Embracing God’s Heart for the Orphan
About the Guest
Pastor Daniel Kaggwa's church in Uganda closed an orphanage by fostering all of the children through local church families. Pastor Kaggwa shares the remarkable story of how the people in his community rallied together for the love of orphans.
Pastor Daniel Kaggwa’s church in Uganda closed an orphanage by fostering all of the children through church families. Pastor Kaggwa shares how his community rallied together for the love of orphans.
Embracing God’s Heart for the Orphan
Bob: Daniel Kaggwa was hopeless. He grew up without a family in Uganda. By the time he was a young teenage boy, he had determined that life was not worth living.
Daniel: While I was at school, I was like, “Life is hard.” And then the devil told me that: “You know what? Why don’t you commit suicide?” It looked like a great idea before me. What I did was to get a rope—identify a good mango tree where I was to commit suicide. But I never knew that God had put aside Someone waiting for me—and that was Jesus Himself.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 29th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Jesus, indeed, had other plans for Daniel Kaggwa. We’ll hear his story and hear how God is using him to rescue orphans in Uganda today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We are once again live at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit in Chicago. We have, again, the largest studio audience ever with us. [Applause] Yes!
As you know, I’m flying solo today because Dennis had to leave to go back to Little Rock; but we were talking yesterday just about how God has ignited a movement, over the last decade, to care for the needs of orphans and the needs of children all around the world. It’s been exciting to see that what happens here—this is really just a catalyst to what God is doing worldwide.
We’re going to get a chance to hear a little more about that this morning as we get to visit with the pastor of a church in Kampala, Uganda.
His name is Daniel Kaggwa. Daniel, welcome to FamilyLife Today. Would you welcome him?
Daniel: Thank you. [Applause]
Bob: Daniel is a father to seven children; right? And the way somebody taught me to say that—you have four homemade kids and three store-bought kids; right? [Laughter] And you have a heart, not only as a dad, but as a pastor, for the needs of orphans. I want to talk about where that heart came from. You grew up in Kampala in poverty—both economic poverty and, maybe even more significantly, in a poverty of family. Tell us about your family and about your mom and your dad.
Daniel: Yes. I was born in a very big family—I can say.
My father had three women and then we have all 15 children. My mother was the last woman—or the last wife in the family. So, I was the second-last born in my family.
At the age of about seven, I just found out that there was a problem in the house. There was separation between my father and my mother. My mom went away. Then I stayed in the house, together with my siblings, who were the oldest. But after some time, my father married another wife. Then they were also forced to go because she abused us so much—and then my elders—all of them went away. I remained in the house alone to help with the work. By that time, I was about eight years old.
Bob: Eight years old, alone in the house, on your own.
Daniel: Yes—taking care of each and every thing—cooking food, preparing the house, sweeping, cleaning the house, washing clothes, doing laundry, fetching water, and doing each and every type of work.
Bob: How did you survive?
Daniel: It was God’s grace. I know and think that God knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb. It was suffered to me—He set me up for it. I know that it was by the grace of the Lord that the Lord was ever to protect me until now.
Bob: That wound of being abandoned stayed with you. By the time you were 14 years old, you actually contemplated just putting an end to your life. Is that right?
Daniel: At the age of 12, I lived by myself, right in the house, working to be able to pay for my school fees. I paid for my fees. At the age of 14, while I was at school, I was like, “Life is hard.” I pressed on until when I felt that I could press no more. And then that devil told me that: “You know what? Why don’t you commit suicide?” Then, it looked like a great idea before me.
Then, that day, I never went into class. What I did was to get a rope. I went to my school. I was able to identify a very good mango tree—where I was going to commit suicide at six p.m., after all students had left the school. What happened—I waited for all the students to go out of the school.
