Thursday, March 29, 2012


As I have walked the streets of Kigali for the last 10 months friends, acquaintances, and strangers have frequently greeted me with the phrase, “How is Mugisha?”

Mugisha is good. In fact, Mugisha is very good.

For those who do not know Mugisha for 10 months was my foster son. He was born in the village outside of Rwamagana on 12 March 2011. He was 10 weeks premature and weighed 1.3 kilos. His biological mother took him to a local clinic. From there she and he were transported to the Rwamagana District Hospital. The following day Mugisha’s biological mother left him (and has completely disappeared.) Mugisha spent 8 weeks without a family, but was loved at the Rwamagana District Hospital. He was given the name “Mugisha” by the Rwamagana Mayor’s Office and Hospital Administrators.

A few months before his birth some of our Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR) leaders and I attended a seminar organized by the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF) that discussed De-institutionalization. Could families in Rwanda be the answer to the issue of orphans (OVC)? Could children who are abandoned be raised in a family instead of an institution? We prayed and wrestled with the questions. After all, the church should be the first ones to respond to such questions. Our youth pastor, Moses Mbabaali wisely spoke, “Our senior pastor must lead.”

A friend of a friend made a phone call to my wife, Jana with the question, “Could we take Mugisha?” On 13 May 2011 he was in our home. He only weighed 1.4 kilos. We added the name Gabriel after the powerful angelic messenger. In our spirits we sensed Mugisha Gabriel would be a blessed messenger to teach our community what we were to do for OVC. On the second day Mugisha was in our home he cried when we placed him in his bed. He had discovered human touch. He was not alone. He was in a family. Mugisha was good. In fact, Mugisha was very good.

He rapidly gained weight. At times he struggled with colic (fussy baby syndrome.) As he gained weight the first flesh was muscle. I sensed the Lord was telling us Mugisha would always be strong. One doctor whispered Mugisha had the early signs of cerebral palsy. Yet, there was hope. In fact, King Faisal Hospital’s neurosurgeon, Dr. Emmanuel Nkusi always found hope. Mugisha was good. In fact, Mugisha was very good.

On 17 November 2011 Mugisha began odd rhythmic movements. We called doctors. On 21 November we saw Dr. Steven Musiime at KFH. We had the good fortune that Mugisha’s odd movements happened at the appointment. Dr. Musiime diagnosed convulsions and we spent 11 days at KFH. On 1 December we transferred to Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi to see pediatric neurologist, Dr. Osman Miyanji. Mugisha was having 3 convulsions per day. After 2 weeks of tweaking medicine they reduced to ounce every few days. At one point as Mugisha’s blood was drawn he looked at the nurse with a look that communicated, “I am a Munyarwanda. Imana is my God.” He never surrendered his dignity. Our community never gave up hope. Once a doctor told us, “This child will have problems.” A few weeks later he remarked, “This is not as bad as I first thought.” Mugisha had his last convulsion on 16 February. Mugisha is good. In fact, Mugisha is very good.

We began a journey unsure where it would end. We believed MIGEPROF’s De-institutionalization policy was the most biblical response to OVC. We believed the church must practically lead. We believed every child had the right to a family. The Rwandan government leaders we knew were wise and compassionate. We trusted their leadership. We believed Mugisha’s stay in our family would end either with him being reunited with his extended family or adoption.

As Mugisha developed health issues there became a consensus. Mugisha needs to be raised either by a family in Rwanda with the financial resources to travel to South Africa or Kenya every few months, or he must be raised in North America or Europe.

Mugisha was matched to Mark and Chelsea Jacobs of Irving, Texas, USA for adoption by Nyiramatama Zaina, the Executive Secretary of the National Child Commission on 27 February 2012. On 19 March the Kacyiru court finalized the Act of Adoption. Since Mugisha was so much part of our community we believed Mugisha’s transition must be a public blessing much like how extended families bless their children’s marriage. On Sunday, 25 March CCR held her first ever Adoption Hand Over Ceremony of Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs. Mugisha is good. In fact, Mugisha is very good.

Mugisha’ Uncles and Aunts spoke. They spoke courageously of what many of us whispered quietly during this journey. Were we mad? Would Mugisha live through this season? Yet, we came back to our belief in ultimate truth. God loves all of us as adopted children. Raising OVC in families is the most biblical response. We must partner with Rwanda’s government, particularly when their hopes reflect the nature of God. We had been blessed by Mugisha. We would bless Mugisha. Mugisha is good. In fact, Mugisha is very good.

The new CCR Senior Pastor Brett Shreck spoke of miracles. God had made all humanity in His image. As such we possessed infinite dignity. We also possessed the infinite ability to love. Loving an adopted child with all of one’s being is miraculously possible because of the nature of God displayed in our humanity.

Nyiramatama Zaina, the Executive Secretary at the National Child Commission (NCC) spoke. There was great wisdom and compassion in her blessing of Mugisha. One part of her message stood out to me. Orphanages are not part of Rwandese culture. Families are part of Rwandese culture. It is time to return to the culture of the family.

On Thursday, 29 March we saw Mugisha’s pediatric neurologist in Nairobi, Dr. Osman Miyanji. Mugisha weighs 8.4 kilos (6.5 times his birth weight). The symptoms of cerebral palsy are almost nonexistent. Mugisha is still developmentally behind, but Dr. Miyanji stated, “With help this boy has and will overcome.”

Mugisha is good. In fact, Mugisha is very good.

Shortly after this column is published Mugisha will be in Texas displaying his endearing Rwandese charm. The question will be asked, “How is Mugisha.”

Mugisha is good. In fact, Mugisha is very good.

Some may try to make Jana and I heroes in Mugisha’s story. Please do not. In a nation with a history like Rwanda’s there are many more deserving heroic people. You can find better. If you must have a hero; look to Jesus of Nazareth. All that we did for Mugisha was just a reflection of what He has done for us.

We are visible and provide some leadership in our community. A few lessons to learn – First, this crazy MIGEPROF idea of de-institutionalization is possible. Our families in Rwanda can do this. Two, though it is painful to relinquish Mugisha to another, we would gladly do this again. We’ve never experienced the intimacy of God’s joy like we have the last 10 months. I’ve done the math. I may be too old to raise another child as my own, but I think I can foster at least 10 times more in my lifetime. We’ll pick up the phone if MIGEPROF, NCC, or an OVC District Official calls. Last, we believe in Rwanda. The type of love the Mugisha’s of the world need is abundant in Rwanda. No other nation has the capacity to love so deeply and relinquish so completely. Rwanda can do this.

Many more can respond to the question, “How are your vulnerable children?”

They are good. In fact, they are very good. Quit calling them vulnerable. They and we are blessed

1 comment:

  1. Dave and Jana, I am moved by the beauty in your hearts and in the words shared here on your blog. Tonight I go to bed grateful for the love and family (can that be used as a verb?) you gave Mugi and that he is now feeling with the Jacobs. Thank you for sharing this celebration with us all.

    Jaya Holliman, Vermont