Okusinza mu Luganda #9: “It’s about being part of people’s lives”

by Shanon Shah

In the second part of this interview, Stephen Kafeero explains how his spiritual conversion led him from his childhood Catholicism to a rejuvenated balance of worship at Okusinza and Liberty Christian Fellowship in Camberwell. Along the way, he and Shanon Shah celebrate the ways in which they have been brought together by the fellowship of Okusinza mu Luganda.

Shanon: We’ve talked about happy memories and experiences, but could you talk about the biggest challenge you’ve experienced so far?

Stephen: I don’t know whether it’s a regret, because God does take you through things for a reason, but I feel I lost a few years in between, those gap years I was talking about, between my first degree and my masters. I feel I lost a chunk of my life. I wouldn’t look at it as a period when I did anything productive. I don’t know whether to call it a regret, because perhaps that’s a period in which I matured. And that was for almost 10 years.

Courtesy of Stephen Kafeero

Shanon: Basically, between your 20s and your 30s?

Stephen: Yes, it was only from my 40s that I experienced a new life. I got married in my 40s. But now when I look back, much as I was enjoying partying, clubbing and other fun things before that, I should have done more to better myself.

Shanon: But from what you are saying, maybe that needed to happen so that you could be where you are now.

Stephen: I don’t know if it needed to happen, but I feel that where I am at now, I understand life better because of that period. Because I see in some other people who have filled those years – they’re feeling now that they are missing something. But for me, I feel like I’m appreciating life more because I have started to live life. I have started to understand life. But for some people I know, they feel like they’re fatigued. They think, “Oh no, I’m 50 now.” And I think, “No! There’s still so much of life to experience.” There are still people to love, there are still people to serve. You see what I mean? Maybe that’s what you mean, maybe that needed to happen for me to start living life now. I feel like there’s so much still to give to the world.

Shanon: If you don’t mind me asking, what exactly happened in that 10-year gap?

Stephen: I was just working in a restaurant. Get paid, buy cars, buy clothes, go out, drink, go home, sleep, wake up. Two things I did during that period, or just after, was that I bought two properties. That’s the very positive thing about that period. But apart from that, it was just waking up and going through the motions. But now, I don’t drink, I don’t party, I read books, I engage with people. I feel there’s something in me that’s about making life better for myself and my neighbour. Back then it was all me, me, me.

Okusinza Service, Giles' Blessing (2018) (courtesy of Shanon Shah)

Shanon: When did you discover Okusinza?

Stephen: So, I’m born again. I go to a Pentecostal church, which my wife Irene goes to as well. And we both were teaching Sunday school there. Then I got involved with her in a relationship. We got closer and she introduced me to Okusinza mu Luganda, which met once a month. I never knew about it because of my previous lifestyle (chuckles). I visited and got myself involved. Because even though I’ve always been with people from Uganda and from different nationalities, I’ve never been in a community of only Ugandans. When I was introduced to Okusinza mu Luganda, I thought, “My people can get together in one place and speak the same language.” That’s why I got involved. This was towards the end of 2008.

Shanon: During the 10 years that you said were lost to you, were you not going to church during that time?

Stephen: I was Roman Catholic. A nice, holy, devoted Catholic boy. Once a month you go for confession, you confess your sins, when of course you know you will do them again and come back the following month.

Shanon: Was that your upbringing? Is your family Catholic?

Stephen: Yes, my upbringing was Catholic. Also, all the schools I went to were Catholic. Which is interesting, because it seems like all around the world, Catholic schools tend to be very good.

Shanon: Yes, even in Malaysia, a lot of our good schools were set up by Catholic missionaries.

Stephen: Yes, it’s that discipline in them.