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My Story: Peter Mutabazi

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
November 17, 2022 3:00 am

My Story: Peter Mutabazi

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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November 17, 2022 3:00 am

After a childhood of abuse, Peter Mutabazi ran away from home to survive by theft on the streets of Kampala, Uganda. Then one day, someone asked his name. Today on FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson hear his story.

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Listen to Peter Mutabazi's Podcast, Fosterdad Flipper

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Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

I think for all these years, I had thought I was less of a human being because I didn't have a name. I wasn't referred to as a human being. You know, we refer to people by their names. I know Anne because she's called Anne, you know, but for all those years, no one, no one ever took the initiative in some way to say he's a human being. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Anne Wilson and I'm Dave Wilson and you can find us at or on our Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. So I think every young boy and girl goes on a journey to find out who they are. You know, my dad walked out of my life when I was seven years old. I didn't realize in that moment, but I would spend the next 20 years trying to discover who am I?

I didn't have that foundation. Yeah, I think every person has that journey. And I thought my journey was remarkable. We've got a guy in the studio today. You talk about a remarkable journey and story of finding identity. Didn't you feel like you were like watching a movie? Yeah, just reading his book.

Yes, it's amazing. Let me see if I can say his name right. Peter Mutabazi.

No? Yes, no, you got it right. Mutabazi. I mean, I wanted to get the accent right. No, you didn't get that part right. When you just said it a minute ago, I was like, I'll never be able to say it as cool as you just did. Peter Mutabazi? Yes, you said it right.

Peter Mutabazi. Well, your story, and it's in your book, we have sitting right here, Now I Am Known How a Street Kid Turned Foster Dad Found Acceptance and True Worth. So I am so excited for our listeners to hear your story. But you've never been here, so welcome to Family Life today. Thank you. It's a beautiful facility and beautiful people. So kind that they will come to us and show us around. So we love this place.

And we had a pretty good meal. Yes. Oh, yes. So tell the world what you do. And of course, we want to get your story, but you're an entrepreneur. You've got all kinds of things going on. I've already mentioned in your subtitle that you're a foster dad, but don't go there yet.

Okay. Start at the beginning. Tell us where your life all began. Oh, my life, where it began. I might need about a week to finish that, to go through my life, you know. But really, I come from a small little town or small village called Kabale.

It's at the border of Uganda and Rwanda. You know, during my time when I was born, life was different. You know, life was miserable in every shape, form you could imagine. Actually, I did not have a name until when I was two years old. Reasons are because for every 100 children were born, 60 would die before the age of two. So moms were afraid to give kids names because they weren't sure they will make it. So once I made it at two, my mom named me Habia Almana, which means a gift given to me by God.

So that's what it means. So that's the kind of the world that I come from, that from birth, you didn't know you make it, you know. I mean, did you, do you remember not having a name or you're too young? I was too young.

I don't remember. But you were told they waited till you were two years old. Two years old, you know, and people ask me, so what did they call you? Well, I was called the boy, you know, the boy. And because I was the oldest boy and that's how long it took for me to get a name, you know. So you can imagine for every mother in that community, for every mother in that village to not, you know, to have a, to be pregnant. But you can't tell people because you're not sure. Will they survive?

Will they make it? And that was me. And then, of course, I think I began to realize that life was different at the age of three, four. Because at three and four, I would go fetch water about three miles away.

You know, think about it. At four years old, with the other four little year olds and five year olds, you trek through the village to go get water because your family didn't have clean water. No other adults went with you?

Well, most of them, they were also doing something else. My mom would be in the garden. She wouldn't come, you know, she's digging in the garden to produce food so she can feed us. And what would you carry it in? In a jerry can. You know, it's a little small, like a one gallon jerry can.

You know, we call them plastic. That's heavy. It's very heavy. For a four year old.

Yes, it is heavy. And where was your dad? And you're walking how far? Two miles? Three miles away.

