Watoto's Gary and Marilyn Skinner chronicle 40 years in Uganda in new memoir

Pastors Gary and Marilyn Skinner, the founders of Watoto Church - formerly Kampala Pentecostal Church (KPC), have launched a new book chronicling their remarkable life journey as heads of one of the biggest and most youth-oriented churches in the country.

Garry and Marilyn Skinner launched their memoir on Thursday
  • Pastors Gary and Marilyn Skinner launched a new book titled 'Where Faith Lit The Way' chronicling their journey with Watoto Church
  • The book retells how they founded the church in 1984 during Uganda's guerilla war
  • The memoir also includes a near-death experience involving the Skinners in Namagunga and the story of creating the world-famous Watoto Children’s Choir

The book titled “Where Faith Lit The Way” was unveiled on Thursday, June 20 at an auspicious occasion which was graced by government officials and church members and featured thrilling choir performances.

Watoto Church is marking 40 years this year, under Garry and Marilyn, although they both officially retired from pastoral work early last year.

In the book, the couple retells the story of how they founded the church in 1984 when Uganda was in the midst of a guerilla war that eventually overthrew Milton Obote’s government.

At the time, NRA rebels under Yoweri Museveni were first approaching Kampala, forcing many foreigners to flee the country.

The church initially congregated in a room at the Grand Imperial Hotel, which could only accommodate 200 people.

When the numbers kept growing, Skinner set his eyes on Norman Cinema on Kampala Road, which had the biggest auditorium in the country. This is now the home of Watoto Church.

At the time, Skinner writes, the cinema was occupied by the army and was being used as a detention and torture chamber for political prisoners, including some of the captured NRA rebels, some of whom were killed in its rooms.

But one afternoon when he and his wife visited the cinema during a screening of a Bruce Li film in 1985, Skinner says he had a vision to transform the cinema into a church.

I just visualised the auditorium jam-packed with young people, their hands raised and swaying and singing a worship song for Jesus,” he writes.

Soon, he was to approach the army commander who granted him permission to use the facility, first for a two-week meeting on the promise that he would renovate it.

In the book, Skinner also narrates a near-death experience where he and his wife were involved in a grisly accident in Namagunga. While returning from Kenya to pick up supplies to start the church, their vehicle overturned as they tried to avoid an oncoming truck.

On her part, Marilyn shares the story of how they came up with the world-famous Watoto Children’s Choir with very limited resources.

She recalls once when she was offered air tickets on credit by British Airways to transport the children to the United States, where they managed to conduction a national tour on a bus.

The skinners described the memoir as a “celebration of marvellous things that God called us to do in Uganda.

We have witnessed the birth of a multigenerational church that is committed to raising young leaders who embrace the simple but powerful truth that all of life is a sacred gift of God,” Garry said at the launch.

Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon Norbert Mao commended the Skinners for their inspirational story which he said had an impact on his own life’s journey.

This is work that is fuelled by love, a love without measure. I have been a witness to the transformational work over the years. This is a story worthy of telling and retelling because it changes lives,” he said.

Justice Julia Sebutinde also hailed the Skinners for transforming her life and that of her family.

“They have been exceptional spiritual models. The godly values of integrity, honesty, justice mercy and hard work that the skinners and Watoto Church instilled in me over the years account for who I am today and have contributed to my incredible career as a judge in Uganda and at the ICJ,” she said.

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