But I never knew that God had put aside Someone, waiting for me—and that was Jesus Himself—waiting right under the mango tree. As I came to commit suicide, then Richard showed up. I was surprised. I was like, “Richard, what are you doing here when everybody is out of school?” But I before I even explained, he told me: “Daniel, you need Christ. You need Jesus.” So he led me into the prayer of receiving Christ, and I just met Jesus right under that mango tree. [Applause]
That was God’s plan—that was His purpose. Then, from there, I told Richard that: “I have received Christ. What next?” [Laughter] So, he told me, “Daniel, if you have no one, let me take you to my father’s house.” It was a Christian family. He took me to his father, and I was received in the family as a foster son.
Bob: In many ways, Richard’s father became your adopted father.
Daniel: Yes, exactly. I was in that family. They received me gladly—so gladly. That was my first time to hear someone say, “Daniel, we love you.” That was my first time to hear someone say, “Daniel, let’s all come together and eat together—share everything together.” That was my first time to sleep on a bed. That was my first time to see parents buying books for me.
I was there for only three months, but I will never ever forget the love that I was shown in that foster family.
Bob: And it was three months because your foster dad died after you’d been there for three months.
Bob: The tradition / the custom is then the extended family would care for the remaining family, but you weren’t included in who was cared for.
Daniel: Right. Yes. As they divided all the six children—because we are seven—he had six biological children, and I was the seventh. After the burial, now all children are divided—taken into different families by uncles and aunts. Now, Daniel did not have anyone to take him.
Bob: You’re back on your own again.
Daniel: I’m back on my own again. Then I looked into the house. I saw the possibility of committing suicide again; but before that, the Spirit within me spoke in a very still voice and told me that I was old enough to make up the decision and stay with Jesus.
Bob: Wow. [Applause] Yes. [Applause] I want to jump ahead two years. You went on a mission trip with your church to Rwanda—
Bob: —to an orphanage in Rwanda; right?
Bob: Tell us—what was the purpose of that mission trip and how long were you going to be staying there?
Daniel: The purpose of the mission was to help the children because our church, where I was raised up, was so much involved with children’s ministry. After 1994 genocide in Rwanda—right the week after—the church decided to go to take relief to that country so that we can help the children. I was among the few people that were selected to go. The plan of the mission was to go for only two weeks, but I ended up spending five years on that mission field. [Laughter]
Bob: That’s a little deviation from the plan; isn’t it?
Daniel: Yes. Yes.
Bob: Five years. Why’d you stay five years?
Daniel: Actually, we were taking of the children like refugees and all. Then we were bringing them back into their families or put them into orphanage centers.
Bob: God was giving you a heart to take the pain of your own life and to use it as a way to minister to these young children who were in their pain; right?
Daniel: Right. Actually, that’s my passion. That’s where the passion comes from.
Bob: And while you were there, you met somebody else who had a passion for orphans; right?—a young woman named Erika?
Daniel: Yes. Now, here comes Erika. She was about 12 years old by that time. I was the administrator of the orphan center. I recorded all her information. She told me whatever she went through in 1994 genocide—how the Lord protected her life for three months and how she saw her parents being killed. And then she came to me every—
—her testimony touched me so much.
Then, at the end of the day, time came that the orphanage could not take care of more children—and then they sent back whoever is above 14 years. They were supposed to be taken out of the orphanage center. And then, by that time, Erika was about 17. She was—then she was among the children who were supposed to go and get somewhere to live. Remember, she had lost each and every one—she survived with only one sister. They had nowhere to go.
So, this is how I came to know her and through her testimony that passion—we all joined it together. I felt like, “Oh, this young lady came through a lot.” I felt touched through her testimony.
Bob: And touched enough that you decided she shouldn’t leave—she should stay and be your wife.
Daniel: Right, that’s how it ended up! [Laughter] That’s how things ended up. Yes.
So, after that, actually, she went out of the orphanage center.
I went back to Uganda to do some other things; but I kept on coming back to Rwanda because I had so many friends, and I was doing some small businesses there. So, one time, I came and I visited the family somewhere where she lived. Then she told me of whatever she was going through. I was like, “Why is this now?” So, one thing that I was looking for in my life—I was looking to be loved because I never saw love. She was also looking for someone to love her.
