Joachim Kiyimba was born on February 28, 1948. He grew up in a religious family and his father was a priest in the New Style Orthodox Church. Like most Ugandan families, his family was not rich. Despite the fact that they did not have a reliable source of income, his parents tried their best to pay for their son’s education. Young Joachim worked and earned some money to help pay for his studies. He worked various jobs, including washing cars after school and during school holidays, and working as a security guard on construction sites in the city of Kampala. These experiences made him a hardworking and focused person. Soon after, Joachim Kiyimba was given the opportunity to go abroad to study on the recommendation of bishop Christopher.
Since childhood, Joachim was very sociable and he liked to share ideas with other people. He treated everyone with respect, regardless of their age, origin, religion and position in society. He had a courageous heart and a strong creative mind with a love of knowledge. Most of all, he loved God. After training in the seminary on the recommendation of bishop Christopher, Joachim could confidently talk about the history of religions, and his positive attitude and words firmly settled in people’s minds.
In the 1970s, Joachim graduated from the Faculty of Medicine and began working in national hospitals, including the Republican Hospital in Mulago. He had a very successful medical career because he worked very well professionally and with God in his heart. As a doctor, he had a private medical clinic to earn income to support the Church. However, he often treated patients for free, as many did not have enough money to pay for the treatment.
Those who knew doctor Joachim regarded him as a doctor from God. In 1999, when he was already a priest, one boy was brought to him with drug poisoning and all signs of a mental disorder, and the poor family of the unfortunate had nothing to pay for treatment. Despite this, father Joachim Kiyimba cured the boy. He explained to the parents about how to maintain the healthy state of this child, who once and for all remembered his experience with drugs. After 6 months, under the supervision of Dr. Kiyimba, the boy finally recovered and was able to return to school. Three years later, the boy went on to study to be an automotive mechanic and began working in one of the most well-known car dealerships in Uganda.
The virtues, that the Ugandan priest cultivated in himself, bore him fruit. One day, father Joachim’s bicycle broke down on the road. A man driving by, stopped and called Dr. Joachim by name. Father Joachim could not recognize the man as his former patient. As it turned out, once upon a time, father Joachim saved him by curing his ailment. Now, by the Providence of God, this man appeared before him and, in turn, helped him when he was in dire need of it. Father Joachim, with gratitude in his heart, glorified God, Who had arranged this wonderful meeting.
In his life, father Joachim talked a lot about bishop Christopher. He told his parish stories from the life of his teacher, including how bishop Christopher was Anglican before he
became an Orthodox believer, but after returning from Russia, he brought the Greek-Russian faith to Africa. Bishop Christopher diligently studied the Greek-Russian faith and tried to convey the faith in Uganda. Father Joachim was burning with love for God and for people. As a student of bishop Christopher, the future Old-believer priest learned a lot of important and interesting things about the church. It was at this time that the late father Joachim focused on traditions and doctrines based on the Old Style (Julian) calendar.
In the 1970s – 1980s, the Ugandan church worried about the new-style split [many Orthodox Christians in Uganda opted to use the New Style calendar], and after some time, Dr. Joachim decided to take control of the situation, as people were leaving the church and the spiritual life in the communities died away.
Father Joachim was ordained priest in 1992. He firmly decided that he needed to adhere to the Old Style calendar, as was taught by his teacher, bishop Christopher. He faced many problems from opposing forces, but was adamant not to give up. He successfully registered the community in 1992, calling it the Orthodox Church in Africa, and was supported by the Ugandan Ministry of Internal Affairs and the government’s religion policy, as well as the Ugandan Constitution, which provides for freedom of religion in the country.
Since 1992, the young priest actively worked in developing the Orthodox faith, and in many ways he was supported by friends and people who were not indifferent to the Orthodox mission in Uganda, but their support alone was not enough. In the process of preaching and managing church communities, father Joachim was confronted with expenses that were covered by the income from his main work as a doctor. In addition, he was forced to sell his own land to raise money for the development of the Church. As for his sermons, he preached the word of God according to the Old Style calendar, first in Kampala, that is, in the Central Region, and then out in the Eastern Region, to the city of Nakabaly-Buzoga.
Being without any transportation, father Joachim’s preaching work progressed with great difficulty. Parishioners recall how he traveled by bus more than 70 km on the weekend from Kampala to Nakabaly-Buzoga to conduct church services. The rainy season created the greatest difficulty in his travels and very often he arrived wet from the rain. Eventually, literate people appeared in the new parishes in Nakabaly, who began to help in conducting church services, especially on those weekends when father Joachim headed the church service in Kampala.