Look at us asking all these questions on top of each other. Three miles away. Three miles there and then three miles back.

Three miles back, yeah. Six mile walk in bare feet? Bare feet. No shoes, nothing, you know. And you did this every day, you know.

So think about, like, I never had a childhood because your childhood was spent looking for those small family needs that you had to meet at the age of four. So I'd go get water. And that was for drinking. Was it clean water? It was clean water because when we've been in Africa and helping dig wells, often they would go and get dirty water, diseased water. Yes, but this wasn't clean. But it was in a level of cleanness. Clean enough. It was clean enough to drink because it was coming through the streams on top of the mountains. So that meant it had less bacteria. So that's what we'd drink.

But then the rest would, you know, to use for our clothes or washing utensils, would use water that animals drink from, cows and anything else. You know, so at the age of four, I could do all that. But also my dad wasn't there because sometimes I think in some tribes, you know, men don't get to participate in today's life of our family. Or he was working somewhere else or he wasn't at home in so many ways. So my life as a kid, you know, that's all I can remember, just misery. When it came to food, we never had enough food to eat, you know. We could not have beans and potatoes because that was too much food.

We would eat beans today and then eat potatoes the next day so we can spread the little we have for a little longer. So that was really my life. I had my mom and my dad, but they never told me to dream. No one ever said, Peter, one day you be a teacher or dream to be something because there was nothing around us that really gave us the glimpse of hope. You were just surviving every day.

Absolutely. But if your mom, if you're a mother and you can't feed your child for a day, how do you tell them to dream? You know, how do you tell them there's a future for you when you can't see it for yourself, but neither can you see it for anyone else? And it wasn't just my family. It was everyone around you, you know, so you're surrounded by hopelessness.

But all you think is that is there's nothing else you could imagine. Did you go to school? Well, at this point, no, I did not go to school, you know, because I needed to help family.

But also they could not afford $5 to send me to school. So I had to work and help family at the age of four. Then at four, you know, I think at age four, that's when you begin to realize, you know, my dad is different from other dads.

You know, I would visit other families. Then I would see that their dads are different from my dad. And he's the reason why my dad was the meanest human being that I knew. My dad was mean in every shape, form you could think of. Towards me as a son, but also to my mother as well.

So I saw the worst rage you could think of. You know, as kids, we work so hard to please our parents. You know, you go fetch water, you bring in any hope. Your dad is going to say, that was good job. For me, I never had one kind word from my dad.

This is what I had from my dad every day. You'll never amount to anything. You're good for nothing.

You're stupid. There's no hope for you. And I wish you were never born.

So I never had to feed you. Peter, like those are just death words. Curse words.

Exactly. Every day. Every day. You say that to your siblings too?

And to my mother as well. Every day. Every day. So think about you're the age of four and that's all you hear from your father. How do you dream? How do you hope there's tomorrow for you when someone says, I wish you were never born so I don't have to feed you? So that meant the food we had sometimes was at his mercy.

He chooses to buy that food. So as a kid, there's no way I could hope. There's no way I could dream to have tomorrow. Because today was worse enough that I did not want to go through it the next day. But you knew it's going to be the next day, the next week. Every single day.

Just repeat, repeat, repeat. So you must have thought nothing of yourself. I think in my head too, I trained myself to not even be hopeful.

You didn't want to dream or think about that there could be a better life for you. For me, no. Not at all. Was your mom loving?

Yes. Mom was the most loving human being that I know. She did the best she could.

But when you're getting abused every day but your mom gets the same thing, it's hard to protect your little ones when you cannot protect yourself. To this day, I can remember that our mom spent more time in our room because she was hiding from my dad. So I know that she loved us.

I know that she did everything she could so we could make it in life. When I started school, so every time I needed a book, I could not ask my dad. I could not go to my dad and say, can I have a book? But I would go to my mom and say, hey mom, the book ran out, is there where I could have another one? And my mom would go, but she would be the one to get the beatings first because I asked the book. Or because I asked the notebook.

