Ministry in Uganda: Teletherapy Is the New Normal

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Resonate Global Mission sponsors a radio program called Going Deeper: The Bible and Theology Hour on ETOP Radio 99.4 FM. This program is a teaching radio show based out of Soroti, Uganda. We broadcast live every Saturday from 6 to 7pm and I’m grateful to be one of the regular teachers along with Resonate missionary, Anthony Sytsma.

You may visit our website for previous show recordings: gdeeper.wordpress.com. This program is for people from all walks of life. While pastors especially need to be taught to understand the Bible, all Christians need to grow deeper in their relationships with God and build healthier marriages.

The Going Deeper program has created a tremendous impact on families. I have been teaching an ongoing series on marriage, domestic violence, and parenting. The listeners are given an opportunity to call in live to the radio program to ask a question, or to call me privately for telephone counseling.

Many of the listeners with dysfunctional family relationships have linked up with me for free counseling. The phone sessions last for 40 to 60 minutes, and I usually do two to three sessions with a particular family. Some of the clients visit my home and often they invite me to their homes. The examples below illustrate the types of people who have asked for online counseling. The names used are not their real names for the sake of confidentiality:

  1. Vero is a police officer. She got married and had 3 children, but then her husband started to cheat on her. He abandoned her with the children and cohabited with another woman. Great frustration overcame her and she also moved on with a new partner. She asks, “How can I restore my marriage?”
  2. Jonny lost his job when the Covid-19 pandemic came. His girlfriend came to live with him and together they bore one child. Jonny is unable to afford the bride price to officially marry his girlfriend. His in-laws have now taken their daughter back home. Jonny says, “I am lonely now, what can I do to get back my wife?”
  3. Bitu is an education officer, married to a teacher. She has 2 children. Bitu says that her husband’s ex-wife came back and bewitched the man and the bewitchment has made him unable to have sexual intimacy. Bitu complains, “We had domestic conflicts all the time and finally separated, but I love him. I want him back. He no longer picks up my calls. What do I do?”
  4. Okiru is married to a quarrelsome woman and together they have 7 children and 4 grandchildren. He could not bear his wife and finally left home and cohabited with another woman. Okiru asks, “I now want to go back to my home but she does not want to see me from my own home. How can I get back in peace?”
  5. Edith was married for 5 years and has 1 child already and is now pregnant. But her husband decided to get a second woman. He rejected Edith, complaining that she is from the Karamojong tribe, and is not worthy to be with him. He beats Edith regularly and wants her to leave the home. However, Edith has no parents and no other family. She feels desperate and asks, “I thought I had finally got a family. But where can I go now? What can I do?”

I am currently working on a PHD in Marriage and Family therapy, so I have been able to put into practice approaches I have been learning, including narrative therapy, solution focused therapy, and a family mediation approach. I listen carefully to their stories full of emotional pain, and many of the people feel relieved just by having someone listen to them.

Along with the therapy approaches, I care for them as a pastor, give comfort and encouragement, read Scripture with them, pray for them, and give them assignments to complete. This counseling approach is quite unusual in Uganda. Many of the pastors act as expert advisers rather than therapists. I try to put myself in the listener position and become more curious to know more. Then I help the client to come up with solutions that work best for him or her.  

Family problems are complex and there are no easy solutions for such problems. No one is completely able to resolve another person’s issues, but they are experts in their own issues. They know how it started and what can be done to arrive at the best solution. My job is mainly to facilitate conversation so that they can come up with solutions that work for them.

But I also am passionate about pointing them to Christ. It is only through knowing Christ that many of the clients have learned to forgive and reconcile with those that hurt them. Some of the people I have counseled even have been born again and come to know Christ. For example, George Ocom separated with his wife Sarah. Sarah could not tolerate George’s infidelity with his sister in-law. Sarah did not want to see or receive George’s phone calls. After two counseling sessions with George and one mediation session with both of them, they resolved to get back together. George decided to accept Jesus as his Lord and committed to never go back to infidelity.

Despite the complexity of healing hurting relationships and reconciling broken marriages, the radio program and the online counseling has continued to impact many lives. Separated intimate partners have reconciled. Most partners who had disconnected communication have started communicating again especially by phone.

Peter and Sharon (pictured below), married for two years with only one child. They separated due to Sharon’s unfaithfulness. Peter threw Sharon out of his rented apartment. Out of anger Sharon vowed never to come back to the marriage. After mediation, they resolved to reconcile. Now happily living together. Peter said “Glory and honor go to God for He has made us whole again.”

My prayer request to all family members in the kingdom of God is that you would stand with us in prayer that God gives us wisdom to handle complex problems in families and that God would inspire the clients to desire to forgive and reconcile. Pray also that the funding for this impacting radio ministry will continue, and lastly pray that the people who go through our counseling classes will turn to Christ as the only source of peace.

I want to sincerely thank the compassionate hands that have given to support this radio ministry.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace (Num 6:24-26).

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For readers who are interested in listening to our radio recordings, our website recordings are not working at the moment, but we hope to have them fixed soon. 

Thank you for this article Stephen!