Location: Uganda, Africa
Ministry History: Gary Skinner is the visionary and passionate Team Leader of Watoto Church, which he founded with his wife Marilyn Skinner in 1984 in the heart of Uganda’s war-torn capital, Kampala.
Watoto Church is a cell-based, community church with over 34,000 people gathering every week to celebrate the life and hope they’ve found in Jesus Christ. Gary passionately believes it is the responsibility of the local church to solve community problems. Watoto Church cares for community holistically through 2,300 small groups(cells) that meet weekly.
Ministry Focus: Marilyn and her husband Gary founded Watoto Child Care Ministries, an international organisation in 1994 in response to the plight of Africa’s millions of children orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS. Watoto has cared for almost 5,000 orphaned and vulnerable children, with over 3,000 currently receiving care. Some are former child soldiers and some were born to rebel leaders during the civil war. Many of these children have gone on to become lawyers, teachers, computer scientists, journalists, farmers, doctors and even a pilot. As a result of the care and education they have received, they are now impacting society in a positive way.
The Watoto Children’s Choir tours the world annually as advocates for millions of African children currently orphaned by AIDS. ‘Concerts of Hope’ are held in churches, community halls and schools. The choir has performed before presidents and royalty in the White House, Buckingham Palace and many other National Parliaments. Audiences are inspired as the children sing, dance and celebrate their story of hope.
In addition to championing the cause of the orphaned child, Watoto is committed to restoring dignity to HIV+ women, left to bear the brunt of AIDS, war and social injustice. She believes Africa’s greatest resource is her women waiting to be empowered.
Almost 4,000 women are experiencing an improved quality of life through Watoto Neighbourhood. Their key needs include housing, healthcare support, employment and education for their children. As we embrace them by meeting their essential needs and empower them to take care of their own families, together we are engaging community for positive transformation. Their children, more than 15,000, have a better chance of fulfilling their potential.
Gary and Marilyn are committed to replicating the Watoto model throughout Africa. In 2012, they expanded their work into South Sudan and are working with the community for positive transformation in this young nation. Gary and Marilyn both travel internationally as advocates for the local church, inspiring people all around the world to stop doing church and start being the church.
Gary was born in Zimbabwe to missionary parents and is a fourth-generation preacher. He has pastored in Canada, Zambia and Uganda. Canadian born Marilyn has lived in Kampala, Uganda for over 32 years with the love of her life, husband Gary. They have three children and six grandchildren.