So he would beat her for that? Because she would get you a book. Because she would get me a book. Or she would ask on my behalf to get a book. So she would get the abuse on my behalf. So I know she loved me in every shape and form you can imagine. But at the same time, I think as the oldest kids who go through that, we want to protect our mothers.

But we're too tiny or too small to do so. Sometimes I think I took the guilt on me. Like maybe had I not asked the food, she would not have done that.

Had I not asked for a book, she would not have gotten those beatings in some way that as a kid you just didn't know what to do. And with my dad's anger, you just didn't know when, what time. It was any time, any day. What did you feel about him? Did you hate him? Did you resent him? Or was that just normal because you knew nothing different? No, I hated him. But I think as a little boy, what do you do? To me, he seemed like a giant in every shape and form. And there was nothing I can do.

But I hated him in every shape and form you could imagine. So that was what age? Four or five. Four or five.

Four or five. So what happened? I mean, it sounds like this is a horrible story that's never going to get any better.

Oh, no, you know. And of course, I think as we get older, we get to understand abuse even deeper. So as I got eight, as I got nine, I understood that, hey, this man is likely to take my life one day. And you're just waiting.

When would that happen? But at ten, one day I think I woke up and I said, look, to give my dad an opportunity to kill me is not fair to me. That I would rather give it to someone else. You know, to me it was I would rather die in the hands of another stranger than my own dad. Because giving him the opportunity to kill me, I didn't want him to cry over my dead body in my head. As a ten-year-old, that's what I thought. Ten years old.

You know, to let my dad kill me is giving him joy. So I am not going to do that. So one day I woke up and I went to the bus station. I had never been 20 miles away from my village. And I went to the bus station and I asked the lady, I said, which bus goes the farthest?

This is like three in the morning. Did you walk to the bus station? Yes, I walked to the bus station. It was about four or five miles away. And I asked the lady which one.

And the reason why I asked which one, I wanted to make sure that I go as far as I could. That he could never get to me. Did you have money? Yes, I had some money. As a little kid, I think I've always been really, you know, an entrepreneur in some way. So I had money and I always kept it in my short term. How did you make your money? Well, sometimes I would sell nuts.

You know, small little nuts. Or sugar cane. That's what I would sell. But I would keep it. I've always been frugal. So I would keep it just one day if I need it, I can use it.

Or if one day my mom needs it, I can give it to my mom. So that's how I had that money. So when I went to the bus station, I had enough for one ticket one way. You know, so I got on that bus and I ran and I can remember I had never been that far.

And I was so worried that my dad wasn't going to come. So every car that passed by, I would hold on that bus so hard and hide under the chair. But also every time the bus stopped, I would try to stop it. You know, as a 10 year old, I thought I had the strength to stop the bus.

So I was trying so hard. But of course it stopped. But along the way it took about 16 hours and I ended up in Kampala. But every moment took that long. But every hour I always thought, he's right here and he's going to find me.

And he's going to kill me. But I made it to Kampala. So you're 16 hours away. 16 hours away.

500 miles away. And you're still thinking he's going to find you. Yes. That's the fear.

When our abusers instill that in our mind and body that even when they're not there, we still think. Did your mom know you were going to leave? No. I did not tell anyone. I'm so sorry. I'm thinking about how many years of fear and dread you would wake up with. Like that's so sad.

You know, I'm sorry that you went through that. So now you've run away. You're in a new city you've never been to before. 10 years old. How are you going to survive? And I don't speak the language.

They speak a different language, you know? So I'm in this city. But, you know, where the bus stops.

In Africa, the bus stops all stop in one spot. So you have hundreds of people. So I saw other kids who looked like me. They were cleaning up.

They were gathering things. So I thought, you know, it's better maybe to introduce myself or get to know these people. And one of them, for some reason, he saw me and he just said, hey, come over.

