The story of Stars Ministries Uganda (SMU) started with our founders’ life-changing American adventure in 2008, while her husband studied his master’s degree at Wheaton College, a Chicago suburb. Her initial schooling in disability ministries occurred at College Church, in Wheaton, where they attended church. This experience instilled in her a desire to reach out to people with disabilities.
On one Sunday morning, as they roamed the church halls, a brilliant light from a STAR (person with a disability) twinkled in our founder’s eyes, as she passed a classroom where the church’s STARS met (College Church disability ministry). God used these STARS to shine a light on a hidden place about our founders’ culture, to begin to think about how people with disabilities were treated.
She wanted to know how disability ministry was being done in the U.S.A because she had never seen anything like it, back home in Uganda. She started by volunteering in the Sunday class. She also became part of other programs that were being run at church, as part of the disability ministry like The Shepard’s Arm, Run for the Stars, among others. She also got an opportunity to attend a Family Retreat organized by Joni and Friends International – a ministry that is dedicated to people with disabilities around the world.
When they returned home to Uganda, she was spurred by these experiences to start a disability ministry at her local church because she always felt that people with disabilities were missing. However, when she shared her burden with her pastors, she was told that such a ministry was an expensive venture to start.
Along the way, our founder and her family changed churches, in a God-ordained move. One day as they were going for evening prayers, the pastor asked her what she wanted to do at church. She shared with him her vision to see children and people with disabilities attending church and the pastor was thrilled by the idea. The pastor introduced her to his friend, himself a person with disabilities, who was running a ministry that helps people with disabilities to get wheelchairs for easy mobility.
That disability ministry leader would become a key person in the shaping of the SMU vision. On one Sunday, the pastor decided to feature and launch a ministry to disabilities in our community. On that day, our founder invited the disability ministry leader to preach. The need to reach out to members of our community who had disabilities was highlighted. After the service, two families in the church congregation who had children with multiple sclerosis, whom the church leadership was not aware of, came up.
Our founder started off by proving wheelchairs to the two families, with the help of the disability ministry leader she had been introduced to. Within a year of the launch, 22 children and young adults ranging from three years to 25 years, were meeting every week at the church. 75% of these children come from non-Christian families.