Now what is bringing two people? One was raised up by himself and another one is an orphan. Now, two of us, God joined us together. But we all had—you know—all our background was different—little bit—yes. So I was raised up by myself—she was an orphan.
Now the Lord brought us together—no parental, you know, love—we’re seeking and looking for comfort and, you know, someone to love you—yes, say that: “I love you. I’m here for you, and I’m here to help you.”
Bob: So you married and moved back to Kampala.
Daniel: I married and then I moved back to Kampala.
Bob: You started a church in Kampala.
Daniel: I started a church in Kampala.
Bob: God put on your heart, while you were pastoring this church, a desire to care for some of the orphans from back in Rwanda; right?
Daniel: This is how it happened, then. By that time, when we came back to Uganda, Erika is the lady who would never ever be in the house without orphans. For the last 17 years that we’ve been married, we have never been at home without children—[Laughter]—never. I have never seen my house without anyone living with us. [Laughter]
It has never happened—even now. [Applause] Even now, we have 13 in the house. We have 13 in the house. People just love to come and hang out with us. [Laughter] People just want to come and be with us. The house is not big, but I think it’s enough for each and every one.
Bob: You, at one point, had 15 orphans living in your house with you.
Daniel: Yes. There’s a time that we had all these children. Erika—we went to a mission—Erika went. Then she saw all these children, and all the children love her.
Daniel: She has that anointing for children. Whenever she sits, children just come and touch her and feel her—and then would just come. She would ask each and every child: “Is your mother there? Is your father there? Are you an orphan? How did you come here? What happened? Did you eat?” Then I was like: “Erika, why are you asking? [Laughter] You are asking all these children. Are you going to take all these children?”
One time, we were on the mission field; and all these children came. Then Erika took—by that time, we were living in a one-bedroom house.
Bob: One-bedroom house.
Daniel: Erika told me that, “I’m taking these children.” I’m like: “Where are you taking these children, Erika? [Laughter] Where are we going to house them?” She said, “We’ll make a way.” I’m just like: “We are also struggling for food. We are struggling for accommodation. We are struggling for utilities. We are struggling for each and every thing. We don’t have enough school fees for our biological children. Now, you are saying you are taking 15 children?” She said, “Yes.” [Laughter] She has that heart.
Bob: Yes, she does.
Daniel: It’s hard to convince her, that day, not to come with the 15 children because we had no place for them—to be sure.
We went back home. We shared about it. I had a very big time of convincing her to take her back home because she had decided she was going to remain in that community, with those children, if we are not taking them. [Laughter]
I was like, “Erika, we need to go back home.” She was like: “I cannot leave these children here. This is life to me. I have to go with them.” Then I had to convince her to leave the children first so that we can be able to go back and prepare so that we can come and pick them up again.
Bob: So, when you got back to Kampala—and you went to your church and you said, “There are these 15 orphans,”—you had 20 families in your church, at the time; is that right?
Daniel: Yes. By that time, yes, we had 20 families. We came. We shared a little bit about it, and we even told our apostles about it. We brought the children into our house, which was a renting house now—having nothing.
We told people to help us—the church people. They were able to contribute mattresses/ broken mattresses and everything. We could just wrap everything together to put them into the sack—and just make one mattress—and five children could sleep on one.
Seven other children could sleep on another mattress. It was just a time of struggling. So, the apostles helped us to do that, and the church also—bless our church members. Then that is how His Embrace—which is His Embrace Transitional Homes—started in 2007.
Bob: And those transitional homes—when you went to the church and said, “We have 15 orphans,”—the church said, “We’ll help.”
Daniel: Then, from that, yes, I told them that: “We have these children—we have brought these children. We need your help.” But the people that I was telling to help us had nothing. Actually, by that time, we had some of the church—if it was in percentage, it was like nine to eight percent of the people were not working, and they had no jobs. Every one of them was just starving.
