Messengers of Hope in Uganda

Chess is Life

“Chess is life and life is chess”. This is just one of many statements you’ll hear from those who are part of the five SOM (Sports Outreach Ministries) Chess academies in Kampala, Uganda. Operating in the poorest areas of Kampala, the chess academies begun by Coach Robert Katende have seen lives transformed through Chess linked with the Bible and intentional mentoring.

It is a story Disney thought worth telling when they recently produced the movie “Queen of Katwe”, a dramatic retelling of Uganda’s national chess champion Phiona Mutesi, whose life was transformed through chess and the Jesus-inspired discipling of Coach Robert.

“We never realised that Coach Robert was discipling us as he was teaching us chess but we see now that he was and still is.” This was just one of many comments made by some of the young adult Pioneer leaders of the Chess academies. Each leader had their own story of transformation, having worked tirelessly with the encouragement and mentoring of Coach to reach University, in spite of many difficulties.

Thirteen of these leaders recently spent a week, with a team from a GCF partner, creating lessons that link chess with life, the Bible and disciple making. Eighteen lessons were written and a guide for discipling young people through chess was born.

Coach Robert was unable to attend the writing workshop as he was taking Phiona and another Chess Academy student Benjamin (also featured in the movie) to the USA to take up university scholarships. He said, “I feel so honoured for this project! Please thank everyone for the great work.”

So what’s next? The Chess leaders of the Katwe slums intend to try out the lessons with children who attend the academies in the next holidays. They spoke of seeing their role not just as chess teachers anymore but also as mentors and disciple-makers for Jesus. Their chess academies’ motto of “Transforming lives through Chess, one move at a time” is becoming a daily reality.


ASK @ 9:38

At 9:38 am and pm every day, Christians are praying Matthew 9:38 asking the “Lord of the harvest to send workers out into his harvest field”. There are so many children, 2 billion in the world today, and there are so few children’s ministry workers to reach and disciple them. What can we do? Pray!

But there is something else a young leader in the slums of Kampala, Uganda is doing too. 70% of the children there do not attend school due to lack of funds. Edwin runs a KidsHub each Saturday in the centre of an overcrowded slum where 40 – 60 children, aged 3 – 16 years gather to play games, dance and do school work sheets. Providing the children with some ‘school time’ and activities is meeting a felt need of the parents.

A computer KidsHub has also begun teaching children the basics of computing. “It stops them misbehaving, like stealing the plastic bottles that are collected and stored next to their meeting place for selling to recyclers,” one leader said.

But how does this relate to needing ‘workers for the harvest field’? Edwin runs his KidsHubs with only a few adult leaders. How could these children be effectively mentored and discipled like Jesus modelled when there are so many children, and so few leaders?

His solution was to ask that every child who takes part in the KidsHub agree to be a buddy and mentor to someone else. Even the 3-year-olds are given a buddy to care and look out for. In this way, ongoing mentorship has been developed.

Nassah is a young man just entering University. Edwin has mentored him since he was a young teen first attending the KidsHub. Nassah now mentors other younger children and helps lead the Bible time run for those interested immediately after the Saturday KidsHub. “I mentor Nassah, Nassah mentors others and they mentor others and so it goes,” said Edwin.

When we ask the Lord of the harvest to provide workers we may find many of them are children!