Bena Kanyendaki was born about 1903 to parents whose exact names have been lost to memory. Although they were known and spoken about, no-one had written down their names. It is hoped that with further research, their names will come to light. One source said that one of Bena’s parents, presumably her father, was named “Kasaija,” and that her mother was named “Nyakabandwa.” Bena was married, though out of wedlock. She later left that relationship, after seeing the light of Christ. Being the second wife, she could not have a monogamous relationship with the husband. She left that house and went to live alone in a house which had been built by her former husband’s son-in-law near St. Peter’s cathedral, in Hoima town.
She received Christ in 1966, and her faith became vital to her own vision of life. Two of her three children died, but her remaining daughter married a fellow mulokole man (born again), who later became a church teacher (lay reader) and then a canon of St. Peter’s cathedral.
Later in life, Bena lost her sight after several bouts of malaria. However, this did not deter her from being a vibrant Christian; instead, it became a catalyst for her life witness to others. The author of this article can remember her words: “I have been blinded so that I may sit down in one place and give Jesus’ testimony to everyone who comes into this house.”
She is remembered for her unfailing strength as a witness for Christ in spite of her blindness. It was her inner sight that enlightened anyone who came to Christian fellowship at her house, which was a place of Christian gathering. Many balokole [born again ones] came there from far and wide, looking for counsel and encouragement in their faith and Christian walk. Many Christians first met each other after visiting Bena’s house near St. Peter’s cathedral in Duhanga, Rusembe, Hoima.
It is believed that about fifty to one hundred balokole used to meet at her house for counseling and advice. One mulokole brother explained that Bena used to meet more Christians [in one day?] than a normal parish priest would see in his office in one month.
Bena is also remembered for the way she gave relevant references from scripture to people with different problems and challenges, which encouraged people to continue going to her. One Christian said of her, “You explain your challenge to her, and she will give you a biblical reference that solves it all!” This shows that God was with Bena in a special way.
In 1985, she formed a Christian fellowship in her home. Many Christians came from far away, including those who had just heard about her but who were meeting her for the first time. Upon just seeing her, many believed that God was present in her life in a special way. Many people came to faith at that time, and many others continued to come for counseling and fellowship.
Bena was described as a Christian who so courageously expressed the Christians message that anyone who went near her would be affected by it. She confessed that she did more work later in life, after she had lost her sight.
Her death, in 1993, was a great shock and a blow to many Christians.
Today, in the Bunyoro Kitara diocese of the Church of Uganda, she remains a point of reference for the Christians who knew her. Her life confirmed and strengthened the popular saying, “disability is not inability.” She was blind, but she could do the work of an evangelist even better than those who can see. She is also remembered for her humor. Even though she was blind, she did not give in to feelings of self-pity or express the need for sympathy. She had an easy and approachable manner and could joke and laugh with people, and share proverbs and scripture with them, which made them comfortable when they were with her.
Tabitha Irumba, (widow of Canon Irumba, and one of Bena’s children), interview by author.
Some of the stories were told to the author by Bena Kanyendaki herself.
This story, received in 2010, was written by Joshua Bukyanagadi, under the supervision of DACB Liaison Coordinator Rev. Dr. Canon John Kateeba Tumwine, director of Global South Institute at Uganda Christian University. Dr. Kateeba is also a member of the DACB Advisory Board, East Africa.
Bena Kanyendaki, Anglican, Uganda