When we began our Mugisha journey we were convinced of several things. One, every child has a right to be in a family. Two, Rwanda’s Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion’s (MIGEPROF)/ National Child Commission (NCC) policy of de-institutionalization of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) was the most biblical response. Three, Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR) Senior Pastor (us) must lead by example. Thus we chose to make our journey a very transparent and public one. Many insights would come later, but these were the core convictions.
After our Mugisha Gabriel Adoption Hand Over at CCR on 24 March 2012 we traveled with the Jacobs family to Nairobi as they processed Mugisha’s USA immigrant visa. Again, Mugisha was captivating. It went quick. We saw the pediatric neurologist, Dr. Osman Miyanji who was so helpful in December 2011, and he was astounded at Mugisha’s health. Then we returned to Kigali. The Jacobs spent their last days traveling around Rwanda. Then we said goodbye to them on Wednesday, 4 April. We held Mugisha for the last times. He knew Jana and I well. Mugisha snuggled. We made our silly boy noises at each other. However, he never took his eyes off of Mark and Chelsea. They were his mom and dad. Jana and I were his Bzee. The theory had worked. Old African wisdom mixed with good Bible study had triumphed.
If we approach life as an extended family(expressed through a local church) God will take care of us. Children who are raised in a family full of love can rapidly bond with another. The Jacobs staying with us for a few weeks like a good African extended family had allowed them to bond with Mugisha. He now accepted them as his parents. We said our goodbyes with tears.
We now have to complete the task of leadership. We must answer our community’s question. What was Mugisha’s departure like?
We’ve never experienced anything like it before. The closest similarity I’ve experienced is the death of a believing grandparent whose life was lived well, a time had come when the best of earth was to transition to heaven, but the temporary separation was almost unbearable. We cried because of the separation, but we knew this was the best.
Mugisha is home. I stalk him on Facebook everyday just like I do Sophia. The Lord has given him double measures of Rwandese charm. All who meet him are captivated. I’m very thankful he once slept in my home.
During Hand Over Sunday the Jacobs gave our family a large photo of us all at CCR on Christmas Day, 2011. Sophia was home from Wheaton College and Mugisha was still part of our household. On the photo is the verse, “I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him (1Samuel 1:27, New International Version.)”
The last few days have felt like deaths of hope. I’ve hardly been able to function. I find myself sitting and staring into space. I cry easily. I can barely move and think. Emotions race through my body, mind, and spirit. I feel lonelier than I have in years. I am in grief. I stare at my running shoes, bike, and a weight room remembering joy; but I can’t find the strength to try.
I can do a few mindless tasks, but little beyond. Saturday, I sat and read my Bible. The only story I could remember that was similar to our experience of saying goodbye to Mugisha was in 1 Samuel with Hannah and Samuel. I found myself back with the verse the Jacobs gave us as they blessed our family and CCR. “I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him (1Samuel 1:27, New International Version.)”
Ekitukuvu. (It is true – Luganda.) During Mugisha’s stay in our family we prayed like never before. I read God’s word and trusted it as a little child like never before. God has fulfilled all of our prayers. Our community begged God for two matters. One was for the convulsions to stop. We quit counting the days without a seizure after 40. Mugisha may have a health struggle his whole life, but the convulsions have stopped for this season. Two, we begged God for Mugisha to be placed with a forever family. He is now Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs, resides in Irving, Texas, and worships at The Branch Church. God has been faithful.
(To remember the journeys of prayer check out http://jenkinsinrwanda.
In the beginning chapter of 1 Samuel there is a crisis. Hannah has not produced a child. Her rival wife provokes her. Her husband cannot console her. The text has these awful words, “The Lord had closed her womb (1Samuel 1:6.)” Hannah’s barrenness and suffering seems to have been for a season a choice made by God. Does God bring these dreadful seasons upon us where we publicly cry out to him?
Hannah went to worship in “deep bitterness of soul.” She begged God to “remember her.” Then she made a deal with God. If God gave her a son she would “give him to the Lord for all the days of his life.”
I’ve several times made deals with God. I think negotiating with God is part of being called. I didn’t negotiate with God related to Mugisha as I have in the past. However, from the beginning of our shared journey I gave him to the Lord.
