Monday, December 12, 2011


Today is Jamhuri (Independence) Day in Kenya. 48 years ago, our Kenyan brothers and sisters began their journey as a nation free from colonialism.

Today our home nation of the USA rests on the calendar between American Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a season of remembrance, joy, thanksgiving, and community.

Today is the 26th day that we have struggled with our foster son, Mugisha Gabriel’s seizures.

We have been in Nairobi for 12 days seeking medical expertise. Our son, Timothy is with us. Our old oldest daughter, Sophia is finishing her final exams at Wheaton College in Chicago, Illinois, USA; and plans to join us in Kigali for Christmas on Saturday, 17 December. Our other children; Caleb, Ethan, and Ruth remain in Kigali – attending school and living at home. Through a season of difficulty our family is in three different countries, but united in hope. We trust we will shortly be together face to face.

Over the last 12 days we have done EEG, MRI, X-rays, and blood tests for Mugisha Gabriel. We have seen a pediatric neurologist, Dr. Osman Miyanji at Aga Khan University Hospital. The diagnosis seems clear. Mugisha Gabriel had a brain injury at birth. The cyst is his body’s attempt to protect and heal. The seizures are the results of the injury. We are adjusting medicine and doing occupational therapy. We do not know Mugisha Gabriel’s future. God knows Mugisha Gabriel’s future. He instructs us that every child deserves life in a family.

We have learned to trust our faith community. Some have written us. Ann Rugege, a CCR member wrote, “He has endured so much. He is a survivor and will overcome this too. What a challenge, but God is still in control. May His message or lesson be revealed.”

Another, Annik Rudakemwa wrote, “Don’t worry pastor. I know that God has a good plan for Gabriel. Let’s keep praying for him. Thank you. Be blessed.”

Kenya is the nation of Jana’s childhood. It feels familiar yet foreign at the same time. Arriving in Nairobi feels like arrival in Kampala, Uganda; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; or Abilene, Texas. These are cities filled with good memories. Yet, our arrival at each city requires a fresh start. All cities change. Since our last visit friends have come and gone from Nairobi. Also, traffic seems a bit more hectic. At times these fresh starts feel quite lonely. An arrival brought on by crisis increases the sense of loneliness.

Christmas is the season of wonder. Matthew introduces the story of Jesus with theological clarity. Jesus is the Messiah (Christ, Anointed One, Fulfiller of our Hopes). Jesus is the descendant of Judah’s ideal king and father (David, the King; and Abraham, the Patriarch of the Nation) (1:1). When we are tempted to take pride Matthew reminds us our humanity. Our ancestors just like us have many failings (1:2-17). Into humanity’s paradox of chaos and hope God enters miraculously, comes close, and rescues us (1:18-25).

Dave’s first Christmas in Africa was as disastrous as memorable. (For further reading see

The consequence was learning to embrace and celebrate paradox, unity, and wonder. Through our journey in Africa we expect God to do the profound and unexpected each Christmas season. We create traditions that empower discovery. CCR embraces these traditions of discovery.

It seems each Christmas in Africa God provides an earthly reminder of His care and sovereignty. On the second day of our Nairobi medical journey we stopped at Uchumi Supermarket at the Sarit Center to buy some supplies for Mugisha Gabriel. Then from behind us an old friend called. It was Mona Zikusooka. We had not seen her in seven years. God put our paths together again for such a time as this.

During our years in Uganda we had a delightful season in the mid-90’s in which we served a group of university students and young professionals with a ministry called UP (University. Professional). Jacob Zikusooka and his romantic interest, Mona were part of our core. The ministry vision was simple – provide a Saturday evening alternative to discos and bars. With Uganda’s raging AIDS crisis at the time it was a matter of life and death. Out of weekly party opportunities to mentor young people grew.

As Jacob and Mona decided their romance would grow into marriage they asked for us to do pre-marital counseling. We spent six months meeting weekly and sharing the wisdom God had given our own young marriage. It was one of those ministry seasons in which we found great joy. We’ve counseled other couples since then, but never for the amount of time with Jacob and Mona.

As time went on Jacob and Mona graduated. They had three beautiful daughters. Mona had a good job with Save The Children. Jacob worked with a clearing and forwarding company, and then had the courage to launch his own business.

We moved to Rwanda in 2005 from Uganda and lost touch. We on occasion traded an e-mail once a year or so, but beyond that had little contact.

The Zikusookas matured in life. Jacob served as the Chairman of the Elders board at a local church in Uganda. Two months ago, unknown to us Mona took a job with Save The Children’s Somalia Project in Nairobi. Jacob opened an office in Nairobi. The Zikusookas became Nairobi residents.

We had lunch with Jacob on Mona the first Sunday we were in Nairobi. A few days later, Nairobi guesthouse living became too difficult. We needed to be in a place that felt like family. We moved in with Jacob and Mona. A few hours later, Gabriel had a seizure. Their family gathered with us quietly around Gabriel, touched him, and gently prayed.

God had placed our lives in just the places we needed to be.

2011 marks 18 years in Africa as adults. Of these years we have spent 13 Christmas’ in Africa. As we matured to embrace African Christmas traditions God showed us the wonder of Immanuel. He is near. He displays His care many times through friendships that arise in surprising ways. Christmas is a season of wonder.

Some will use words such as “mentors” to describe our influence for the Lord in our Great Lakes Region. We’re quite hesitant to take titles that portray us in light that looks heroic. God is the hero of this journey. We have gone where we were called, spoken good words for Jesus, and done the work of each day. Sometimes we have juggled seasons of chaos. All the chaotic seasons transitioned to a place of thanksgiving for God’s providence.

Now, it seems we are nearing the close of a season in Africa. We sense God is calling us to return to the USA. We sense we must return to honor our parents and nurture our children. We sense we must return to mature ROC as a missionary sending organization. This call is more painful than the one that brought us to Uganda 18 years ago.

Where will we be on Kenya’s Jamhuri Day?

With whom will we dance on October 9 to celebrate Uganda’s Independence?

On July 4 as we celebrate America’s Independence with who will we also thank God that Rwanda’s Genocide was brought to an end?

When we are in a foreign city and in crisis will we find an old friend? Who will offer us shelter, food, and prayers for our children?

Christmas teaches us that the answers to these questions rest in the nature of God. He will be near. His care is expressed through His people.

18 years have happened because family, friends, and churches have shared in our call. They have listened, heard, and made painful sacrifices. Those sacrifices have changed lives. Those sacrifices have been Immanuel like gifts.

Our support usually increases during our furloughs. Then about one year to 18 months after returning to Africa it starts a gradual decline. We hold our breath and hope for the best. Each Christmas season it seems we receive a few gifts of wonder that continue the sustenance of God.

We request that this season you join us in making a donation. We are a faith mission dependent on God’s providence expressed through free will offerings of family, friends, and churches.

Thirteen days ago, we reserved tickets to come to Nairobi to seek medical care for Gabriel with no money in hand. A few hours later two friends surprised us. We also came not knowing which old friends we would discover in Nairobi.

We thank God for his providence.

If you would like to make a yearend donation, please make a check to ROC Partners with Jenkins Memo, and mail it to:

ROC Partners,
3007 NW 63rd Ste 205
Oklahoma City, OK 73116-3605

Thank you for sharing this journey with us.

Dave and Jana

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