Monday, November 28, 2011


Ruth and Timothy with Ethan at Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda
This week, my foster son, Gabriel Mugisha is hospitalized. He is having convulsions. We are in King Faisal Hospital waiting and trusting. Each day a few friends stop by to pray, offer support, and give wisdom and encouragement. I made a parental mistake. I should have taken Mugisha to the Emergency Room immediately on Friday, 18 November. Instead I thought his odd rhythmic movement must just be another part of being a premature baby. Thankfully, doctors I knew got him in the queue and quickly saw a problem needing attention on Monday, 21 November. As I offered remorse for delaying a few days one friend mentioned, “He would not be alive if you had not taken him home.” Her counsel is likely true. I have two adopted children and one foster child. What would their lives be like if they were not in my home? Or what if God had not placed these children in a family? God guides our lives. However, we make choices that have consequences.

My first adopted child Ruth is simply beautiful. We first saw her when she was six weeks old. Even as an infant she had thick diva hair and long captivating eye lashes. My dad saw her for the first time when she was two years old. He pulled me aside and said, “David, I’ve never seen a girl this beautiful. I can’t believe her eyelashes.” When Ruth enters a room I watch all the men notice. She has very unique features. Her hair and skin color are like the people from northern Uganda. Her facial features and body are refined and softly round like those from western Uganda. I’ve had strangers in both America and Africa courageously move past stares and ask, “Where did this girl come from? What is her story?” All we know is that she was abandoned outside a home in Kampala, went from Sanyu Babies home to our home, and is our daughter with all legal and relationship rights.

Ruth is growing into a woman. Life is changing.

The teachers, headmaster and bazamu at her school make her daily educational life safe. The men who pastor with me make her church life safe. The leaders of our umudugudu make our community safe. My dad, brothers, and sons are all strong and when near Ruth keep her safe. The leaders of Rwanda have made Kigali a city so safe I don’t worry when Ruth walks through the streets to visit friends. I am immensely thankful to all.

Yet, I know the fate of a beautiful young woman in a world where no men protectively watch her. Beautiful young women outside of families are often mistreated, exploited, and then harshly judged. What if God had not placed Ruth in our family? God guides our lives. However, we make choices that have consequences.

Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs with the nurses cared for him in Rwamagana
My second adopted child Timothy is simply athletically gifted. He is small in stature, but among his peers usually the fastest runner, best football player, and wins almost every dance off. Yet if you watch closely you will notice his right arm is not functional. Timothy has a minor case of cerebral palsy. Before he was born something went wrong. Maybe, his biological mother had malaria? There was a brain injury that left him with difficulty of function on his right side. When he was 10 months old we noticed that as he crawled his left side pulled his limp right. A doctor diagnosed cerebral palsy. Then he pulled himself to standing, took his first step, and it turned into a run. The running has never stopped. In a family with a dad and two older brothers he outran his handicap. By God’s grace he overcame. Some will notice Timothy’s struggle with his right arm. Yet none who know him consider him handicapped.

Yet, I know the fate of a handicapped child who is not in a family. They are labeled. If they are in an institution competing with many other children they lose the initial competitions. The extra care of a dad or brothers who run is never given. They become victims instead of victors. What if God had not placed Timothy in our family? God guides our lives. However, we make choices that have consequences.

My foster son, Gabriel Mugisha is a blessed messenger. His life has been too short for us to see all God intends. Yet, we know that he has a remarkably strong will to live. His story and spirit captures all who meet him. He was born on 11 March in a village weighing only 1.3 kilos. His biological mother abandoned him at the Rwamagana hospital the next day. He came to our home 8 weeks later weighing only 1.5 kilos. He now weighs 5.1 kilos. Doctors at King Faisal Hospital found a cyst in his brain on August 10. For 3 months it has been irrelevant. Now Mugisha is having convulsions. We do not know where this will end, but we have seen God do the remarkable through Mugisha. The most recent doctor’s appraisal is that Mugisha needs medication to manage his convulsions. After several days of medicine the convulsions are declining. We are all hopeful.

Yet, I know the fate of a premature baby who is not in a family? Most do not live. Most do not get the chance to fight for their lives with the support of a family, church, and community. What if God had not placed Mugisha in our family? God guides our lives. However, we make choices that have consequences.

Ruth, Timothy, and Mugisha all received a God intention to be a part of a family. Without that opportunity their lives likely would be tragic. Now, they are full of all the promise of childhood. Statistically, they are the fortunate few. There are thousands of children who are not part of this fortunate few. Yet, each day in Kigali thousands of us drive a car to work. If we can afford to drive a car we most likely possess the resources, network, and creativity to care for one more child.

Some may look at our family and conclude we are some type of “great men and women of God.” That appraisal is mistaken. Those who know us best know that what good we do is simply the result of God’s grace. This grace is available to all.

NYIRAMATAMA Zaina, with Mark, Chelsea, and Gabriel MUGISHA Jacobs
Others may look at our family and conclude that somehow our race makes us more capable to care for the vulnerable. That appraisal also is mistaken. Those who share my race sometimes make fun that our many years in Africa have made us “African.” We consider what some mean as an insult to instead be a blessing. It is by grace that we have become so “African.” Grace is available to all.

Thus I conclude. What if God had not placed these children in a family? God guides our lives. However, we make choices that have consequences. These choices are by grace. Grace is available to all.

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