Apolo (also known as Kivebulaya) should have been discouraged. The Uganda-born man had accepted a request to go to Mboga in the Congo to teach about Christ. He went, carrying a hoe over his shoulder, because two earlier Ugandan missionaries had been forced out when the people of Mboga refused to sell them food. The people did not appreciate the Church's prohibition on sorcery, polygamy and drunkenness, and made it tough for the evangelists.
The same situation arose with Apolo and he was glad he had brought his hoe. The people of Mboga tried to starve him out, but he raised his own food. Where starvation did not succeed, a false accusation almost did. The chief's sister impaled herself on a spear that had been left in some tall grass. Everyone blamed Apolo, who, of course, did not even own a spear. After beating him severely, they left him to die. A faithful Christian woman nursed him back to life.
During one particularly bad hour, he had a dream. As he told it later, "I saw Jesus shining like the sun. He said to me, 'Take heart, for I am with you.' Since that year whenever I preach, people leave their old customs and repent." Whatever discouragement Apolo felt left then.
Perhaps Apolo remembered how hard-hearted he himself had been in his years as a young dope-smoking soldier. And yet the gospel had penetrated his heart and changed him. He was deeply impressed with the life and teaching of missionary Alexander Mackay. The rough young man dropped his birth name Waswa Munubi and taken the baptismal name Apolo (after Apollos, the evangelist mentioned in the book of Acta). He returned to Mboga and began to preach again.
Chief Tabaro begged Apolo's forgiveness, became a Christian and a close friend. In a second vision, Christ commanded Apolo to take the gospel to the neighboring pygmies. He did so, translating the scripture for them and baptizing his first pygmy converts in 1932, the year before he died.
Apolo died in Mboga on this day May 30th, 1933. At his earlier request, he was buried with his head to the west, because he saw that the gospel needed to be carried across the Congo in that direction.
He had planted well and the church flourished after his death. Thirty years later, it had 25,000 members. Today, there are over half a million. Without the faithfulness of this one man, the Church of England would not exist in such numbers in the Eastern Congo today.
- "Apolo Kivebulaya, Missionary." http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/171.html
- Gordon, Ernest. Book of Protestant Saints. Chicago: Moody, 1946.
- Way, Yossa. "Apolo Kivebulaya." http://www.gospelcom.net/dacb/stories/ demrepcongo/ kivebulaya_apolo.html
Last updated July, 2007