But I told them, “We have these children before us, and this is God’s heart.” Then, they brought whatever—small each and every one—had from his house.
That was the first contribution that they brought in that house. It was big by that time because we had nothing.
Bob: They’ve since gone on—those children have been adopted by people in your church; right?
Bob: And you have brought in other children. In fact, I hate to jump ahead—but you have about 70 families—and you have 40 orphans that have been adopted through your church; right?
Bob: Isn’t that amazing? [Applause]
Daniel: Yes. We found work for that. I got this concept from Home for Good Foundation. They taught me about this biblical adoption and fostering program. Actually, when Gerry told me about this, I did not understand it. I thought that it was very hard.
Daniel: But I had to put it into practice. I’m a man of faith, and I believe God—I believe from nothing.
Whenever I decide to do something by faith, I will do it.
Daniel: So I said, “I’m going to try this.” I taught this in my church for three months. We went through this Bible study for three months. Then, one Sunday, the Spirit of the Lord told me, “It is now that I want you to tell the people to take all these children.” Then I told my staff that this is what we were going to do. I was to teach another sermon, but the Spirit of the Lord just directed me to do that right on that day because of the grace of Lord was right on that day and on that particular time.
Then, after speaking to the church, I told the people: “You know, I have been teaching about adoption and fostering program. Now the time has come to put each and everything into practice.” I called the 15 children out from the congregation. I made them stand before the church. I told the people, “Whoever feels a call to receive one of these children, could you please rise up and come?”
Fifteen children came—fifteen parents came. Fifteen children were taken in one single service. [Applause]
Bob: Yes. You know, we’re out of time. Take just a minute, if you would, and share what your vision is for adoption in Uganda. Can you do that?
Daniel: Yes. I can. [Laughter] The vision we have in Uganda—one, is to see every child in a family. I know and I believe that it is possible. Our church, by that time, had 15 children. We are now taking care of 40 children. Every child is in a family. Our church is orphan-free.
The work is still great. I know and I believe that this is the vision that we are casting.
We want Uganda to be covered up. We want each and every church in Uganda to know that God’s heartbeat toward orphans is for every orphan to be in a family.
Bob: So you get the picture. Think of the ripples that can go out, in a nation and all around the world, because of a man’s hurt transferred into ministry for others.
Daniel, God bless you. Thank you for sharing with us today. [Applause]
Well, once again, today, we’ve heard a conversation that took place a couple of months ago as Dennis Rainey and I were together at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit in Chicago. If you’d like more information about the Christian Alliance for Orphans and all of the work that they are doing, all around the world, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. When you click the link in the upper left-hand corner that says, “GO DEEPER,” there’s a link there for the Christian Alliance for Orphans. You can find out more about their upcoming summit in the spring of 2015.
And if you or your church has any interest in caring for the needs of orphans in your community, in your state, around the world, this is a great place to come to get equipped, to get more information, to find out what other people are doing. It really is a great event. Find out more when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner that says, “GO DEEPER.” That’ll take you to a place where you can get more information about the Christian Alliance for Orphans.
You can also get more information about resources we have through Hope for Orphans® that help you think through how you can, as a family, or as a local church, respond to the needs of orphans in our world: Perhaps that’s through adoption or foster care. Maybe it’s through some kind of respite care you provide for adoptive parents or for foster parents. Maybe it’s working with orphanages in other parts of the world.
There’s more information about how you, your church, your family could be involved in orphan care when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in upper left-hand corner that says, “GO DEEPER.” Then look for the information on Hope for Orphans.
The information you need is available there. Or, if you have any questions, call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say: “We’re interested in helping orphans. What can we do?”—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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With that, we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. I hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to hear a message from Barbara Rainey—the focus is on a wife’s priorities. How can a woman, with a family, make sure she’s focused on the right stuff? Barbara’s going to talk about that Monday. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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