“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which you have showed toward His Name, in that you have ministered to the saints…” Hebrews 6:10.KJV
By Gabriel Amori
Reverend Canon Stephen Lawrence Gelenga was born to the late Mr. Michael Turumbele Alemi Alibe and the late Miriam Viola Alemi of Amunupi clan in Nyangilia Koboko on the 4th December 1955.
Born as the fourth child to our mother, Rev. Stephen was given the names Lawrence Gelenga by our father. He used these names for the better part of his education until he added Stephen during baptism and preferred using the name Stephen to the end.
Rev. Canon Stephen Gelenga started school in 1962 at Arua TTC Demonstration School in the then West Nile district, that period our mother was working at the Mvara Secondary School which by then was at the old site next to the TTC. The lot of P 1 children were the independence children who studied free of charge as an independence gift to the children of Uganda, so Rev. Gelenga was a beneficiary of the totally free education where no penny was spent starting from tuition to uniform and scholastic materials.
We then moved to Nyangilia in 1966 where he continued his primary education in our home school Nyangilia Primary School from P 5 to 7. After primary school, he joined Mvara secondary school where he obtained both his “O” EACE and “A” level certificates EAACE all examined by the East African Examination Council.
While in Mvara secondary school, Rev. Gelenga gave his life to the Lord and the Arch bishop then the late Archbishop Silvanus Wani identified him as a potential priest and recommended him to go and study at Bishop Tucker Theological College Mukono where he did his first training – Diploma in Theology – as an Anglican priest finishing in 1986 awarded by Makerere University. It is while in the Theological College that Rev. Gelenga betrothed his wife Florence. It was a requirement then for all priests to be married before being ordained into ministry.
Other studies he did all of clerical nature were the following:
- Relevant Youth Minister Nairobi 1987
- Haggai Institute of leadership Entebbe 1989
- Management of for Development Daystar University Nairobi Kenya 1990
- Diploma in Theology –USA 1994
- Challenges in Mission turnover – USA 1994
- Management of Conflict Resolution Arua 1997
- Bachelor of Divinity Uganda Christian University 2001
- Larry Jonnes International Ministry Arua 2002
- Certificate in Computer application and skills Makerere University 2005
In 2001 while in UCU Mukono, he became the first Guild president of the new University. He later followed this by attempting to do a masters in Conflict Resolution at Makerere University which due to challenges in raising finances and work related pressure he did not finish.
Rev. Stephen Gelenga married Florence Gladys A’buko and they have two biological children Mercy Grace Munduru and Keith Bennon Robe. He has left behind two grandchildren Raphael Munguni Lucas and Munguaviku Othniel Mwita Joshua. The couple also adopted three children Mary Bergean, Allan Mungufeni and Princess Diana whom they raised as their own.
From 1991 to 1993, Rev. Stephen Gelenga first worked at St. Phillip Church as a Deacon. Later he worked in the Diocese as Ag. Diocesan Secretary Arua, Acting Education Secretary Arua and Youth worker of the Madi West Nile Diocese replacing now retired Arch Bishop Henry Luke Orombi when the latter was elected first Bishop of Nebbi Diocese.
Reverend Gelenga moved to St Francis Makerere as Acting Chaplain for Makerere University till 2007, from where he then moved to All Saints Cathedral as the priest in charge initiation till 2015 on secondment from the Madi West Nile Diocese to Kampala Diocese. He proceeded to work as the Parish Vicar of St. John Kamwokya Church of Uganda in Kampala from where he retired on 20th March 2020.
District Task Force AIDS and STIs 1991, Board member Mvara Secondary School 1992, Board member Arua Core PTC Mvara. Rrefugee Secretary Madi West Nile Diocese till 2004, School management committee Nakasero Primary School Kampala till 2020,
His personal life
Rev. Stephen Gelenga loved music and taught me (Gabriel) how to play the guitar which I learnt in a Scripture Union Conference in Mvara SS in 1976 during my senior four holiday. He was a sportsman who loved playing football. At that time being a skinny and light person, he had challenges coping with the bully boys who dominated the football team of Mvara SS! So he opted to play in the back or as a striker.
If archery had been introduced as a game in Uganda early enough, he could have been one of the best. One day during our primary school holidays, we made bows and arrows. We picked the arrows from the long internodes of the tall grass commonly known in Kakwa and Lugbara as indiripi. So we used it to shoot birds. Stephen was so good he could shoot the birds on target. He was also cunning, he devised a style of improving his arrows by planting long thorns at the end of the indiripi arrows. I did not know about this. So one day we had a confrontation with our neigbouring heard boys and Stephen then Lawrence picked his improved arrows – to some of which he pasted red paper at the sharp ends- and shot through the grass where he was hiding on target. The boys who were hit realized this indiripi arrow was unique as it introduced additional injury and pain to the body and they fled. That saved us from being harassed by the big boys!
He loved animals very much. He cares for them and this is shown by the fact that while in St. John Kamwokya I think he had the largest number of dogs in one home. I personally did not know the actual number but at one time I was told he had thirteen (13) dogs at home! He could gather any stray dog and look after them to keep at home. During our early days as heard boys at home, he was the darling of the cows. They would allow him ride on their backs as we went out grazing the cows.
Reverend loved machines of all types but especially house hold and moveable ones. He cannot dare see anyone abandon a car, he will immediately negotiate and buy it off even if just to park it at home until he is able to work on it. In this process, therefore he has left behind five vehicles and three motorcycles! When I asked him why he loves vehicles the way he did, he just told me “these are my assets!”
Stephen preferred the company of our bigger brothers when in involved naughty adventures. I would then be left alone in our hut scared of sleeping alone. In one such night when the “big boys” had gone dancing in a far village, I was so scared I had to shift to sleep in mummy’s room. So was our youthful/ childhood life with him. When he came to Kampala before he had got the secondment to Kampala diocese, Rev. Gelenga lived with me in Jinja. At that time I had lost my wife and was alone in my bedroom, so we quickly switched to our youthful times and behaviors when it came to bedtime. We slept with him in the same bed and while in bed, we talked long until one of us fell asleep which was sometimes beyond 3 am in the morning encouraging each other and planning for the future.
When he finally got to start work at All Saints Cathedral, he stayed in Mpererwe on Gayaza road. He told me that one evening at dusk as he walked home from the trading center, one unknown person walking the opposite direction stood across the road and called out for his attention. As he stopped to attend to him, he shouted back to him a prophetic call saying “You there, God is going to use you and you are going to be a blessing to many people”. I remembered this report he made to me when his health suddenly begun to drift away, how so many people kept Florence’s, Mercy the daughter’s and my phone busy checking about the health of by brother Stephen.
May God rest your soul in eternal peace and joy at Abraham’s bosom.
There will be a Funeral Service at All Saints Cathedral Nakasero, and the service will be live on all social media platforms of the Cathedral on Monday 30th August, 2021 starting at 10:00am.
Burial will take place at Emmanuel Cathedral, Arua City on Tuesday 31st August, 2021 at 10.00am.
Arch Bishop, Clergy Church Of Uganda, Relatives, Friends and In-laws.