And looking forward to our conversation. Alex, the other day you shared with a small group of us a bit of your life story. And it's such a fascinating path that you've walked. I'd love it if you'd share some of it with me and with our listeners today. Yes. As I told you, my father abandoned our family right before I was born. And so that was tough. But then when I was two, my mother gave her life to Christ, and became saved born again. That would be a good thing. Bad except that her family ostracized her because of her faith. Now, in Uganda, a woman in the 80s, who has no husband and does not have the support of her family, her clan, life can be really tough, and ours was very tough. I remember growing up that we hardly had what to eat there several nights, my mother would come and give us, each of us a cup of water, we had four children, give each one of us a mug of water. And that was dinner, several times. And so because we grew up in that my mother was at the same time a school teacher. But in Uganda school teachers are paid according to the class you teach. And she was teaching grade one. So it was difficult, it was tough. But she kept insisting that if we are going to get out of our challenges that we're facing, we had one to work hard. Number two, we had to study. And number three, we had to we had to love Jesus. So we embrace those three things, and she kept sending us to school. The only challenge with school was that in Uganda, every child has to pay for their school from the very time they start until they come out. And we would go to school, you would just walk to school, like two or three miles to school. But then when as I'm sitting in the classroom, the head teacher would then come in and read the names of those who haven't paid and guess what my name is on their home. And so they would send you back home. Where are you going back home? There's no food Whenever you are at school, you have something to eat at home there isn't. And so what I would do, because I grew up around Lake Victoria, which is the largest lake in Uganda, and really in Africa, I grew up around Lake Victoria. So instead of going to school, I learned when mom would send you to school, I'll just go to the lake side, and do some fishing, or go through what the vendors have thrown away and find something to eat. It's that leg side, that my pastor one day found me. And I remember he came riding on a bicycle, and picked me up and said, Alex, let's go to church, it wasn't a Sunday, there was a group of people, and they were taking pictures. And that was my first time to see a camera. It was mesmerizing. And they said, well, there's some people that love you that are going to help you go to school. So from that, I got a sponsor, and entered the program by Compassion International, that sponsored me and helped me to go through school. Now, as I went through school and seeing things that my community was going through, and I was going through, I had I hated poverty, I had poverty. And so I was given to fight this. So when I got an opportunity to go to university in Uganda, I did a degree, a bachelor's degree in Community Development, because I wanted to fight poverty. But it is during my last year of university, as I sat in one of the Community Development lectures, in fact, I remember our lecture I was this man, he wasn't a believer at all. He wasn't a Christian. In fact, he was such a drunk that whenever he came to class, I would shift I always want to sit in the front of the classes, I always wanted to. But when this man would come in, out, shift and go to the back of field, I would get drunk by just the smell, I was on him. But this man, one time he comes into the class, and says, stops in the middle of a lecture and says, students, you think community development is a profession? No, it's not. It's a calling. Now, from my Christian perspective, calling was a huge thing. I had given my life to Jesus, when I was 14 years. But I had these two paths. I had my Christian walk, and I had a career path I was running after, as this man spoke these two things, my spoke this thing, it's not a profession, it's a calling my path, my Christian work, and career paths just collided. That night, I could not sleep. And it makes sense that if the world is going to be transformed, if we are going to see some real lasting change, transformation has to first happen in the heart of someone before we can see it in our communities. And so that, at that point, it was so clear to me that if I'm going to help our communities, and if we are going to see lasting transformation in our community, there are certain things we have to put in place. And one of the things we have to is we have to reach people at their hearts. And that sealed it for me, I was going to be a pastor, from that time I was going to plant a church, but not just a church that just does spiritual things, but a church that is also very relevant in reaching people's lives where they are. And so with that, I bet I began pursuing also more teaching more study on in faith and in ministry. And that's how I ended up in Portland or Multnomah University, and I did my masters of divinity then went back and started this incredible ministry, he founded a ministry called Transform African ministries, to do three big things. We say that our mission as transform African Ministries is to disciple and empower people for transformation. In Jesus's name, we want to see transformation at three levels, one at the spiritual level, because that forms the best for me that forms the mess. And then number two, at the economic level, we want to see transformation of our communities on the economic level. And we want to see the transformation on the social level. And so on the spiritual level, we planted a church, we decided, let's give our community model church which we call the City Church, and so and that has been going on Very well. Then on the economic level, we decided to address the challenge of unemployment in Uganda. And Uganda is much more youthful. So we decided let's start a program that trains intrapreneurs. And also disciples, people who are already in the intrapreneurship in business and and doing that. And then on the social level, we started a school and also a house for young girls. So that's what we do right now.