My friends frequently asked, “Why don’t you adopt Mugisha?” I never said, “No.” Yet, I never said, “Yes.” I waited and prayed for the day and circumstance to become clear. I clung to the belief that God had a forever family for Mugisha. His extended family may be found. They may have been looking and could have given him the nurture he needed. Another family may have arisen who could care for him in a better way than I. Mugisha needed to be with a family who had access to the best medical care in the world. Our family did not have that capacity. Lastly, Mugisha Gabriel Jacobs is a blessed messenger. There are hundreds of children like him in Rwanda. If we could find a model that combined MIGEPROF’s / NCC’s De-institutionalization policy with good Bible study it would be transformational for many Rwandan children.
We may have kept a “foster like boundary” with Mugisha for some months. We loved him, fed him, nurtured him, etc… but knew he would likely go with another. On 17 November when the seizures began we removed all emotional boundaries. We loved Mugisha as our own child.
Over the last few weeks many of us have whispered our deepest fears. In Africa we don’t speak of our fears as they can become curses. We speak of our hopes as blessings. Some of us have now whispered, “We thought Mugisha may not live.” The thought crossed my mind also. I made a choice. If that day came I would hold Mugisha to his last breath. I would bury him in Rwanda on secure property with a tombstone that read, “Mugisha Gabriel Jenkins.” He would not pass from this earth to heaven without a family name. Yet, I begged God for that day never to come. God heard our prayers and responded. Mugisha’s seizures have stopped. Mugisha is now Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs. I imagine Easter Sunday at The Branch Church as Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs enters will be unforgettable.
In order to fully bless Mugisha and fulfill God’s intent we gave him to the Lord much like how Hannah gave Samuel. Hannah and Samuel’s story continued, “But Samuel was ministering before the LORD—a boy wearing a linen ephod. Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the LORD give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the LORD.” Then they would go home. And the LORD was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the LORD (1 Samuel 2:18-21).”
Ironically, before Mugisha entered our home we had 3 sons and 2 daughters. God had blessed us with wonderful children before our Mugisha journey began. We entrust that Mugisha’s future will be much like Samuel’s. Mugisha will hear the voice of the Lord at a young age and lead many to victory.
As Hannah relinquished Samuel to the Lord she prayed,
“There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
“Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.
“The bows of the warriors are broken,
but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
but she who has had many sons pines away.
“The LORD brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.
“For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s;
on them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.
“It is not by strength that one prevails;
those who oppose the LORD will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
“He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
We can offer no more wisdom than the prayer of Hannah. As in the relinquishment of Samuel so is the relinquishment of Mugisha.
My hope in the public Mugisha journey is that many will realize I am no hero. I may be a community leader. If so, I hope many will realize that God walked our family through the Mugisha journey with exceptional love and grace. His love and grace is available to all. Please join that journey. A friend of mine once served as a doctor at a hospital in Kigali. He told me the hospital has 2 or 3 babies abandoned each month. What if instead of those children being brought to an orphanage they were brought to a foster family?
I turned 45 a few months ago. Some adoption experts believe I am now too old to begin raising an infant. I am not convinced, but I will consider the counsel. However, I am still physically strong, wiser than in my twenties, and somehow God helps me pay my bills. I can foster children again.
The most rewarding matter that has crossed my path the last few months has been to have two Rwandan families tell me they would consider doing for an abandoned child what we have done for Mugisha. Both are a little wiser, wealthier, and older than I. Both acknowledge they may not be able to raise an infant to adulthood, but both are thankful for their current health and resources. If a few more of us in our forties and fifties in Rwanda could foster children until a long term solution for that child is found we could nurture the most vulnerable to a point of thriving just like Mugisha.
Many have told me that God will remember our Mugisha story. We will be blessed by God for our sacrifice. I am about to step forward believing a call that God has asked for our family to return to the USA for a season. I would rather stay in Rwanda. Thank you for that blessing. It gives me hope when I am afraid.
Yet, I want all to know I have already been immensely blessed to have once had Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs sleep in my home. I am forever grateful.