You know, hang out with us. And right there and then I knew I had found family, you know? They were dirty. They spoke different languages.

But we would communicate in some ways. Did they have parents? No, they were also street kids, you know? And that's when I realized that, oh, OK, my life is going to be a street kid. And that's when I became a street kid. But it was better than your beatings? Oh, I mean, it was hard and harsher at home. I was dreaming of, you know, having another day on the streets. You know, you're dreaming, well, I have a next hour because you had to survive hour by hour that you didn't know what was coming. And you were sleeping under cars.

Under the bridges. But it was better because there were strangers who were abusing us. They were not my family, you know? So I think that was the difference, getting abused from someone I didn't know.

It was acceptable in some way than my own father in a way. And that's how I made it on the streets of Kampala. So what happens? I mean, here we are. You're on the streets.

You're 10 years old. There's still evil going on in your life. Absolutely, yeah. So on the streets, I think this time I had resigned on life.

Like in some way, like if I die today, I don't care, you know? But as street kids, we learned how to survive. We knew to be productive. We knew how to really make ourselves useful in some way. And our job was to always help people who needed help or who were lifting things that were heavy, especially food, because it was easier to steal a banana and a potato while you're helping someone than take it. So they knew, hey, I'll give you cheap labor. I get a reward.

But if you're not rewarding me, I'll reward myself. I'm going to steal one. And that's how we survived by really stealing.

And we had a system. I steal bananas. The next street kid steals potatoes.

The next one steals yam or the other one cassava. So at the end of the day, we would have enough food to eat under the bridge. You know, we would not take food to cook.

Only food we can roast because it would burn trash. And in that way, that's how we make our meals at night. And that became my life. So I'd been on the streets for one year and a half.

And on the streets, you know, I think I was seen more like stray animals. You know, I was garbage boy. No one ever called me by name ever. No one for four and a half years I lived on the streets. No one ever asked me, what's your name? Never.

Never. I was a garbage boy. I was a good for nothing boy. I was a dog.

That's how they refer to us most of the time. And that was my life. But I believed it because I smelled like an animal. I behaved I ate in the same garbage as the dogs did. Sometimes would, you know, would get there before the dogs get it.

Because we wanted that meal, you know, fighting with stray dogs. So for all those names, I think I believed it. That that's who I was in a sense. You know, for four and a half years, yes, life was just miserable every day. I think I slept on average an hour every 24 hours.

Why? Because it was safer to be awake than be asleep. So most kids would die while they're sleeping. If you sleep under the car, if they drive away and you're under, then it's the end of your life. If someone is to harm you was always if you're sleeping.

Or sometimes people would pour acid or fire or any thing that was on fire, they would, you know, throw it on you. So in order to be safe from it, you had to be alert at all times. So that was really my life to be alert and sleep in just an hour. That's all you could have. So here you are, 14 and a half years old. No one calls you by name.

You're surviving one day at a time, not even sleeping. And then what happened? So one day I get to see one gentleman wearing glasses, khaki and spoken English. And as a street kid, I was like, that is my target. So I was like, I'm getting food, either he wants or not. Could you speak any English? Yes, I could.

You know, as street kids, we learned how to learn other languages and English was one of them. So I follow him as he buys bananas. So as soon as he bolts, I say, can I carry this to your car? He said, stop. He said, what is your name? So that rattled me like, wait a minute, you want to know my name? Why would you want to know my name?

Because for all these years, no one had ever asked me my name. But also it scared me because for anyone who was kind, always it came with abuse after. So in some way, him asking me my name made me more alert, more danger, danger, run, run, run. But before I could take it, he gave me something to eat, you know, and he left.

And so he came back and next week he did the same. And I think for me, what made me even always look for him or anticipate his coming was because he called me by my name. You remembered your name? Yes, and it was the only thing that really I looked towards for every Monday that he's a stranger that would call me by my name because, you know, for all these years, no one called me by my name. What did that mean to you? You're somebody?

