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Now I Am Known: Peter Mutabazi

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November 18, 2022 3:00 am

Now I Am Known: Peter Mutabazi

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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November 18, 2022 3:00 am

On FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson host Peter Mutabazi, author of Now I am Known. Peter continues his story as an African street kid and how God met him in his agony, transforming his identity.

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The examples and the attitude towards me really helped me to see the best in myself and then now I began to excel. Like, if they believe so, then I should get an A, you know? If they believe so, then I should go the next grade.

If they believe so that I'm good, maybe I should go their home and not feel like I have to sit on the exit door. Small by small, those walls began to crumble and then I began to see the best that I didn't know because they showed me what the best is. Welcome to Family Life Today where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Dave Wilson.

And I'm Ann Wilson and you can find us at or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. So every once in a while you come across a story that is so remarkable, you're like, the world just needs to hear it. Today is one of those stories and we started yesterday. And if you didn't hear yesterday, the start, you're going to need to go back and listen.

Yeah, there's no way I can capture it all in one minute or so. But we've got Peter Mutabasi back with us in the studio. Your book is called Now I Am Known and that title carries so much significance now after yesterday's story about how you didn't even have a name on the streets of Africa until you were two years old. But anyway, Peter, welcome back. Thank you.

Truly enjoyed to be back here. The subtitle is How a Street Kid Turned Foster Dad Found Acceptance and True Worth. So right there we're like, street kid, now you're a foster dad. So I don't want to get too far ahead, but literally from the streets till how old? Ten years old. No, ten years old when you ended up on the streets.

Correct. You ran away from home. Yeah, just you mean your dad was abusive. You had to find a new life. Again, that's all we covered all that yesterday to this remarkable moment when a man that you're getting food from who shops at the market, ask your name.

And that man ends up having an incredible impact in your life. So here's where we ended yesterday. He invites you to to school, say you want to go to school and there's three meals a day at that school. So you're like, yes, I'm in. So now you're at the school. At least you're eating. You haven't really gone to school yet, but tell us what happens from there.

You know, so well, yes. So then, you know, as I said yesterday that I figured out that the only way to get this food is to go to class. So I started going to class.

I didn't know, you know, my behavior as a street kid. I mean, they were the opposite of everything you could imagine in a boarding school. But teachers were really kind in some way that what I did or what I said didn't really affect who I was. They still welcomed him in class. Were you suspicious of their kindness?

Oh, yes. I mean, everyone, even kids, when they would ask me, can you come and play soccer with us? I'd be like, what do you want? Because that's what people always did.

If you ask me to do something, that means I got to pay in some way, somehow. So did you push people away or what was your behavior like? Fighting, flight mode and don't get to me, you know, stay away. You know, and I think, you know, as a street kid, I'd been rough in some way. Like you knew how to protect yourself is fight.

Physical is all I knew. So if I can hit you before you respawn, you know, I'm good. And I realized, like, I can't do that in school. You know, but I knew how to keep myself away by keeping them, you know, at distance. Were there any other street kids there or are you alone?

I was the only one. Only one. You know, and here's the thing, I never had a pair of shoes ever until that day he took me to school. So you're 14 years old.

I'm 15 now. 15 with your first pair of shoes. First pair of shoes. I never wear all uniform, so I had to wear uniform.

And here's the other strange part. I only had one pair of clothes. One pair. So now he'd give me a bag of about six pairs of clothes.

So you can imagine that you have these clothes. And I had never slept on a mattress until when I went to the boarding school. When I grew up, we slept on the floor and the oldest, me being the oldest, will sleep at the end.

And the second oldest will sleep at the other end so we can keep the little ones warm. But we didn't have a mattress or a blanket or if we had it in really covers the whole night. So being in school, I was given a bank bed and it was I think their bath bed. And I mean, that threatened me and I was afraid of sleeping like this. So for the first month, I slept on the floor.

And they understood. I was like, I've never slept on a bed and so I'm not comfortable. So they let me sleep on the ground because that's what I knew. To this day, I don't think I can sleep on a bed with a pillow.

I don't know how to use a pillow. To this day? To this day.

