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"Was I just a do-gooder tourist, or was I willing to personally invest in the sixteen-year-old Ugandan prisoner into whose eyes I was looking?" Jim Gash asks himself. The unlikely friendship of Jim and Henry and their unrelenting persistence reforms Uganda's criminal justice system, leaving a lasting impact on hundreds of thousands of lives. Divine Collision attests that relationships can supersede circumstance, culture, and the walls we often hide behind.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Jim Gash graduated first in his law school class at Pepperdine in 1993. Throughout his career he has clerked with a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, worked at one of the top law firms in the country, and served as Pepperdine Law’s Dean of Students. In early 2010, Jim traveled to Uganda for two weeks on a juvenile justice project where he met Henry. Since then, he has returned to Uganda sixteen times. In 2012, he became the Special Advisor to the High Court of Uganda and in 2013 became the first American ever to appear as an attorney in Ugandan Court. Jim is married with three children and lives in Malibu, California.
Read an Excerpt
An African Boy, An American Lawyer, and Their Remarkable Battle for Freedom
By Jim Gash
Worthy Publishing GroupCopyright © 2015 Jim Gash
All rights reserved.
"IS THAT REALLY AFRICA, DAD?" Jessica asked.
My thoughts floated across the water stretching out before us as my family and I stood at the cliff's edge in the early summer of 2008.
"Dad? DAD? Are you even listening to me?" my inquisitive thirteen-year-old daughter, Jessica, persisted.
"What, sweetie?" I said, snapping back into the moment.
"Is ... that ... Africa?" She was pointing at a smudge of brown on the horizon separating the water from the sky.
"Yes, that's Morocco, and that's the Strait of Gibraltar in front of it. We're standing on the southernmost tip of Europe."
"Are we going there?"
"No, sweetie. We're going to drive around Spain for a while before we go to London." We were en route to the UK, where we would live for six months while I worked at Pepperdine's London Program during the summer and fall terms.
My eight-year-old, Jennifer, took off her rainbow-rimmed sunglasses and sighed. "When can we get some ice cream?"
"I want some too," my burr-headed middle child, Joshua, added.
"No, Dad." Jessica stood on her tiptoes until she and her furrowed brow were centered in my field of view. "I mean, are we ever going to Africa?"
"Nope. I have no plans to go to Africa. Ever."
All she got in reply was a shrug. I turned her shoulders around to face the horizon and placed her head under my chin. What would we ever do in Africa?
"Hey, Jim, let me get a photo," my wife, Joline, said as she lined us up against the rail and we squeezed together to fit in the frame of the picture.
This was the only memory of Africa I expected our family ever to share.
Had Joline's camera lens been able to focus over my shoulder on a small village 3,358 miles south of Gibraltar, it would have captured a deceptively innocuous scene — a dusty peasant farmer hiring an itinerant herdsman to tend his nine cows.
* * *
A red sun peeked expectantly over the rolling hills as the herdsman shuffled onto the bustling road. His dew-drenched shirt clung to his stiff back, and his alcohol-soaked head hammered from his three-day binge. He was no stranger to sleeping on the ground, but his aching joints reminded him he wasn't getting any younger.
He pulled a hat over his weathered face and blinked at the red dirt swimming beneath his bare feet. The sputtering cough of a boda boda drew his glance to the driver and then to the middle-aged man seated behind him on the motorcycle. The passenger wore a faded Manchester United T-shirt and a scowl. That isn't him, the herdsman thought. But better to be safe.
He quickened his pace and ambled unsteadily into Hoima's outdoor market, seeking anonymity among the merchants propping up crude wooden stalls and setting out their merchandise — tomatoes, pineapples, secondhand clothing, and other necessities for life in rural East Africa.
Are they still hunting me? the herdsman wondered, carefully avoiding any eye contact. Why didn't I take a bus south to Kampala? They wouldn't have looked for me two hundred kilometers away. Why did I steal from them in the first place? They gave me a job and treated me well.
He cursed himself for squandering the money on alcohol. Now it was too late. I can't even afford a matatu to Masindi!
As he ducked under a yellow Uganda Cranes soccer jersey dangling over the narrow path leading into the market, his stomach growled. He could afford little more than some bread and something to drink while he hid yet another day. More than hunger, though, he felt fear. It wasn't fear of the police; they only cared about more serious crimes. It was the boda drivers.