Michael Sipe 10:31
Well, let's back up just a second, because you've talked to me a little bit about some of the some of the demographic and some of the cultural challenges in Uganda that our listeners may not be familiar with. So yes, give us a little backstory around the crux of the challenge there.
Alex Mutagubya 10:47
Yes. So Uganda is the youngest population right now in the world. 15, a 50% 50%. of Ugandans are below the age of 15. That is out of a population of 42 million Ugandans. 15 years old. 50 50% was below the age of 15 77%. of Ugandans are below the age of 30. So at 36, I am one of the seniors here, oh, man. I know. In fact, I remember when I had just started out eight years ago, and we had just started out, I was one of the oldest, I was the only married man in my church. And now that has come, we now have more that have come. But Uganda is very young, and very youthful. However, the economic disparity is so huge, so huge. The unemployment rate in Uganda is placed at about 68% generally bad among the population between 15 and 30. And that's in Uganda, that's kind of like the working population. It's at 84% 84% unemployment, 84% unemployment. And so and we're in we're stressing out in America right now, with unemployment at 13% 14%. End percent and what it wherever it is, it's not 84%. It's not I mean, I look at the unemployment rates here. And if if we had that in Uganda, we would be jubilating. Every but I guess you guys have been used to having much three or 4%. Right? Yeah, much, much lower. So I don't want to take away from people who are suffering also because of unemployment here. But the reality back home is very, very disturbing. And why are there so many shortage of jobs? What So what causes that? So you have to understand that Uganda has gone through a number of challenges. We got our independency, from the colonialists in in 1962. Did well until 1966, when we went through a period of internal wars, civil wars from 66, all the way to 1986. Now, what was down do is they claim fathers, they claim men, they claim for the adults. And so there was a generation that just had very little parenting and they had very little fathers at home. Well, then, after the wars 1986 We got the current government good came in power. And it's been compared to any other government, it's been much more peaceful and much more democratic. Over that will be debated by the politicians. I want. I don't want to get into that. But then the main the 1980s, HIV AIDS came, and Uganda became the number one leading country in HIV incidents between the 1919 86 two all the way to 1993. And what HIV does, if there was to just the dad's HIV comes for both mom and dad. And so we had a lot of child homes, a lot of families that lost we have a whole community that was almost wiped out by HIV AIDS. And so by the time we come to the 90s, most of the adults have been have died. So Uganda has lived through both social unrest and war in viruses. Yeah, and yeah, I mean, horrible, horrible, horrible viruses and, and so because of that, we are just getting the engine to work. Now. You Gundams actually very smart people, they are very sharp, they are very hard working. And not just with their hands, but also with their mind. But the opportunities are not there. And then too, we inherited an education system that went obsolete in Europe in the early 1910s, that they can maintain their 1930s. And that's the kind of education system we still have right now, which is a very, I don't know how this will sound. But it's very rote. It's very, what the teacher tells you is what you give back and nothing more outside of the brackets doesn't count. And so, because of that, then you will have even those who have gone through school educated, but not land. Sure, so they will come out. And I have several instance where you, you hire an accountant, for example, who has who has A's in accounting, but cannot balance a balance sheet. So when because of all that, you have very limited availability. For everyone job that opens up in Uganda, there is over 900 applicants, 900 applicants per single job. Yeah, so that must be why you came up with the idea for Fit for Life, right? Because, or fit this Fit for Life program that, that you've told us about. So give us a little background on fit. Yes. So and to, you have to understand that where I come from, are the main by which I come from, is that I've grown up in abject poverty. Like I was saying, I first put on my first pair of shoes when I was eight, I first had a mattress when I was 12. A lot, a lot has been in my life that is informing where I am. But what I realized is I had some people who had certain characteristics, that God to help me get out. So when I looked at what is going on in our communities, I said, we need a program that just doesn't smear just a little Vaseline. On top of the challenge, let's address it head on. So we started what we call the Fit for Life program through transform African ministries. And what it does is it trains young intrapreneurs and pairs them all with experienced intrapreneurs. So we get someone who has already who is already in business in an area that they already flourishing, and we bring them into a relationship with a young man, mostly college graduates who have who have come out of university and see what idea do you have, can we walk with you and see it developed? Now, our desire is that this young university college graduate will start up a business that will employ two or more other people. And so, we are not just giving them some small little capital to start with, we are giving them skill we are working with them. And we are whenever possible, we are providing certain some seed capital for them to start up that kind of business through the Fit for Life program.
