Sunday Vision-Pastor Emmanuel Lubulwa has had his share of hardships. He was orphaned at the age of nine years, when he witnessed his father being brutally murdered. As if that was not bad enough, he saw his mother being raped to death.
Twenty-five years later, he says God has turned his traumatic past into an opportunity to encourage others, writes Samuel Lutwama
Pastor Emmanuel Lubulwa, the senior pastor at Meeting Place for Church in Kireka, says he had a difficult time while growing up. It was so difficult that he has even written a book From Grass to Grace about his personal experience.
"I never enjoyed my teenage days after my parents' death," he says before quoting Psalms 30:5, which says: "...weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning."
Lubulwa says his father was brutally murdered and the body left where they could see it, while his mother was gang-raped by soldiers before his eyes until she died.
Born 37 years ago in a small village of Luwero district, Lubulwa describes his childhood in two distinctive phases. He says the first phase was uneventful, but everything changed when he was nine years old.
As the only boy in the family of 12, he was deeply loved by his sisters and they regarded him as heir apparent to their father.
"My father, who was a businessman, provided everything for us. Although he had two wives, we never lacked anything and we all lived harmoniously," he says.
But that all changed in 1983 during the civil war. Lubulwa says this changed their lives for the worst. His parents sought refuge in the jungles of Luwero for one year and half and after some time, they opted to relocate the family back to their home, which had already been vandalised.
"We had no idea of the tragedy that was awaiting us. Had we known, perhaps, we would have stayed longer in the bush," Lubulwa says remorsefully.
He adds that the moment government soldiers saw his father, they arrested and jailed him in a military barracks on suspicion that he was spying for the rebels. Four days later, he was brought back to his family handcuffed. As a punishment for his alleged treachery, Lubulwa's father was shot dead in the presence of his family members.
The soldiers then ordered the family not to remove his body until it decomposed. But before the body could decompose, wild dogs scavenged on the flesh.
On the same day, Lubulwa adds, his mother was forcefully undressed and gang-raped until she died. Her children were forced to watch the sinister episode. This left Lubulwa and his siblings helpless and scarred.
What is more tragic is that the family was still trapped in the jungles of Luwero without anyone to help them. Lubulwa says after his parents' death, he and his siblings lived solely by the grace of God.
"From 1984 to 1986, we virtually had no food. We became malnourished and our bodies were full of sores, yet there was no medicine to heal our bruised bodies," he says.
Fortunately, the Red Cross came in at their time of need. Lubulwa was taken together with his siblings to a camp, where they received treatment and rehabilitation.
In 1986, after the war ended, there was a glimmer of hope for Lubulwa and his siblings. He was re-united with his step siblings, who had survived the fangs of the civil war.
Lubulwa says after the war, he started going to school. While in P5, he heard about the gospel of Jesus for the first time. At that time, Lubulwa wondered why Jesus could let such tragedies as the one that befell his family, happen. He was adamant about the gospel until one preacher posed a question: "Do you know why you are still living?" And that was it.
"At that time, I realised that there was a reason why I had survived all the nasty experiences. The preacher assured me that God was ready to take me as His son, if only I accepted Him as lord and saviour. God started bandaging and healing my broken past," Lubulwa says.
To add insult to injury, Lubulwa's elder brother lost his job and he could not continue financing his education. Lubulwa relocated to the village, where he took interest in the gospel message of mercy and grace as he read the Bible.
Lubulwa says as he spoke, before he could finish one verse, another scripture tumbled prophetically out of his mouth.
"I immediately decided to make the gospel part of my ministry," he says. However, Lubulwa adds that the journey was not smooth.
"I was made to sleep in the bathroom for three years by the wife of my pastor. However, through all this, the grace of God was evident in my life," he adds.
In 2003, Lubulwa says he fell in love with a beautiful young lady - Grace - who he says has lived to her gracious name.
"God has blessed us with children and we have also adopted others," he says.
"Above all, I have a ministry that is impacting the lives of others," Lubulwa adds.
To date, Lubulwa recounts the day he first got onto a plane to go to Burundi on a gospel mission.
"When I was seated in the plane, my mind went back to the painful memories of my childhood. The memories later faded away in the reality of the amazing grace of God," he says.
Lubulwa adds that he has seen God work miraculously to resolve his bruised past. Although it has not been easy, he has witnessed something beautiful arise from ruins. "Whenever we go through heartache, the grace of God is just around to see us through all the trials and temptation," he says.