Wow. So yes, I was rapping everywhere you could think of. So once I started going to class, you know, I would get F in everything. But once I, you know, I would get a D and then the teachers would say, Peter, that is so awesome that you really did well. Then I'm like, really?

But here's what he did. The man who took me in, he introduced me to his family after I'd been in school for three to four months. And for the very first time now, I began to see what a family is. You know, the first time he invited me to his home, I went and it was lunchtime. It was Sunday. The table set up food. So for me, instead of sitting at the table, I had to look for an exit door because I knew something's about to happen.

And if it's bad, I need to know what's my exit strategy. So I did not sit. I just stood by the door and waited. Did you wonder if he would beat his family?

Well, that's what I was waiting for. For my dad, we always ate before he came home. If he came home before meal, that meant that meal was going to go thrown away or you're going to be beaten with it. We would always eat hiding or make sure that he wasn't there before. So for me to watch a family sit on the dining table and the dad is there.

So I'm kind of waiting. Something bad is about to happen. How many children did they have? They had five and they had maids as well. So they had other families.

So they were about maybe that day, 10 or 12 people. So in my head all was something bad is about to happen. So where's my exit? So I sat there. But then as soon as they started praying, they said, hey, Peter, here's a table for you, a chair for you on the table. And I hesitated. So he said, no, Peter, come on, you're a guest. Have a seat. And that, too, made me really emotional in some way because for the first time, he's here in a strange family and they have a table and a chair for you that you've been invited on a table.

And that really, for me, began to like, OK, OK, this maybe it's true that nothing wrong is going to happen. But two, just began to see what family is because we ate the whole meal. But there was no fights.

There was no one casting the other. They all ate. They smiled and they talked. And I think by the time I went back to school, I was like, I want that family, you know, I want that family. And it's strange sometimes the examples or the things we show that people had never experienced.

You know, I didn't know what family was. And here I was watching it happen. And walking away, I wanted that in my life. Oh, it just reminds me of Jesus has a seat for us at the table. Yes.

And He calls us by name. Yes. You know, you're experiencing a little piece of heaven. Yes.

In small increments that I didn't know. Yeah. They were so strange to you. Yes. Strange in every shape and form you could think of.

They can't be. And so when I left, even I doubted, I was like, it was a show. That was a show for me for just so I can see. But then it happened the next week, the next week, and that's when I began to realize that, okay, these people are kind, that they really love me. And it wasn't the food. It was the chair that they would let me sit on the table. Because all my life, I had to eat it quickly because my dad was going to come home, you know. And then as a street kid, I had to steal it and then eat it quickly before they took it away. And as a street kid too, we were little so the bigger boys would, even if we lost the food, if they came before, they would take it. So I had lived a life of, I got two seconds to have this meal, and I'm not sure I'm going to have it.

And here you're sitting at the table. And not only they give you a meal, they give you a table, a chair to sit and be part of the family. And I think that's really what began to really help me see that I was worthy. It wasn't that they made me, but I was worthy in some way for them all to be.

And I started doing well in school because the teachers said, so if I got a D, they say, oh, that's wonderful, I can get a C maybe, you know. And the more I had words of affirmation, the more I had words of wisdom towards me, the more I began to believe myself. Like, wait a minute, if they believe that I am, then maybe I am, you know. And they used 12 words of affirmation that I memorized to this day, you know. That you belong, you're chosen, you're a gift to us. Like, wait, I'm a gift to you?

Are you sure? Peter, you're chosen to be part of our family. Like, wait a minute, all these years you mean I was chosen to be part of you? And so the more I had these, the more I began, like those wounds began to heal, you know. I'm guessing some of the walls started to come down.

Absolutely. I tried to explain the best way possible. In Uganda, we have a fish called tilapia. And it has scales on it.

In order to eat it, you have to remove the scales in order to have it. And I feel that's what they were doing for me. The wounds, the shame, the abuse that I had had all these years, those words of affirmation, those words that you belong, those invitation you can sit on the table began to take off the shells, the wounds, the walls that I began to really see the best in me. That they saw the best in me when I could not see. And I began to believe that.