Michael Sipe 18:40
You have a couple of interesting perspectives on on how I and our listeners can help with with it for life, and you talk about it in terms of four categories that I thought are really significant for us to touch on right now. So tell us about those four categories and how now someone like our listeners somehow like got like me, because yes, for perhaps help.
Alex Mutagubya 19:04
I told you I was able to go through school because I was sponsored. But when I looked and examined the chain of flow of things and people that come come together, they had certain characteristics. One, there had to be a person with skill. There had to be a person with influence. There had to be a person with access, and a person with resource. These people had to come together. Or these four characteristics had to unite within a given individual who had influenced access, skill and influence so that they can look back down on me who was disadvantaged and pulled me out. Most development programs always focus on just the downtrodden. And in and we see it in Uganda. I see it in Uganda, because Uganda also has people who have the those those fourth means they have influence, they have access, they have a certain skill, and then some have resource, but because no one engages them, then the ones who are down below the marginalized and not taken care of appropriately. And so what I thought it was that if we can reach the person with skill, the person with influence the person with access and the person with the resource, and bring them into a discipleship and into an apartment and help them to see what is happening, because the people that sponsored me, they were people that had been touched by what I am going through and said, We can do something. And so the indeed, the pastor who picked me from the marketplace, this is a man who did not have resource, but had access and influence. And so all those things come together and we say, okay, how do we leverage? How does one how do we help someone leverage their influence their skill, their their resource, and their access to help the one who is marginalized? So what I hear from that is that the the ones who are are helping, whether it be through their skill, their influence, their access, or resources, it sounds like they're actually getting blessed as well. Definitely, definitely, because I believe God gives us power and influence, to act on behalf of those that do not, and delight and joy, and real peace of mind comes out of that, not just about amassing, but dispensing being the channels of blessing to others.
Michael Sipe 21:56
You know that that spurs me to ask a question. It's one of my favorite questions. But you have a really interesting perspective on for profit and nonprofit business, yes, and ministry. So I'd like to ask your views on the purpose of business because in 1970, Milton Friedman, who was an American economist, with American ideas about the economy and everything, he basically said, the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. That's the point of business. But recently, and this was before all that's gone on in the last few years, this was back like last August, the the Business Roundtable, which is about 200 of the most influential CEOs in America took a radical departure from that end, and they declared that the purpose of businesses is much broader than that. It includes customers vendors in the community, and it actually named shareholders. Yes, last. So I'm curious what your thoughts are on that as a segue out of our conversation in general, and then as you look at what's going on with Uganda, and the way you're using business there to to help so yes.
Alex Mutagubya 23:04
So I believe that everything that we have been given we have been given it, it has been given to us as a stooge. It has been given to us
by because we have been entrusted with such responsibility, not just for ourselves, but for the good of the of the environment and the context around us and the people around us. And so if a business flourishes, is flourishing, not just so to make one richer, and richer, and richer and richer, but for the general social good. And so a man or a woman that has been given such privilege has also been given such responsibility.
