GAINESVILLE, FL (FR) – “You’re just a schoolboy,” the army officer told 17-year-old Paul Sandy. “Why are you telling people about things that are too complicated for you?” Uganda was under an iron-fisted military regime at the time, and Sandy and his friend, a pastor, had been arrested for preaching the gospel at an open air meeting. They narrowly escaped execution.
Sandy was the interpreter for the English preacher. During the message, Sandy said soldiers arrived and disrupted the meeting. “They told us to sit on the pavement, and then they cocked their guns to execute us … but then a jeep with soldiers pulled up. They beat us up with the ends of their guns and then took us to the Malili army barracks for interrogation.”
Sandy and his companion were brought into a small room and accused of instigating unrest and bringing confusion to the people. “We continued answering their questions and preaching to the officers. Scriptures flowed from our mouths. Jesus once said that we shouldn’t worry about what we were to say when we were delivered up to the authorities – and that scripture was made real to me during that experience.”
When asked by the military officers why they were preaching, the brave teenager answered: “We have a commission from our Lord Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel. We can’t help but carry out our commission.” Eventually they were released, but Sandy was sternly told to not preach the gospel again. “I was ready to die, if that was the time. Imprisonment for Christianity was common in my country,” he added. Sandy has a noticeable scar on his right hand from the beatings he endured that day.
Today, 24-year-old Sandy is a student at the University of Florida who is aspiring to be an agriculturist. He became a Christian during the reign of Uganda’s fiercest dictator Idi Amin. Uganda has had seven different presidents in power since it was thrown into a state of war 25 years ago. Says Sandy: “I’ve had to study through political instability; many times it got so bad that they closed the school and people left work.”
In 1979, war started while he was in secondary school. “I was very far from God, and my mother was not a Christian. My father died when I was one.” Falling shells and soldiers in his hometown, Kampala, the capitol city of Uganda, were a common sight.
“We narrowly survived by God’s grace,” he said. While sleeping at home one night, Sandy awoke to hear heavy footsteps advancing towards his bedroom. “The person turned the door handle and then came to my room. The glass in my window was broken, and I saw him point his machine gun inside and then there was a heavy blast of fire.
“He fired into my room and most of the shots went a few inches above my brother’s bed. If he would have raised his head, he would have died,” he said. “I never got to know the person’s intentions, but I survived.”
Another incident took place which caused Sandy to think seriously about where his life was going. Around 7 p.m. one evening, one of his brothers and some friends were talking in their home when his oldest brother – a doctor – arrived unexpectedly. Suddenly, they were ambushed by soldiers. “They shot everywhere, and my two sisters were afraid that they were going to be raped … so they escaped and hid outside the house.
“The soldiers grabbed my mother, held her at gunpoint, and threatened to kill her if she didn’t tell them where the two girls were hiding. Then, they turned around and opened fire on all of us. We all went down. When we got back up, none of us were wounded. We all survived. I can’t tell you how we survived, only God knows. It shook up my life.”
Sandy’s two brothers were Christians at that time. His oldest brother gave his heart to Jesus after being healed through prayer while a medical student. “The rest of us thought Christianity was weird,” said Sandy. “We teased our brothers, and it was very difficult for them to witness to us.”
Sandy remembers the exact date that he became a Christian. It did not happen after hearing an evangelist on one of the many television or radio programs available to American Christians. On the evening of July 29, Sandy said “I found that God was speaking to me. His voice was very real.
“I couldn’t push it away or put it aside. The voice asked, ‘Who has your life?’ and it was like a sword through my heart. I knew my life wasn’t in my hands and couldn’t give an appropriate answer. If I died at that point, I knew I would go straight to hell because I wasn’t forgiven of sin, and hadn’t received Jesus into my life. Everything became clear, it was suddenly as if my eyes were opened.
“I realized I was far from God, and needed His forgiveness. When my brother woke up, I told him that I had become a Christian. He thought I was teasing him.” His brother was convinced, however, when Sandy asked to go to an evangelistic crusade with him.
Because he had been a troublemaker in school, Sandy’s friends gave him two weeks to see if his conversion was genuine. “They couldn’t believe me,” Sandy related. “I passed out tracts and was nicknamed ‘Young Jesus.’” A friend slapped him on the cheek and expected a violent reaction. “In my heart I heard a voice saying, ‘He’s trying you.’ I walked away laughing.”
Since then, Paul Sandy has led several youth groups in his church in Uganda, and has traveled through the U.S. with the African Children’s Choir as a chaperone. “I feel that God has called me to be His witness and I have a burden to take the gospel to Uganda. I feel indebted to my country, especially to the orphans. I would like to see Uganda become economically self-sufficient.”
- by Leilani Corpus