He shuddered as he remembered the beatings he'd witnessed, and sometimes participated in during his younger days, when thieves were caught red-handed.
"Two chapattis," he said to the woman laboring over an iron skillet.
"One thousand shillings," came the reply in broken English as she slipped the circular pieces of flat bread into a plastic bag.
As he pocketed his change, an unfamiliar voice startled him from behind. "Imanriho?"
The herdsman turned slowly and found himself staring into the eyes of a boda driver twice his size and half his age — the one who had zoomed past minutes earlier.
"My passenger told me you are the thief called Imanriho," the hulking man growled.
He weighed his options. He could run, but with his shaky legs, his odds of escaping were razor thin. He could offer his remaining money as a bribe, but the boda driver would earn that amount on a few fares over the next hour. Or he could play dumb.
"Eh? Who are you looking for?"
"Imanriho — the herdsman who stole money from his employer three days ago."
"That is not me." He shook his head vigorously.
"Then you should not be worried!" The boda driver seized his arm and forcefully escorted him back through the market.
"I am not a thief, I am not a thief!"
His trembling protests drew a crowd, their experience telling them a boda driver dragging a suspected thief meant violence was imminent. By the time captive and captor reached the road, about twenty onlookers had convened, many of whom were also boda drivers. His captor yanked off his hat and turned his chin toward the man in the Manchester United shirt. The man spat. "He is the one. Make him pay."
The first blow landed behind Imanriho's right ear, knocking him to his knees. A kick to his left ribcage emptied his lungs. As he wretched and gasped for air, he felt himself being hoisted onto a motorcycle behind a boda driver. Another man scrambled on behind him, the jeering crowd trailing them as the motorcycle eased out of the market. Imanriho instantly recognized the route — they were heading toward his employer's home.
The crowd's insults gradually intensified into death threats, which sharpened Imanriho's focus. As the motorcycle slowed near a school, Imanriho lunged sideways and escaped while a chorus of female voices pierced the morning air in alarm. Imanriho's adrenaline surged as he darted around trees, vaulted over ditches, and zigzagged between houses like a gazelle being chased by lions. He'd never run so fast.
But it wasn't fast enough.
Imanriho was glancing back at his pursuers when an agile young man leapt from his doorway and sent the escapee sprawling. Before Imanriho could regain his feet, the crowd was upon him, dragging him and showering him with punches and kicks until he'd lost several teeth and could hear only ringing in his ears.
The pain was excruciating. Was this the end?
Through swollen eyes, he saw his employer's neighbors emerging from their shanties. As they joined in the pummeling, Imanriho recognized his boss's deep voice. "Stop! That is enough!"
A moment passed. Then another. No more blows.
"Someone bring my herdsman some water."
Imanriho rolled onto his side and tried to sit up. His mouth fumbled for words of remorse, but only mumbles emerged. He scanned the crowd in vain for his employer's kindhearted wife.
Suddenly a towering figure approached from behind him, blocking out the sun. Imanriho turned and squinted, trying to identify the object the man held above his head.
He heard his employer scream, "Nooo!" as the heavy stone tile crashed down on his skull.
Everything went dark.CHAPTER 2
"THIS IS YOUR NEW HOME. It is called Ihungu. You will stay here until you are released. Understand?"
Henry and Joseph nodded. The woman said she was called Rose, though her stocky figure, wrinkled face, and graying temples suggested her bloom had long since wilted.
"I am in charge, and you will do as I say. Understand?"
The boys nodded again. Henry's joints throbbed from the jarring ride to Ihungu.
"Which of you is called Henry?" Rose snarled, squinting in the fading light of day at a document the Hoima police officer had handed her.
"I am the one," said the older yet smaller of the two. "And this is my brother Joseph."
Rose's unflinching stare bore into Henry until he had to divert his eyes. Henry had honed his submissive posture during his two-month stay in the Hoima jail in the summer of 2008, where he and five other boys had been detained while awaiting word about their court cases.
Both brothers kept their heads bowed until Rose whipped her sharp-tipped umbrella upward toward the truck they'd just arrived on. "What are you waiting for?" Rose shouted to the driver in Swahili. "Leave!"
As the truck drove away, Rose calmed a bit. "This is the custody," she said flatly, pointing her umbrella javelin at the concrete building directly in front of them. "You will stay there with the others."