Alex Mutagubya 23:58
And so make profit, but not at the expense of the people around you. And so the person in business or the business itself, is to serve the good of the majority, the good of the many. Now, that's not the same as the socialism. But it is the source, the communities around us and the people around us are to be served by what we have, and the tools we have been given. Yeah, that's my perspective. That's profound. And you know, it's actually there's a piece of what you're talking about here that's kind of at the root not entirely, but kind of at the root of some of the social unrest and challenges that are going on in America right now. I mean, we're sitting here in the midst of have a huge amount of social and racial tension. Yeah. And, you know, my skin tones a little lighter than yours. But, but we're brothers and, and both sons of God. So give us your perspective as a Ugandan man. And is one familiar with America but one observing as a Ugandan. What do you see going on here with all this turmoil in America? Yes, I, one of the things that I noticed, when I interact with Americans is, I think, a lot of times you the American gets, I think, blinded to the fact the rest of the world exists. It does. And so, and everything gets so personalized, as though it's just American. But it's not. And, and a lot of the issues you're dealing with, we all are dealing with, elsewhere in the world. And because of that, so for example, here, there is a lot of challenge that comes with the history of slavery. In our context, there's a lot of challenge that comes with a history of colonialism. But not just that, we also have to deal with the history of tribes and segmentations. That had always happened. The challenge, though, is that if you get locked up in your history, you cannot make progress. There is a time where a time has to come where you realize, well, it is what it is. It was what it was. Now we need to forge away right here right now to move forward. So good. Yeah. When God made us and created us, he placed us in periods, and in times where we will be most effective for His purpose upon our lives. And he looked at Mike, and he looked at Alex, and he said, well, for what I have created, Mike to do, and what I have created Matt, Alex to do, Alex needs to be born in Uganda. Under the circumstances, Mike needs to be born in America, under the circumstances. And so where we are in what we are born with, and even the colors of our skins, who have to be looked at, in terms of this is a divine plan. Now, that does not make you better than I am, nor does make me better than you are. It just makes us siblings, children of the Most High God, it makes us one. And yet, our purposes are different. And so we better we better fulfill our purposes. As we sit together just as we sit row you're sitting right now. And so what has he given you? And what has he given me? And how can we match these together since we are now on the same road? To make sure that what he met us for is being fulfilled? Sure, because it comes right back to those four things. You talked about scale, influence, resources, access, all of those are our gifts. Make sure you worked hard and, and and occasionally work hard. And but but the gifts are, are from God that was so well said gosh, like we need to wrap up today. I could go on forever with you on this. But I wonder if you just be willing to share of foundational principle or maybe a life verse with us that that guides your work and kind of yours, your perspective on life. For me personally, and my perspective in life and how I approach everything is this was a scripture that came to me when I was seven years old. And my mother, like I told you had always insisted if we are going to make it out of our circumstances. We had to love Christ. And so she forced us. She forced us to read the Bible. And I didn't want to, but she forced us. And because of that. I got to read and read and read. But then one day I was reading and I ran into Jeremiah one verses five. Before you were formed in your mother's womb. I knew you before you were born. I chose you to be a prophet to the nation's now. I don't know what happened. But when I read that at seven, I was seven. I just jumped out and I rent my mama and I said Mama I think this speaks about me. And that has never left me. I, I really believe that I am not a mistake in existence. I have a divine purpose for my life. But that divine purpose is prophetic. Now, not prophetic in the weird sense of, oh, I'm going to tell you about your future or what, but to design a future, not just for myself, but for those who are around me to help shine a light on in many other people's lives. And so every time I do whatever I am doing, I'm asking myself, How is this shining? A light on someone else's life?
Michael Sipe 30:53
Alex, I really enjoyed our time together. As always, it's, it's just an absolute pleasure. How can people find out more about you and your team and the work that you're doing?
Alex Mutagubya 31:04
Yes, there are two websites that you can go on to find out about mob to find out more about what we are doing. One is WWW dot transform. A free can. You have to remember to put on the end and the African ministries, it's plural. So www dot transform African ministries.org. That's one. The second one is the the worship team website, which is TUSINZ e.com W W dot two sensei.com. So the windows websites, you can find out a bit quite a lot about what we are doing where we are, and, and a lot of what we've been talking about,
Michael Sipe 31:54
Oh, fantastic. Well, this conversation for me has been, has been really terrific. And I you know, one of the key takeaways that I've been pondering as you've been talking is, is through throughout the conversation, is this, this idea of, of God's gifts, the responsibilities that go along with those, the the interplay of privilege and skill and influence and resources and access with the obligation to serve and the stewardship obligation. And yes, and, you know, it reminds me of the verse that to those that much has been given much as expected, much as required. And so, really key takeaway for me from our conversation today. Thanks so much for being on the show.
Alex Mutagubya 32:44
Well, thank you, Mike, for inviting me to the show. You bet.
Michael Sipe 32:48
And my guest today has been Alex Mutabugya, the senior pastor at the City Church luzira at Kampala, Uganda, and the founder of Fit for Life. Thanks for tuning in today.