I don't know how to explain that. You know, when all life has been stripped of you and in the midst of that, someone calls you by your name. I think for all these years I had thought I was less of a human being because I didn't have a name or I wasn't referred to as a human being. You know, we refer to people by their names. I know Anne because she's called Anne, you know.

I was called Peter and that's all I was known about for all those years. No one, no one ever took the initiative in some way to say he's a human being. To acknowledge you as a human being?

As a human being. Yeah. So, that's all I looked for on every Monday between six and eight in the evening for someone to say, hey, Peter, that's all. You have dignity. Yeah. I see you. All that and a name. And a name.

Wow. Which makes me, I know this is, it makes me think of people that are living on the streets who we don't look at them and we don't acknowledge them. We pretend that they're invisible in some ways and you probably felt invisible in a lot of ways. And I can guarantee you for any of that street person, if you ever say, say, what's your name? See the reaction they'll give you because no one ever.

I'm going to do that. Barters to ask them their name, you know. What's your name? So, this man ends up, what happened? So, he feeds me for one year and a half because he, you know, I think the fourth week I kind of knew where he drives, what car he drives, when he packs his car, what time he comes, what he buys. Like, I knew to the T what he does.

So, I'll be waiting every Monday. So, he fed me for one year and a half. Did he do that with many of your friends or just you? It was me, but he would give me enough to share. What did he give you? He'd give me bananas or he'd give me cooked rice or he would give me roasted cassava, it's an African root that we love to eat, you know. Or he'd give me nuts, you know, roasted g-nuts.

We call them groundnuts. That's what he would give me every time he came. And so, he did that for a year and a half. And one day, I don't know, we were sitting and just waiting for him to give me something. He said like, hey, Peter, if you have an opportunity to go to school, would you love to go, would you like to go to school? You know, and I'm sitting there laughing like, what an idiot, sorry to say that, but I'm kind of like, I'm a street kid. Like, what would you think of that?

Like, why would you? Have you spent ever one day in school? Yes, I had gone through school between six and nine. So, I had gone to school on and off. You know, every time my mom could afford that $5, I would go for a semester. Think about when you've been reduced to nothing to below humanity, and someone offers you a school, it's beyond what, you know, in my mind, it was more of like, wait a minute. To Americans, it's what I would say.

I would say, both of you, would you like to go to the moon? Because they're about to send people to, would you like to go? But you're laughing, do you know why? It's not gonna happen.

It's not like it's not gonna happen. It's not something you go to bed dreaming about, you know? You don't work for NASA, you're not into space. So, in some way, when he said, would you love to go to school, that's when I was like, that's for human beings who have a place to be, who dream. I am not that kind, you know? So, I did not pay attention, but he asked several times. So, finally I said, you know what? I'm gonna say yes, so he never have to ask me again.

You know? Just stop it right there, yeah. But also, I think I didn't want him to stop his food he was giving me, so I was like, what can I say?

They would love to hear. So, I still get my food and get him off my back. So, I said yes, absolutely.

And so, he said, okay. So, he came back and a week later, he brought me clothes, but he made a mistake. He asked me to go take a shower. As a street kid, I didn't bathe. I mean, I waited for God's rain to come.

That's when I would shower. So, for him saying, go clean up, to me, I felt like he was being arrogant. Like, don't you know where?

Like, where would I go? So, I said, no. So, he came back two weeks later. He said, go clean up. Clean up was, and I understood what that meant, because I can go wash my face and come back.

So, I went to the sewer, clean my face, and came back. And he gave me clothes to wear, and he took me to school. But before he took me to school, he said, hey, when we go to school, it's a boarding school, and you're going to have lunch, dinner, and breakfast.