Later, when the church work expanded to the extent that it demanded even more attention and work, father Joachim decided to reduce the time he allocated for his medical practice as a professional doctor, and began devoting more time to the Church.
For the 23 years of his ministry, father Joachim did substantial work of attracting people to God. The number of believers during this time has increased significantly and he was also able to train some priests to help minister in other parishes.
In his life, father Joachim talked about the period when he faced serious difficulties in convincing the materialistic minds of some priests, who put God on a lower level, prioritizing their personal material needs. As a result, some of them separated from him. Despite this, he never gave up. Father Joachim, using his own money, always organized seminars for those who held responsible positions in the Church, in order to cultivate in these people a sense of self-sufficiency, self-help and self-reliance, and not to financially depend on the Church. This was a result of many parishioners asking him for money to solve their problems, such as tuition fees for their children and food for their family. In some cases, he could support those most in need with what he had, in order to encourage them to come to church services. Nevertheless, he continued to cultivate in them an awareness of the need to work and support themselves and to continually pray to God in church.
Finally, in the late 1990s, it was time to build a church in Kanyanya. Father Joachim dedicated much time and effort in choosing proper materials for the future church, although many did not understand his desire to build the house of God. Today, the main Ugandan Old-believers church in honour of the Saints Joachim and Anna in Kanyanya looks very good.
Father Joachim Valusimbi, the present day priest of the church (as of 2016, after the passing of father Joachim Kiyimba) recalls his predecessor as a great man of God. This was his first impression of father Joachim Kiyimba when they met in the early 2000s. Father Joachim Valusimbi recalls the time when he was not yet an Orthodox Christian and how, as he helped to build the church, father Joachim Kiyimba treated him with love and respect, he was full of humor, and was a simple and joyful man. He recalls that as the church was being built, father Joachim patiently taught him the Orthodox faith. Father Joachim Kiyimba’s friendliness, his great love for God and his approach to Orthodoxy convinced Joachim Valusimbi to accept Orthodox Christianity. They talked to each other like father and son.
Father Joachim Kiyimba is a man who sacrificed much for the cause of God. He was the one who sacrificed everything to develop the church. There was a time when if churches were in need of funds for development, that the only option was for him to sell even his own piece of land in order to raise money for the needs of the church under construction. He devoted all of his time to the church and always thought of various plans for the development of the church.
After 2010, when bishop John, who ordained him, passed away, father Joachim Kiyimba pulled towards the Ancient Tradition – like his teacher, bishop Christopher, taught him about. He was determined to find the Church, which centers on the foundations and Tradition of the Ancient Church. The church council began its search on the Internet and came across the Russian Orthodox Old-believers Church. The history of the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church was extensively studied by the church council and father Joachim Kiyimba.
Soon after, he told the community members that his quest for the old traditions had finally settled on the Russian Old-believers, who preserve the ancient Tradition of the Church of Christ, which is what he wanted from the very beginning. After some time, the church council was reconvened and the main discussion was the transition to the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church. A long dialogue began between the believers of Russia and Uganda on reunification, which took place in 2013. Father Joachim Kiyimba, with his wife Margaret, had the opportunity to visit Moscow to join the Russian Orthodox Old-believer Church (RPSC) in Russia.
From then on, he was happy to see that the Ugandan Church, created by his mentor, bishop Christopher, achieve its main goal – upholding the ancient Christian customs and traditions. The transition to the ancient Orthodox faith – the saving light in the lives of people – was consciously accepted by the Orthodox Ugandans, as they had a firm belief that they joined the true, pure and correct glorification of God according to the testament of the first bishop of Uganda.
Father Joachim passed away in 2015, transferring the community under the leadership of the present day father Joachim Valusimbi.
“We are pleased,” says Margaret Kiyimba, the wife of the late archpriest Joachim Kiyimba, “that the Church is under the guardianship of the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church, under the strict guidance of His Eminence, metropolitan Korniliy. The support of our Russian brothers and sisters is also greatly appreciated. A big role was played by father Alexey Lopatin and father Nikola Bobkov in the strengthening and development of our Church. We remember with love father Leontiy Pimenov, who arrived with the first Russian delegation (the delegation of Old-believer priests to Uganda in 2013). May the Almighty God bless us all.”
Original article written in Russian by Daniel Ermokhin with material supplied by Margaret Kiyimba