David Musisi: Turning to a Higher Power for Help
by Craig Murphy
Shortly after seeing his brother executed in 1977, Fuller alumnus David Musisi (M.A.T., 1988) knew what he wanted to do: spread God's Word.
Musisi, along with wife, Salome, started Uganda Missions in 1981. In addition, he formed EARADS (East African Relief & Development Society). EARADS provides food and clothing to the needy and teaches job skills to the poor. In the past few years, the outreach has also extended to caring for many orphaned children under its Project Haven program. Project Haven has the goal of being a self-sufficient orphanage for 500 children with a school, clinic, church, and homes clustered together.
Escaping to New Dreams
During the reign of dictator Idi Amin in Uganda, Musisi's brother was second in command in the Uganda Air Force, and led a group to overthrow the government. "He was arrested before anything could happen," Musisi recalled. "I also became a suspect by relation. I was forced to leave Uganda for my life, so I walked for 41 days.
"I believe that's when Uganda Missions started. Strangers took me in and gave me whatever supplies they could. There was a reward on my head. If I was to be found with one of those families, they would have been hung as well. They took risks to save my life. They gave everything they could to save my life. I kept promising myself, 'If I make it out, one day I will come back and help them.'"
Musisi escaped to Kenya, where he was taken in by a pastor. Musisi was with the pastor when he saw his brother on the Kenyan news. "They killed 15 people that day, including my brother," said Musisi, who was 20 at the time. "He had gone from 200 pounds to 100 pounds in three months of incarceration. Just looking at him, you could see the pain he had been through. He had been through hell.
"I had a feeling of sadness and regret. I grew up so much wanting to be like him. He had been a pilot; I wanted to be one of those pilots. I had looked up to him so much. I really looked at him like he was the perfect person. When I became a man, I wanted to be like him. When someone like that is taken out of your life, someone you think is invincible, it crushes you. When I saw what happened, it crushed my dreams.
"In a different place, I would have probably committed suicide," Musisi continued. "But I was with the pastor. He turned off the TV and gave me a hug. That hug was very reassuring, because it gave me hope to continue. When someone is still in jail, you still have hope. When you realize he's dead, there is no more hope for that person. That was the turning point for me. I gave my life over to Christ about a week after that.
"I had to find new dreams, since my old dreams were ashes. At that time, I didn't know I could be what I am today. But this pastor knew if he kept me busy, it would help me to move forward. He sent me out with the church's evangelistic team, having me hand out sandwiches to homeless people. We would find people living in cardboard boxes. I thought I was in a bad situation, then I saw those people and realized I wasn't in that bad of a situation. I realized not everything was lost."
From Rebel to Church Leader
In 1979, Musisi fought in the war to overthrow Amin, after going through training as a rebel. "Thank God I survived," Musisi said. "I was in a unit of 120, and 15 of us survived. God kept himself around me."
Musisi met his wife shortly after the war, later in 1979. "Right after the war, I was ready for a break," he said. "I had seen a lot of horrible, horrible things people did to one another. I saw a lot of death. I couldn't sleep some nights when I went to bed. My wife really helped me overcome that. I needed someone to bring me back to that feeling of innocence I had when I was a new Christian. I met my wife, who was in the choir of a Presbyterian Church."
Musisi and Salome returned to Uganda and started a Bible study group in their home. That grew into a church, which later become known as Uganda Mission.
To prepare himself for church leadership and the training of pastors, Musisi came to America. He graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1988.
A Haven for Orphans
Since 1981, Musisi's mission focus has expanded to include 42 churches. Among David's many roles today, he is a shepherd, mentor, and encourager to the pastors; but he didn't limit his ministry to the spiritual needs of his people! David was deeply touched by the generosity of the poor villagers to whom he literally owed his life, and was faithful to his commitment to himself that if he survived, he would one day come back and help them.
Musisi returned to Uganda in 1989 and noticed changes. "There was no order, and a lot of fighting," he said. "Thugs would come and take whatever they wanted. It was a very dangerous time. I realized it wasn't safe. The plan didn't quite fit together." In 1990, Musisi, his wife, and four children returned to California, where he continues to oversee his Ugandan ministries from Simi Valley.
"In Uganda, a church cannot just be a church," Musisi said. "It takes on a different meaning to society -- the church is everything. We started having lots of problems with people dying left and right from AIDS. It was still an unknown thing at the time."
The number of people dying from AIDS left a huge number of orphans with no place to go. "The Lord provided when we were trying to figure out how to take care of the families," Musisi said. "My wife's grandfather was in his 90s, and he had a lot of land. He wanted the land donated to the Lord. So he donated 100 acres for what became Project Haven. I looked at it as a miracle. The Lord was providing as we were praying."
Project Haven is designed to support 480 children. Homes will have 10 children, with four homes in a cluster. There will be a total of 12 clusters. Plans also include putting in a church, a clinic, and a school.
One of the American churches supporting Musisi's orphanage is Montesano Presbyterian Church in Montesano, Washington. Pastor Steven Fischback is impressed with the Musisi. "That is a wonderful conversion," Fischback said of what Musisi has gone through. "Obviously, your heart would be consumed with hatred towards those who killed your brother. To instead embrace the people there is a great thing. He felt obligated to those people who helped hide him."
"I have had people ask why we generate money for something so far away," Fischback added. "As Christians, it reflects the global nature and reach of the gospel. In our own country we have so much in terms of networking. Across the world, there is nothing. Money goes so much further in other places."
This article is reprinted with permission from The Vidette. Craig Murphy is associate editor of The Vidette in Montesano, Washington.