The life of Shine FM founder Nathan Asiimwe has been celebrated with a service following his death on St Stephen’s Day.
Nathan, originally from Western Uganda, passed away in hospital after a long battle with cancer. The pastor’s wife Annmarie and three young daughters Grace, Hope and Joy were joined for the three-hour funeral service by friends and other family members last Wednesday.
The father-of-three had been diagnosed with cancer a third time before his death - his youngest daughter was just six months old at the time of his latest diagnosis.
Nathan, who moved to Banbridge around 16 years ago, and subsequently met and married his Limerick-born wife, worked with the Ywam religious movement and devoted his life to spreading the word of God.
It is thought he was around 57 years old at the time of his death, but as the dictator Idi Amin destroyed birth records during the period in which he ruled Uganda, that cannot be confirmed.
Although he left Uganda to undertake discipleship training, Nathan kept close links with his native country and had met and stayed with the country’s President on his travels home. The Irish Consul to Uganda attended Nathan’s funeral.
On founding Shine FM with his wife, Nathan expressed a wish for the station to grow and develop, and it is that legacy that he will be remembered for, said friend Dougie Barr.
“Nathan came into my shop 16 years ago - only for that I wouldn’t be involved in radio,” Dougie, who runs the Faith Mission Book Shop in Bridge Street, told the Leader.
“I believe he was sent here and he has left a wonderful legacy behind him. Everyone knew Nathan, and that came through at the celebration of his life.”
Dougie recalled a story he told at the funeral, which displayed how well-known and well-regarded Nathan was across many parts of the world.
“I was in south Sudan and met some people who were stuck in a river,” he said. “I was able to help them out and they asked me where I was from.When I said I was from Banbridge in Northern Ireland they asked ‘Oh, do you know Nathan and Annmarie?’ I stood open-mouted as I told them I did.”
Paying tribute on a Facebook page set up especially for Nathan during his cancer battle, Annmarie said his years of illness had been tough but the support of those around the family had provided great comfort.
“Thank you so so much to everyone who has prayed and shown practical support over the last few days,” she said. “Words seem so inadequate to express my appreciation.
“Although Nathan got the best kind of healing; for me it’s been a whirlwind of emotions, questions and activity, yet through it all I have had an incredible peace, a sense that God is very much in charge and seen His favour in so many ways.
“As we said ‘goodbye’ to what Nathan left behind, it was a day of celebration of who he was and how he impacted so many lives. It stirred in me, and I’d say in many others, a greater determination to live a life of love.
“I loved it, and will always treasure the memory. So many people said they wanted a ‘funeral’ like that and even that we need to ‘rethink the way we do funerals in Ireland!’ He was a pioneer in life and in death!
“I’m going to miss Nathan so much but above all I’m very grateful to God for the 16 years I’ve known him. He was a wonderful man, loving husband and father.”
As well as his work with Shine FM, Nathan made broadcasts as part of the Voice of Peace to Uganda from his home on the Cline Road. He was buried in the New Cemetery in Banbridge following a religious service in Rostrevor.