By Janet Nzisa
The singles in the East Africa churches want to not only survive in their Christianity but to thrive and live life to the full. They desire not just to hang in or hang out—and certainly not to hang up—but to stand out, stand up, stand strong and shine.
So round they gathered for the 2016 edition of the East Africa Singles Retreat at Katomi Kingdom Resort in Entebbe, Uganda from July 7 to 10. The theme “Thrive” was derived from the song of the same title by Casting Crowns, and the East Africa singles reflected the song’s powerful lines: “We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives/ it’s time for us to more than just survive/ we were made to thrive.”
The retreat was packed with activities and classes geared towards helping the singles to thrive in the areas of relationships, finances and their overall Christianity. It was particularly special because it had disciples visiting from as far as the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. Other disciples streamed in from South Sudan despite the unrest in the country. Burundi and Rwanda were also represented. Kenyans showed up in droves from the cities of Eldoret, Kisumu, Bungoma, Mombasa and Nairobi. Our able host Uganda did not disappoint in numbers either. We had a total of 123 in attendance.
Our facilitators Richard and Florence Ahenda, Charles and Josephine Omollo, Harold and Brenda Mucunguzi, Hillary and Annet Musingizi and Julius and Margaret Nguku were on point and tech savvy to ensure that all the classes were well projected and executed.
Streaming in from their various locations, the disciples were welcomed by the ever hospitable local disciples as early as 6am with a surprise banana and apple treat and a dancing troupe of sisters and brothers completely adorned in their traditional dancing gear, entertaining with vigour. The organizing team was ready to usher us into our exquisite rooms for freshening up and later on breakfast. Following lunch and relaxation there was fellowship, picture-taking in the resort’s lush gardens and much laughter ensued.
On Day 2 we congregated at 6am for aerobics and exercise led by the ever-fit Richard Ahenda. In line with our theme this was meant to ensure that our physical health was thriving. This was followed by a powerful time of devotion centered on how best a single disciple can Thrive in a hurting world. Team Blue reminded us that in the same way that gold and diamonds get their lustre through a rigorous refining process, we shall Thrive if we trust that God uses the fires in our lives to refine us.
After a sumptuous breakfast, Richard and Florence introduced the theme and showed us what a thriving Christian looks like. Key in their sermon was how to Thrive even when circumstances are not favourable. Borrowing from Jesus’s example of daily listening to God and speaking with Him, we were encouraged to have open hearts to listen from God. The title song says, “Into your word we’re digging deep/ to know our Father’s heart …/ so living water flowing through/ God we thirst for more of You.”
Margaret and Julius then took to the stage to share with us an interesting class on Temperaments, Personality and Character. It was clear after the class, that we are diverse in our temperaments and personalities and we need each other—The Perfect Melancholics need the Popular Sanguines who in turn need the Powerful Cholerics and Peaceful Phelgmatics to make the world a perfect cocktail.
Days 3 and 4 saw us engaged by Hillary and Annete on what a Thriving relationship looks like. Their life story was an inspiring account of how through humility and openness they build lasting friendships which have seen them thrive as singles and now married parents in God’s church. Harold and Brenda also shared, in a class called Thriving Despite Challenges, about the ups and downs of being single and how they overcame and relied on God to build them up. It was clear that what we were seeing in their lives was as a result of what God had done through their vulnerability. “Just to know You and to make You known/ we lift Your name on High/ shine like the sun make darkness run and hide.”
The culmination of the retreat was the Saturday Dinner dubbed “James Bond”. Donned in black suits and bow ties like the legendary spy, the brothers were not to disappoint. The sisters strutted the red carpet in black and white gowns with gold jewelry ready to make merry.
The icing on the cake was when Lucas Malika from Kenya went down on one knee to ask Keji Stephen from Southern Sudan to be his girlfriend. God was allowing the singles to Thrive beyond the confines of geography. And on Sunday, the final day God was not done encouraging us—Mpanga Lawrence asked his girlfriend Davian Nassuuna, both from Uganda, to marry him. She said a resounding yes and through it all hope was renewed for those who had given up on dating in Gods Kingdom.
As we departed from Katomi Kingdom Resort there was a spring in everyone’s step. Glorious Imbala from Kenya said, “The message of God’s unconditional love for us stood out the most. The love for each other despite our backgrounds was truly profound.” Emily Mandu from Dubai added, “We are all unique and we need to respect each other despite our weaknesses.” Amos from Burundi enthused about “the power of fellowship and thriving relationships in the Kingdom, and the chance to interact with sisters was special”( Please note there are no single sisters in his church)
Despite our differences in temperaments, age and spiritual maturity, the common goal was to thrive in every area of our lives and to influence the world as a result. “Here in this worn and weary land/ where many a dream has died/ like a tree planted by the water/ we never will run dry.” Our transformation sure. Our convictions cemented. Our hope renewed. “Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable, love unstoppable.” We indeed were made to Thrive. To God be the glory.