Thursday, December 6, 2012


I woke this morning to startling news from a friend in Rwanda.   Honorable Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Aloysia Inyumba has passed from this life to another.    She leaves behind a husband and two children.    Our region’s newspapers quickly began coverage of a remarkable woman.     Social media told the more personal details.   It is astounding to quickly observe on Twitter and Facebook how the titles we gave her moved from “Honorable Minister” to “Mother,”  “Auntie,” “Mentor,” and “Friend.”     She was a woman who quickly could bring us into places of great warmth and hospitality.     In the end she believed in many of us more than we believed in ourselves.     I wonder if there are any in Rwanda who have not in some way been touched by Minister Inyumba.    Many of our best efforts and accomplishments were nurtured by her faith in God moving through the people of Rwanda.

As with the transitions that come to those who in the eyes of humanity seem “too young” our hearts grief.    How does one explain the loss of a mother to children?   And who amongst us does not consider her to be one of our aunties?

We return to the oldest stories of mankind’s sojourn with God.   Israel’s Shepherd King, David wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Psalm 23 (New King James Version):

“The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.
 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

As David reflected on the loss of his own son, he said, I will go to him, but he will not return to me (2 Samuel 12:23, New International Version.)”

By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Job 19:25, 26 tells us, 

“I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I will see God.”

Jesus Christ was God in the flesh among men.   He showed us the heart of the Father.   When His friend Lazarus had passed from this life two simple words tell us all, “Jesus wept (John 11:35.)”   In the midst of our overwhelming loss God himself is in our midst providing hope and comfort.   Then Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.    

Within a week of Lazarus resurrection, Jesus himself is brutally killed and then rises from the dead.

Our grief and loss is real.   Yet, our hope in a final Resurrection where all will return to God’s intent is the final reality for which we hunger.

As we grief in hope it is appropriate to remember the enduring characteristics of Minister Inyumba.    

We quickly remember her humility.   As she rose to places of influence she still listened.   She had time to ask questions.   In between hurried meetings she was available.    

In those humble meetings her questions moved to wise guidance.   She could master complexities with grace.  Then find a way forward.   

We know her tireless work ethics.   This was driven by her deep compassion for women and children.    Her compassion spurred on her incredible courage.   
The place Minister Inyumba occupies in our hearts can never be replaced.   Yet by the grace of our Lord the loss and grief we now feel will heal.     After all, Minister Inyumba believed in the hope of our common future.   This hope cannot be contained by a created body of flesh and blood.

The dialogue I read and heard today was one of memories.  I noticed three enduring legacies of Minister Inyumba.

The first was her faithfulness.    Her name follows the history of her people.   She is found in a multiple of historic roles.   In each role that was given her she was faithful.   We were blessed.    I can say with great confidence yesterday, she was met by the Lord with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21, 23; Luke 19:17.)”

The second enduring legacy was her advocacy for women.   She healed our wounds.   She served widows.   She mentored ceaselessly.    She elevated the status of women by her profound moral authority.    I observed that her very presence caused us to stop, reflect, and change.   Her voice spoke with consistent faithfulness.    Her belief in women’s dignity reflected her faith in God who made all humanity in God’s image.   She saw that God had created women with unique gifts that must be nurtured.   Her advocacy brought us peace and healing.

The last legacy was her compassion for Rwanda’s children.   Her compassion was the authentic compassion of the Lord.   It moved from deep within her being.  It was full of the passion of humanity.   Then it sprang forth in behavior that simply got things done.    

One her most enduring quotes is "We're committed to seeing all Rwanda's children grow up in loving, caring families and not in institutions"

A friend today called her a champion of Rwanda’s children.

Many of us have personal stories to tell of Minister Inyumba.

My family shared a similar conviction with Minister Inyumba that every child has a right to a family.    I once had a 10 minute conversation with Minister Inyumba that I could never forget.   She made time for me in busy day in which she was meeting many important people.   We spoke of the de-institutionalization of orphans and vulnerable children in Rwanda.  She let me see a bit of her humanity.   Why was she facing so much opposition?   Why were there so many untruthful and unjust accusations?    

I shared the nature of institutions.   They are self-protective.   It is their nature.   Governments protect their tax payers.   Churches protect their members.   Schools protect their students.   Businesses protect their customers.    This is good.   In fact such institutions will endure with generations of good fruit.   

However, sometimes an institution arises that in its self-protection loses sight of the common good.   Orphanages easily become these types of institutions.   In order to appeal to donors they must have children.  Keeping children in institutions is necessary for their survival.

I apologized.   My race, nation, and Balokole clan mates have been some of the worst offenders in institutionalizing vulnerable children.

I shared a conviction that took the Lord working on me for 18 years.   The most Biblical way to approach the care of vulnerable children is adoption.   In fact, adoption is a metaphor of the Gospel.  Churches that don’t teach and live adoption are negotiating the Good News of Jesus.

I shared a hope that Rwanda’s churches and families would arise to meet the challenge.   It was my hope that whenever a child fell into a vulnerable situation a network of families would be prepared by churches to immediately take that child into their home as a foster child.   Hopefully, the child would be reunited with his extended family.   However, if that did not happen then that child should be adopted and have the full legal and relationship rights of a biological child.

Minister Inyumba looked directly into my eyes, accepted my apologies, and then said, “Pastor that is exactly what I hope also.”

Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs with the nurses who cared for him in Rwamagana
God never allows leaders to simply make proposals and write policy.   We must practice what we preach.   A few months later, my foster son Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs was having 3 clusters of seizures per day.   We had spent 2 weeks at King Faisal Hospital.  It was time to go to Nairobi.   MIGEPROF and emigration quickly got us the required travel documents.    Our family was broke.   Then God’s providence happened.  Friends in Kenya, Uganda, America, and Rwanda rallied.   Minister Inyumba was one of the friends who placed a little money in our pockets for Mugisha.   Her contribution was one of those first fruits from which God begin doing the astounding.     Mugisha has now not had a seizure in 11 months and is loved by a forever family.   I’m confident Minister Inyumba’s acts of faith are one of the reasons Mugisha is well.

A year ago a friend of mine, Major Eustache Nsinga passed from this life.    I had the profound responsibility to perform his funeral.   In it I summarized his life as being irreplaceable.   I believe all of us are created in God’s image and with God’s eternal purpose given unique gifts.   Thus each of us is irreplaceable.   

My sermon was followed by a speech by Rwanda’s Minister of Defense James Kabarebe who had the courage to point out a hole in my sermon.   We are all in an army for God.   When a soldier falls he must be replaced.  Without replacements our endeavors on this earth are doomed.   He was right.
God’s Word fills us with the wisdom of paradox.  Each of us is irreplaceable.   Yet, each of us must eventually be replaced.

As Minister Inyumba is now resting as a rewarded faithful servant it is our task to continue her legacy.

Who will be faithful in whatever roles one is given?

Who will advance the dignity of women?

Who will take vulnerable children into their families to adopt and raise with the full legal and relationship rights as biological children?

Minister Inyumba’s passing should cause us to like the men and women of old raise our hands and say, “Lord, here am I.  Send me.”


  1. Thank you Dave for pastoring us during this very difficult time of grief.

  2. One year later, I want to go back to those questions you posed Dave - as I remember my friend - Lord help me be faithful like she was in the roles you have given me.