I mean, it's such a picture of the Gospel, the kingdom of God inviting us to the table. So you sit there, you eat, you start to excel in school. When did you start to dream?

Oh, well, you know, maybe a year later, you know, when I started to see, you know, I could get a C. Wait a minute. And they could invite me to go stay for the, for holidays for three months. You know, then I began to, because now I had something to dream about. I saw his family. I was like, I would love to have the same family.

I saw how he treated his family. Now I began to say, I want to treat people that way. You know, the teachers, the social workers, all the people at church, they began to see the best in me that I didn't see. Then I began to believe like, maybe there's something good about me, you know. So the examples and the attitude towards people, towards me, really helped me to see the best in myself.

And then now I began to excel. Like, if they believe so, then I should get an A, you know. If they believe so, then I should go to the next grade.

If they believe so that I'm good, maybe I should go to their home and not feel like I have to sit on the exit door. Small by small, those walls began to crumble. And then I began to see the best that I didn't know because they showed me what the best is. And did you end up graduating? Yeah, so I graduated high school and then I got a scholarship to go study at the University of Uganda. So I went to my career university and then I got a scholarship to go study in England. So then I went to England to study and then I went back to Uganda. And then I got another scholarship to come to the United States. So you see how the kindness of one stranger on how truly, you know, have taken me that far.

I can tell you, I am not the smartest guy on the planet, you know. But because they saw the potential, because they believed in me, it really helped me excel. Because I had someone that not only counting on me, but believing that I had everything possible to do what anyone can do as a kid. And I think that's why I excelled in school.

And when did you go back home? So, you know, I loved my mom, you know, so much that I knew she was still going through the same abuse. But I'm the oldest of six boys and one daughter that I wanted to give them the example that had been given.

It's cool when you see what life should be, what dream means, that you want also your family to have the same experience. That I knew I could not take them away from my family. But at least I can show them how far I had gone that they can do the same. Were you nervous? Oh, absolutely. I mean, I was nervous, you know. But I went home more to show my dad, like, you know, you wanted the worst for me, but guess what?

That did not happen. So I went with an ego and attitude, I think. A little chip on your shoulder.

Exactly, like, hey, you thought I'm nothing, but I'm not really nothing in some way. But I think I wanted my mom to know that I was okay and I was comfortable. How did they respond? And how old were you? Where were you in life at that point? This time I'm 18, 19.

Okay. That's when I went home. Someone had seen me on the street, so told my mom that, hey, we saw your son, you know. I think he knew the instinct, you know, she'd instilled in me, you know, principles and values and working hard in some way that I would survive the street life. I think there was something in her that she knew I could, if I could survive my dad's abuse every day, I can survive any street life in some way.

And in some way, she kind of had faith that I'll be okay. So they were a little bit shocked to know that I was just not okay, but I was in school. I was speaking English. I was, I mean, I was, I had clothes. I had aspirations. I was, I had dreams. I was excited about life. You were going to go to college. Had anyone gotten as far as you had, even graduating from high school? No, not anyone in my family at all.

So this is big. Did you ever go back and see the street kids that you lived with? Ah, yes. You know, later, you know, I think I would go visit once in a while. You know, to see how they were doing, but also they realized just we had a different life and different goals in life. You know, every time I went home, you know, to see them, they were thinking about who do we steal or what do we sell?

How do we eat it? Well, for me, now I'm beginning to say, I mean, I want to get an A, you know, I'm not just going to D, I want to excel. And I could see just how far apart we become, but they still cared for me. They still, they were always excited every time they saw me.

And here's what they would always say. They say, they call, so for us, anyone who's doing well, we call them Muzunga. Muzunga means a white person or educated person. So they will say, now you're Muzunga.

Now you're like educated, rich person. So you don't forget us. That's why they always say that that's not for us, but you have it. Please don't forget us when you get back or one day.

That's what they always, they always said. Take us back to when you and your dad met again for the first time. What was he like toward you? You know, the first time I saw my dad, I think he was really ashamed.

