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Israel & Christians Today
Biblical understanding about Israel
By Joe Nam, Media Specialist Christians for Israel Uganda.. Back in 2009, Evangelist Drake Kanaabo answered his ringing phone. It was his friend Pastor David Juma calling from Nairobi.
After the usual exchange of courtesies, Juma asked Kanaabo if he would be able to welcome some visitors from the Christians for Israel International office in The Netherlands, and to organize a meeting for them with 200 Pastors, in Uganda.
Kanaabo’s reply was curt, “I am busy,” he told Juma. In East Africa, this is a polite way of saying, “I have other important things to do”. The conversation ended shortly afterwards. That night, Drake had a dream, about an old man who came and cautioned him about the importance of receiving visitors.
The next morning, Kanaabo phoned Juma back and confirmed he would welcome the visitors. So the delegation from the Christians for Israel International office consisting of Andrew Tucker (Executive Director Christians for Israel), Willem Glashouwer (President Christians for Israel) and Jos van Westing (Fundraising & Development), flew to Kampala. The meeting with the Pastors was arranged and the delegation shared the vision and importance of blessing Israel with the group.
“Shortly before they left, the delegation asked me if I could promote the Christians for Israel vision in Uganda,” says Drake Kanaabo. “This is how we opened the Christians for Israel office in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city.”
Christians for Israel office in Kampala
Christians for Israel Uganda Starts
With support from the International office, the Christians for Israel Uganda office had a humble beginning. The Chairman, Drake Kanaabo assembled a team of volunteers to help him.
Sin post at the Kampala Christians for Israel office
Christians for Israel Uganda first started in Drake’s private office at Redeemed Church in Makerere Hill before moving to a rented office in the central business district in Kampala.
“We had a lot of goodwill from people who loved and prayed for Israel,” says Kanaabo. “A number of them made donations in cash and other forms to keep us going. Some came in to help as volunteers.”
Travels, Studies and Volunteers
Around this time, Christians for Israel Uganda started sending pilgrim groups to Israel. In fact, recent figures show that they have organized visits to the Holy Land for over 600 people in the past few years.
Christians for Israel has also been instrumental in arranging for Ugandans to attend short courses in Israel. Edward Baligonzaki, who studied in the Holy Land, with the help of Christians for Israel Uganda and a scholarship by the State of Israel in 2014, says that studying in Israel was a wonderful experience. “It’s hard to describe it, it was marvelous, an unforgettable experience. It combined studies, fun and travel all in one.”
Not only are more Ugandans now travelling to Israel, our Israeli friends are also sending volunteers to work in Uganda through the Christians for Israel office.
Christians for Israel Uganda as ‘Embassy of Israel’ in Uganda
Not surprisingly, after seeing the Christians for Israel sign, curiosity gets the better of a lot of people. “People frequently walk in here to inquire if this is the Embassy of Israel,” says Berna Okoth, the front desk Manager at Christians for Israel Uganda.
In a way, it is. When visiting, Israeli diplomats are asked when the Embassy of Israel will be opened in Uganda, their common reply, in reference to the Christians for Israel Uganda office, has always been, “We already have an Embassy here, this is the Embassy of Israel in Uganda.”
Since 2009, when Christians for Israel Uganda opened, a number of Israeli diplomats have visited the Christians for Israel Uganda office. The Christians for Israel Uganda office is in a prime location in Kampala, next to high-end hotels and corporate offices. The office itself has beautiful furnishings with panoramic pictures of Jerusalem prominently displayed.
Guests are very impressed when they enter the ‘Embassy of Israel’ in Uganda, and not just because they are welcomed by the radiant smiles of Berna Okoth and Sarah Nakibuuka, the two front desk managers.
The office has had the privilege of hosting many Israeli diplomats including current Head of Israel International Development Cooperation (MASHAV), Ambassador Gil Haskel, The Director General of the Knesset, Mr Ronen Plot and the current Ambassador of Israel to Uganda, His Excellency Yahel Vilan.
Celebrating Yom Ha’artzmaut
Christians for Israel Uganda has twice had the privilege to co-host the celebrations of Yom Ha’artzmaut (Israel Independence Day), with the Embassy of Israel.
This years’ 68th Independence Anniversary Celebration, which was hosted by Christians for Israel Uganda and the Embassy of Israel, was graced by the First Lady of Uganda, Mrs Janet Museveni. In her speech, she expressed appreciation for the special friendship between Israel and Uganda. She also pointed out the shared Judeo-Christian Heritage of Israel and Uganda.
Vibrant and Growing
Christians for Israel Uganda is alive and vibrant and is growing every day. It has helped to establish other affiliates - Christians for Israel South Sudan opened in 2012, Christians for Israel Swaziland and Christians for Israel Ethiopia both opened in 2013. Christians for Israel Uganda has also assisted in opening affiliate offices in Rwanda, Zambia, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.
In addition, numerous conferences have been held to educate the Christian Churches in Uganda about the importance of blessing Israel, the deception of replacement theology, which teaches that the Christian Church replaced Israel in God’s plan, and the dangers of anti-Semitism.
Looking forward, Drake Kanaabo can rightly say, “Thus far has the Lord brought us”, a testament to just how far one phone call can go.