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Archbishop asks for orphan aid

Published Sep. 9, 2005

The devastation of AIDS has left behind 1.7-million orphans. The Anglican archbishop from Uganda sees them as the church's mission.

As a boy growing up in Uganda, the Most Rev. Livingstone Mpalanyi-Nkoyoyo wasn't exactly on the fast track to becoming an archbishop.

He said he was a "bad boy" who was fed up with education and spent hours watching Batman on television and smoking cigarettes with his friends.

Disgusted, his father finally kicked him out of the house when he was about 17.

With nowhere to go, he joined a group of other wayward boys and ended up working as a mechanic in a garage, patching old cars together and keeping them running on the bumpy dirt roads of Africa.

While he worked, lay ministers would come to the garage and preach to the employees. Once, one of them read a Bible passage from the 12th chapter of II Timothy, which he paraphrases: I fought a good fight. I won the race. I'm waiting for the crown.

"With that simple verse, I accepted Jesus to be my savior," Livingstone told a group of about 40 people assembled at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church Tuesday evening.

Now, the former juvenile delinquent is the sixth Anglican archbishop of the province of the Church of Uganda, an African country roughly the size of Oregon with a population of 21-million people.

The Rev. Joseph Diaz, pastor of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, had invited Livingstone, who traveled to the United States for an extended visit, to speak to his congregation about the rapid growth of the Anglican church in Uganda and problems it faces.

"He comes to the U.S. periodically to make relationships between the American and Ugandan church," said Diaz.

Livingstone told the group that accepting Jesus Christ is one thing; working for him is another. He needed a final push to change professions.

"I heard a voice. Jesus said, "I want to use you,' " Livingstone said. "God told me to leave the garage and preach his word."

He said he stood up, left his wrench, got a new tool _ a Bible _ and "instead of realigning cars, I realign the people."

As he stood near the altar of the modest church with its cordless microphones, padded seats and other luxuries, he said the facility would be considered a cathedral in Uganda.

He said parishioners at Holy Trinity are lucky that Diaz is at the church to preach to them every Saturday evening. In most dioceses in his country, the 8-million Anglicans have to rely on lay preachers to deliver sermons because transportation is so unreliable "if (a priest's) bicycle is not in condition, he does not appear," Livingstone said.

And that is the crux of his message: Lay people are the reason for the growth of the Anglican church in Uganda.

"Sometimes a pastor will sit and a lay person will preach," Livingstone said. "Most preaching is done by lay people."

He is working to save his people from the devastating effects of AIDS. The virus has wiped out a substantial portion of the adult population, leaving their children orphans.

"We have lost about 1-million people," Livingstone said. "They left behind children _ 1.7-million orphans. We thought as a church we had to do something for the orphans."

Many of the orphans end up living on the street, begging for food and smoking marijuana because "sometimes they can't sleep unless they take this drug," he said.

Because students must pay money to go to school in Uganda, the orphans do not attend classes. Livingstone said because of this lack of education, there is a danger the children may turn to crime when they grow up.

"We thought as a church we had to do something for the orphans," Livingstone said. "There are between 100 and 500 homeless children in each diocese."

Because of limited resources, Livingstone's diocese can help only 130 orphans.

So he asked the group to donate money to the cause, and to purchase jewelry and wooden napkin holders made by Ugandans on a gift table in the church lobby. So far, parishioners at Holy Trinity Episcopal have donated $875.

"They are doing everything they can do," Diaz said of the Ugandan church. "We are privileged to have this opportunity to help. God has given us this opportunity to share with them"

After the hourlong talk, Harry Pachter headed to the refreshment table.

"The bishop's words were powerful," Pachter said. "I learned that we're not doing enough (for the AIDs orphans).