I mean, literally, I was like, that can't be true. How many meals were you eating a day? I mean, we ate when we could at three in the morning. It was rare to have a real meal. It was more of, how do I survive?

If someone was lucky, I would give it to you, and you get to share with your other. So, it wasn't something you count on. At this point, did you know this man's name? Did you know anything about him?

No, I did not want to know his name. Yeah. Still suspicious?

Suspicious. You're kind, so you're going to hurt me. So, I'm going to stay as far as I could. But towards school, I kind of knew his name. So then, once he mentioned food, I was like, okay, okay. I think from then, I didn't really think about school. I was about food.

That can't be true. Food, food. And finally, he came and took me to school. And as we drove, I asked him, why me?

Like, there are more than 2,000 kids in the streets of Kampala. Why me? And he said, Peter, I just want to be faithful. But I did not understand what that meant. I want to be faithful. Okay.

You know? And so we went, and it was lunchtime. So they gave me lunch. So then I waited for dinner, because he had said there'd be dinner. So it was more like two years like, that can't be true. Can't be.

Is this real? So then I waited for dinner, and dinner came. But before I left the streets, I told my street kids like, hey, if you don't see me in the next 24 hours, make sure you kill him or you do something harmful.

Because I thought he's going to do something bad. Right, right. So I made sure that I left backup somehow. Yeah. To even get in a man's car. Yes. To drive, that's dangerous.

Absolutely. So I had to come back that night. But this is like 15 miles away. So I had to walk back at night to let them know that I was okay. Because they would have harmed him if I did not come. They were your family.

Exactly. But then they said there was the breakfast, so I went back. So I drove, you know, I got back on my walk.

I don't know how long it took. You know, and actually when I arrived, it was breakfast. They were going for breakfast. So then I went in, I waited for breakfast. So in the process of waiting for next meal, next meal is what made me stay longer. It wasn't like I wanted to be a teacher. It wasn't like I loved school. To me, the process of waiting for the meal is what made me stay one day, two day, three day a week.

Then the second week, that's when I thought, wait a minute. For me to keep getting the food, I need to go to class. So now I knew the trick wasn't like I wanted to learn. No, it was if I need to keep this process of getting food, there's something I have to give in that I don't like. And that's meaning to attend class.

So that's how I managed to go to school. We'll hear a few takeaways from Dave and Anne in just a minute. But first, Peter's book is called Now I am Known. How a street kid turned foster dad found acceptance and true worth.

You can get a copy at Peter's story today brings our hearts back to our mission for godly families. As our valued listeners, you are the backbone of our mission. Just wanted to remind you, when you join us financially as a monthly partner, you can explore all the subjects we talk about here on Family Life Today.

You can live on mission with early access to new products, special live events, resources to share, as well as membership in our exclusive social media groups. You can partner financially online at or by calling 800-358-6329. That's 800 F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And when you do give today, we want to send you a copy of Tim Yulehoff's book Eyes to See. Tim was a guest earlier this week on Family Life Today. It's our thanks to you when you partner financially with us today.

Again, you can find us at Okay, here's Dave and Anne with a few takeaways from today's conversation. There's so much more to the story, man.

We're out of time, so you got to come back tomorrow and listen to the rest of the story. Here's one takeaway for me, the power of a name. The power of a name. You teared up, we teared up when you talked about him saying your name, and it's just so, it's our identity.

It says we have dignity when somebody says our name. And I would say, too, that I'm listening to this thinking like, oh, Jesus already knew your name. He had already called you and he had put people in your path because he had a hope and a future for you. And he has that for all of us. For one person that he doesn't know by name and love them and have something for them. Now, tomorrow on Family Life Today, Dave and Anne Wilson continue the story with Peter Mutabatsy about how the true power of turning his life around was found through being affirmed by those around him. If he didn't have his new family, Peter would never have considered going to school or even living more than a street kid life. That's tomorrow. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-17 07:40:34 / 2022-11-17 07:54:56 / 14

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