Imanriho was a thief, a herdsman who had stolen money from his employer and had gone into hiding. Three days later, after squandering the money on alcohol, he emerged to look for food and water. Fearfully, he watched over his shoulders, dreading an encounter with the boda drivers. He had witnessed many beatings by these motorcycle-riding vigilantes and did not want to encounter one.
But no such luck. Within just a short time, locals recognized Imanriho and pointed him out to the boda drivers. He was dragged through town, beaten within an inch of his life, and then taken to his employer’s home where the beatings continued. His employer’s neighbors came out of their homes to join the beatings. Then, through the crowd, he heard his boss’s voice call loudly for a stop to the blood bath.
And the beatings ceased.
His boss called for someone to bring some water to the thief who had wronged him. Imanriho thought he was saved. He struggled to sit up and find the words to apologize to his employer. Then, out of nowhere, one final blow came as his employer screamed in protest. But it was too late. Imanriho was dead.
The next day, Imanriho‘s employer and his sons Henry and Joseph were arrested for a murder they did not commit.
Trapped With No Help or Hope
Henry was a smart African teenage boy working hard in school with dreams of going to university one day to become a doctor. Suddenly, he and his brother found themselves rotting in a Ugandan juvenile detention center, falsely accused of murder and awaiting a day in court. The Ugandan legal system was over-burdened, and it appeared their day would never come.
Their father was confined to the men’s prison, and their mother and siblings were reduced to selling off every piece of livestock they had just trying to survive. Praying for help to a God he believed could hear him, Henry’s faith waned as the months dragged on with no help in sight.
Then his troubles got worse. Henry was implicated in the murder of one of the young men at the detention center. The murder was not his doing, but he could have prevented it.
Just Do It
Jim Gash, an American civil lawyer and professor at Pepperdine University, was living a life in Los Angeles, California many would envy, and he had worked hard to achieve it. His plate was full with work and family, and really, at some level, he already felt fulfilled.
Knowing deep down that everything he had was really a gift from God, Jim was a supporter of missions and an encourager of those called to the mission field, but he always maintained a firm send-him-not-me mentality.
He Didn’t Want to Go
But God had plans for Jim, and those plans solidified after two different speaking events.
The first was at the British House of Lords at Pepperdine where Barronness Cox was speaking to a group of lawyers about mission work. Someone posed a question during the Q&A session: “Isn’t it better to send the money to people who need help rather than waste money on us visiting?”
Jim thought to himself: Oh yeah, what an awesome question and point!
Baroness Cox answered, “Please go. Let those people know that someone else knows them and cares enough to go. You will not be able to turn away. It will make such a difference.”
Her answer struck Jim as he felt God ask, “Do you trust me? Do you love in the way you should?”
Next, Jim was at a National Christian Leaders Association conference. Bob Goff, author of “Love Does,” described the plight of young Ugandans trapped in a juvenile detention center and a legal system offering them no hope of a speedy or fair trial. He begged them to use their legal expertise to make an impact.
“Do you love in the way you should?”
At that point, Jim knew he was done with excuses and decided to live what he believed—not that everything miraculously changed in his heart in one second. Throughout the preparation for his journey to Uganda, Jim kept looking for the off ramp. It never appeared.
On the Other Side of Going
Jim and his buddies were transported to the Ugandan juvenile detention center holding Henry, Joseph and other children awaiting trial. Jim was immediately taken with Henry, the leader of the detention center. And as he went over each child’s case and prepared briefings to be presented to the judge, he came to know Henry and his story more completely.
Jim worked hard to get representation for every child and fought even harder and longer to see Henry freed. His efforts gave Henry’s father freedom, and their family joyfully reunited. It took Jim two years, 17 trips and even moving to Uganda for a while, but the day came when Henry was declared “Not Guilty!” Today, Henry is studying to be a doctor and continues a deep friendship with Jim and his family.
Jim continues to help transform the Ugandan legal system. He and his team of Pepperdine law professors and students have been building relationships and helping reform an overwhelmed and unorganized system. They have have made an impact that far surpasses their wildest dreams when they first started—freeing innocent people and giving criminals their day in court, helping them move on towards reparations and rehabilitation.
Six months ago, Jim was reading a book called “The War of Art” and had an epiphany.
“I realized what I always thought was a fear of failure was actually a fear of success,” Jim explains. “What happens if I take this step of faith and everything changes? I had a great job, great community. I didn’t want anything to change! While I was fearful of going, when I got there, I realized that what was there was actually better. If you feel a call from God, say yes. Because whatever you’ve created for yourself, there is so much more He has to give you—if you just trust Him.”
What About Us?
We are not all lawyers. But this story isn’t really about being a lawyer willing to save the day. It’s just a simple story about obedience.
Obedience isn’t something we like to think about. After all, it’s much more convenient and safe to do our own thing. At least that way, we have some control over the outcome, right?
The truth of the matter is, we all have a mission: telling others about Jesus and meeting the needs of others the best way we can in His name. So what, we’re not lawyers, but we likely do know someone who needs our help. Are we making excuses?
Think about Henry trapped with no hope, praying for someone to come and help him. He may have been struggling with his faith in God, wondering if He even existed. and if He did, wondering if He really cared about Henry’s circumstance.
What if no one came? What excuse would make him understand?
“You can’t do it on your own,” Jim says. “But if you’ll just say ‘Okay, I’ll go,’ your life will change. It will become fuller, more joyous, more adventurous, more exciting and more meaningful than you ever can imagine. ‘Cause God is a Father who has exciting and big things ready and waiting for you. Let’s quit hiding.”