"Dinner is in one hour," she said, gesturing to her right at a boy inside a detached kitchen structure. He was stirring the contents of a blackened pot on a roaring fire. Two months ago was the last time Henry had cooked directly over a fire. It was the day his world had burst into flames.
* * *
Henry's phone alarm buzzed on his pillow at 5:00 a.m. as usual. He raised his mosquito net in the darkness — taking care not to awaken his younger brothers, Joseph and Herbert, next to him — and felt the dirt floor for his flip-flops. The events of the past three days had replayed in his mind all night long. Trudging out the back door of his family's small concrete dwelling, fifteen-year-old Henry's troubles weighed on him like a lead robe.
"Good morning," Henry said groggily.
His mother knelt on the floor of the detached kitchen and added chunks of wood to a small fire. "Good morning, son." She sat up and studied Henry's expressive eyes. She could see trouble swimming in them this morning. "Are you too tired today? You know you don't need to help me every morning, don't you?"
"I am okay, and two work faster than one. I will have enough time to prepare for school when we finish." Henry lifted a boiling pot of water from the fire.
"Okay, but if this takes away from your studies, you must stop."
He shook a plain white bag of wheat flour into the pot and began the ten- minute mingling process. "I will keep my scholarship if I stay on top. I will not fail to do so."
"Your father and I are so proud of you. We want you to finish secondary school so God can give you opportunities we did not have."
Henry paused his stirring. "Do you still believe that is possible? Even after what has happened?"
"Is that what is bothering you? Always remember, God's plans are better than ours. Even when bad things happen, Henry, things outside our control, God will use them for good."
"Your mother is as wise as she is beautiful." The voice behind Henry was authoritative yet kind. Henry's father ducked under the doorway and set a fresh bag of wood chunks next to the fire.
Henry saw his mother blush and hoped he would someday love his own wife as much as his father loved his mother after twenty-plus years of marriage.
"Your mother and I had to go to work before we completed secondary school. You must finish. Do not worry about the family; God will provide. Just trust in Him and He will make your dream come true."
Henry wanted to believe this — that his dream of being the first in his family to go to university and become a doctor was possible. But he knew only one in twenty Ugandans attend university. His older brother, Kegan, had dropped out of school after Senior Four and now worked cutting hair and burning CDs. His older sister was also trapped in a menial job in Hoima even though she had completed Senior Six. Her national exam scores fell short of those necessary to earn a government scholarship, and the family couldn't afford to pay her university tuition.
Deep down, Henry knew his family couldn't afford to send him to university either. In fact, he feared that if he lost his scholarship, he would have to drop out of secondary school midway through Senior Three.
As Henry stirred the chapatti dough, his memories of three days ago were also stirred.
Henry's phone had vibrated in his pocket during geography class. "Henry, come home right now," his mom had pleaded.
Her desperate tone had set Henry's heart racing. "Is everything okay? Should Joseph come?"
"Leave Joseph. No one is hurt, but I need you." Then the line had suddenly gone dead.
Henry had sprinted the two hundred meters home, where his frazzled mother ushered him into his parents' bedroom. The mattress had been overturned and cast to one side.
"It is gone, Henry. It is all gone!" she had said while sobbing.
Each day his mother made hundreds of chapattis and sold them to local restaurants, and his father cut, folded, and glued rolls of paper into homemade envelopes and sold them to Hoima drugstores for packaging pills. The family's savings were kept under his parents' mattress.
"Who did this?" Henry had asked.
"Imanriho. Your father was in town delivering envelopes, so I asked the herdsman to go buy some new scissors to surprise your father. Imanriho waited in the front room while I went to get the money. We both walked out together, and he started to leave but said he forgot his coat inside. After tending to the chickens, I came inside and found this." She had swept her arm across the scene and said, "We have been saving for two years. It is all gone. All we have now are the animals."
Henry's father had been upset but more concerned with getting back the money than casting blame. Father, son, and some neighbors had fanned out across Hoima to search for Imanriho the rest of that day. After two more days had passed with no sign of him, everyone assumed he had caught a bus to Kampala or a matatu to Masindi.
"It has been three days," Henry's father declared while Henry was packaging chapattis with his mother, jarring him back to the present. "What is gone is gone."
"Everything happens for a reason," Henry's mother said. "In time, God will show us why."
As Henry walked to school, he tried to imagine what good could come from the loss of his family's savings. Though nothing came to him, a faint smile creased Henry's lips as his mother's words echoed in his head. He marveled at her faith and wondered if he would ever trust God as much as she did.
