Against all odds. If you have passed/driven by Nakawa Stage on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings chances are that you have met Timothy Ongach preaching on the street. But unlike most common street preachers who are audible, Ongach has a stammer
The first time I get to meet Timothy Ongach, it is in a university lecture room. The Cost Accounting lecturer will be late - his apology had come in earlier saying he would follow 15 minutes after it.
And as it is the norm, every time a lecture is delayed everyone who has a burning issue to pass across will seize the opportunity to communicate.
On most occasions it is student leaders passing on matters of academic importance, traders selling handouts and airtime, while on a few instances, it is a preacher. He walks in clad in a heavy black jumper and stands at the front of the class. With the Holy Bible in one hand, it does not take much to know that he is a preacher, suffice to say, he intends to pass on the good news.
But ironically the students are not in any hurry to give him the desired audience. They go on with their business - talking, laughing and punching away at their smart phones.
Lucky for him, he has crossed paths with plenty of such audiences - folk who will plug up their ears the moment they suspect the gospel is coming their way. He is not intimidated by their attitude. So he goes ahead and opens his Bible anyway.
But he does not speak! He wants to, he tries to push the words through but his tongue fails him. He retires, only briefly, takes a deep breath, and then takes another go at it. This time round, with his eyes closed, the blood vessels in his neck showing and contours aligned across his forehead, the words start trickling in. He is preaching about faith.
By now he has drawn the class’s attention to him. They silently look on as he struggles with words. He now has their attention, perhaps because they are amazed that he is preaching despite his speech impairment.
At some point as he closes his eyes and throws his hands around, forcing the words out of his mouth, a group of four girls at the front row break into giggles.
Despite such interruptions, he pushes on and those who care enough to listen are not only nourished by the word, they are moved by his spirit and drive.
Beating the odds
This is 21-year-old Timothy Ongach, a young man who has earned his place among peers and Christian circles as the stammering preacher. He is a second year Diploma of Science in Finance and Accounting student at Makerere University Business School.
Ongach stammers so much you would have to be blessed with the darkest shade of patience to sit through seven of his sentences. But surprisingly, as he is quick to confess, it is when he is preaching the word of God that he feels most peaceful.
“I wake up every day to serve the highest God. I love ministry, it is my calling,” Ongach reveals. “And my stammering has not held me back in any way. I’m not even bothered by it. In the book of Exodus we get to see that Moses had the same problem but went ahead to serve the Lord. That inspires me.”
Born in Otuboi, Kumi District to the late Alpose Ongach and Pauline Ajuo Ongach, his family did not have much. In fact, when Ongach was only nine, the family moved from Kumi to set up camp in Mutungo, a Kampala suburb. This was in search for a better shot at life.
Disheartening though, just a year after moving to Kampala, Ongach’s father passed away following a case of severe Malaria. It is then that all hell broke loose as Ongach’s mother, a woman who pecks a living off the operation of a small kiosk, could not sustain six children.
For the family, survival became a daily struggle, so was the task of keeping the children in school. But with support from relatives, Ongach remained in school.
It was during a school conference in Seeta, Mukono, when Ongach was 17 and a Senior Four student at Bweyogerere Secondary School that he made a personal decision to give his life to Christ.
“Our family’s struggles saw us survive much on prayer. My mother was saved, and together with my siblings we would pray and God would see us through many tough times. At some point I just felt God’s voice telling me to turn my life to Him and let Him take full charge of it. So at this Christian conference, when the preacher asked those who wanted to give their lives to Christ to come up front, I did not think twice,” Ongach narrates.
As soon as he received Christ, Ongach took to preaching. And despite his speech problems, going ahead to minister to other people was not a hard decision to make.
“This is what God sent me to do. Many people may not believe it but despite my stammer, the main reason God sent me to this good world is to preach His word to His people,” Ongach asserts.
Ongach is a member and an evangelist in the Mubs Christian Union. On Monday, he is a renowned preacher at the Prayer Meeting, a weekly Christian event that sees a mammoth gathering of born-again students from the various universities in the region. This takes place at the Boiling room, a hall next to Nakawa Pentecostal Church.
Tuesdays always find him in the various lecture rooms at the university, sharing the word of God with fellow students from 10am to 1pm.
But if you are tracking his whereabouts on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the sure place to find him is Nakawa stage where he does street preaching from 5pm to 7pm - passing on the word of God to the many people retiring from their places of work. His weekends are mostly dedicated to Bible study.
Singing for the lord
Ongach is determined to push the gospel to infinite dimensions as he has even incorporated music in his ministry.
He sings! In fact, as he is happy to share, he is a gospel artiste. He has composed songs, most of which have their lyrics drawn from Biblical verses.
“I have a full album of seven songs ready to be released, though I am yet to find the financial backing that will take me to a recording studio. My music is more nurturing, unlike some of the secular tunes I have heard play on radio,” he brags.
Ongach sings for young children at Kingdom Life Ministry in Kitigoma, Jinja where he usually travels to offer Sunday school lessons. And the children love him. “They are thrilled with my simple summons. Actually, they like the way I speak. They smile when I stammer but that is okay. At least they are always interested,” he says, going ahead to note that in addition to the spiritual nurturing, he has been able to teach the young ones the Queen’s language during Sunday school.
Ongach’s best moment in his preaching journey was in 2014 at Kingdom Life Ministry, where he prayed and after his summon, more than 60 people accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour.
“I even prayed for a lady who had always been a revered witch doctor in the area and she accepted to become born again.” It is moments like these that Ongach finds priceless, something his close friends are well aware of.
Kevin Namaganda, a final year Office and Information Management student at Mubs describes Ongach as a great witness of Jesus Christ. “He even preaches on the streets! I think he gives a challenge to all the abled people out there - the many of us with their speech intact but doing so little or nothing at all to serve God.”