* * *
"What are you waiting for? Into the custody!" Rose snapped at Henry. The memory of his mother's unshakable faith seemed so distant and unattainable now.
The wooden doorway to the custody was centered on the shorter side of a rectangular, V-roofed building. Carved into the concrete above the door was "1962." Henry surmised this was when the custody was built — the same year Uganda gained its independence from Great Britain.
Behind him were rows of corn and a mango tree. To his right were two more buildings, both much smaller than the custody, with more corn and another mango tree beyond them — but surprisingly, no fence in sight. The boy Rose had pointed out earlier was cooking something in the smaller building on the far right. A rusting drum of water sat in front of the other building.
As Henry and Joseph approached the custody, a hand plunged through a rectangular hole in the door and deftly removed a golden padlock. The door slowly opened inward. Henry's heart thundered as he and Joseph nervously ascended the three steps into the dark entrance.
Rose watched the door close behind them with satisfaction. Ihungu's warden allotted her a monthly food allowance based on the number of inmates. More inmates meant more money. Because the corn grown on Ihungu's ten acres produced more flour than the inmates needed, Rose could "redirect" the portion of the allowance otherwise allocated to corn flour.
She walked up the crumbling steps of the U-shaped building next to the custody and opened the door, dropping Henry's and Joseph's court documents onto the disorganized pile of papers between sacks of beans, corn flour, and cassava on one side, and stacks of hoes, shovels, and machetes on the other. Heaped in one corner of this storeroom was a mound of T-shirts and flip-flops.
As she closed the door behind her, she yelled, "Two more bowls — twenty-one to feed tonight! Smaller portions for everyone."
"Yes, ma'am," replied the shirtless, shoeless boy in the kitchen. He knew this actually meant twenty smaller portions for the juveniles and one large portion for Rose. He'd been warned not to talk back to her ... and not to get between her and food.
Sweat streaked his face and smoke clouded his eyes as he gingerly slid another piece of firewood between two stone supports. Recalling his own arrival at Ihungu a month ago, he hoped the two new boys wouldn't make the same mistake he'd made by resisting what was about to happen.
Excerpted from Divine Collision by Jim Gash. Copyright © 2015 Jim Gash. Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Bob GofF ix
Chapter 1 The Catalyst 3
Chapter 2 Ihungu 9
Chapter 3 The Government 19
Chapter 4 Life at Ihungu 31
Chapter 5 Mzungus 41
Chapter 6 Death at Ihungu 43
Chapter 7 Love Does 53
Chapter 8 Throwing Starfish 63
Chapter 9 You Are Welcome 71
Chapter 10 Return of the Mzungus 81
Chapter 11 Round Two 91
Chapter 12 Hat Trick 99
Chapter 13 Departure 105
Chapter 14 Waiting for Justice 115
Chapter 15 Trials 127
Chapter 16 The Verdict 145
Chapter 17 Back into the Bush 155
Chapter 18 Crossroads 167
Chapter 19 The Plea 191
Chapter 20 Guideposts 203
Chapter 21 Surprises 217
Chapter 22 New Beginnings 233
Chapter 23 Full Circle 251
Chapter 24 Appeals 263
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a book to pick up when you have time to read it from cover-to-cover. Jim Gash is a Californian law professor who went to Uganda, East Africa. He did not know what would be facing him there or what he would be asked to do. This is an honest, up-front telling of the pros and cons of Uganda from this man's eyes. He saw how the criminal court system left a lot to be desired, yet he still developed a deep care for the country and the culture. Divine Collision does not hold back when talking about the country but shows the reader how to see God love everywhere and to not be afraid to accept God's challenges. I was given this book by Worthy Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
This is a fabulous story of how God works if we let Him. Even after following Jim's blog all these years, and knowing the family, I couldn't wait to read this. Jim is a great writer. I really enjoyed reading Henry's words. This is definitely a "must read" book.
Many of us have read and are inspired by the story of the starfish. In Divine Collision, Jim Gash, like the boy is called to find and save a starfish, Henry. In the end, after reading this book that you will not be able to put down, you may find that you are the starfish. It will not only be the best book you will read in 2016, it will be one of the best books read in your lifetime. An extremely well written story of two lives divinely entwined, will capture your heart from the beginning and will inspire you too to live a life of significance. I wept as I read. I am changed. Thank you Dean Gash and Henry for sharing your story with us.