I could tell. He didn't say much, you know, and I think for me that told me that the shame and the guilt in some way, you know, that he didn't say much. He didn't want to see me. I never sat with my dad and seen him eye to eye ever.

Never, never in my life had I ever seen across him. But this time I was able to sit across the table and in some way with pride and somehow, hey, man to man, you know, I'm not afraid. You think that really scared him in some way. Did you say that to him? No, I didn't say that. I just said, you know, I'm here.

I'm here for a few days and I'm going back to school. And I think him seeing how far I had gone, seeing the potential that others had seen him, I think brought shame to him. Like, wait a minute, you know. Actually, a few years later, I went back and he calls my adopted family, my dad. He said, you know, Peter, your dad has taught me what a father ought to be.

And I think for me that really helped me to never ask him for forgiveness. Like he was saying it in a way the best he understood, you know, that I wasn't a good dad, neither my good dad, but he's a good example of a dad. And I think he's taught me what a father should treat his kids.

How, you know, a father should see a potential in his kids and how a father should love his kids. You know, he loved me. He was not my dad. He never, he didn't know where I came from. He didn't know what my last name was, but somehow he loved me as though I was his son.

And what about spiritually? What did that look like, that journey to know Jesus? Oh, to know Jesus. So, I had heard the gospel every day.

Of course, living, you know, they were believers, they loved Jesus. So, I had heard it every day. But I think I struggled with, especially the Lord's Prayer, forgive even those who've wronged against us. To me, I was like, come on, we can forgive people, but there are some we should not.

And that includes my dad, you know. I had so much hatred towards him. My plan was to go back home and break his legs. Like I really wanted to put harm on a mark of, here's what you did for me and I can pay back.

So, that's what I really wanted to do. So, for me, the gospel kind of really contradicted what I wanted to do. So, he's forgiven those who've wronged you. He's, no, I hate my dad and I want to harm him. So, I did not become a believer, but I acted like one. But inside I was like, no, I would rather harm my dad than be a believer. So, during the genocide in Rwanda, my dad is from Rwanda and my adopted family or foster family asked me if I could go rescue children in Rwanda.

By then he worked for Compassion International and compassion was really bringing relief to the kids. So, you know, that's how I got my first job. I was like, sure, I can go. And my first day in Rwanda, I saw more than 2,000 dead bodies.

You know, 1920, you get to see that there's no way I thought I could go back, you know. So, what happened was I told the driver, I said, look, I know we're going to die, but I know I'm not going to go to heaven. And he said, Peter, you work for compassion. You go to church, you're a believer.

I said, no, I look like one, I act like one, but I don't know him as my Lord and Savior. I hit my dad with guts that I did not want to know him. And I said, could you pray for me? And so he prayed for me and that's when I became a believer.

Because when I saw the dead bodies, I thought, how could people do that to other human beings? But then I looked in my own heart because that's what I wanted to do to my dad. So, before I can point a finger to these people who had taken lives, that I knew I was capable of doing so. And at that moment, I think I knew I needed Jesus. I needed to let go of the anger. And it made sense now that he died on the cross for me, that that wasn't my job to do.

You know, that wasn't my path to play, that I wanted to do so bad. And as soon as I felt that, I felt like I lost 100 pounds. Like, wow, okay. And that's how I became a believer. Wow, so that forgiveness, like, by giving your life to Jesus. Did that take away the anger toward your dad or what happened? Yes, it took away the anger, you know? Because I, at that moment, I felt like, because he was still ruling my life. He was still governing my life. He was still dictating my life because most of my life was really filled with anger, you know? And by letting go, I felt like now I have my future. Now I can dream those dreams that I began to have without letting my dad, not my dad, but the attitude, the anger towards my dad, ruin that. That I wanted to do the best I can for me and for those ahead of me without my dad in some way taking it. And I knew the only way to do so was to forgive. Not that I was seeking forgiveness from him, but for myself, that I needed to forgive. And also look at my past not as a bad thing, but use it as a foundation to use it to do good.

Here's how. So every time I got in trouble, my first parents would say, Peter, do you know the life of Joseph? And I would say, yes, I know. He said, do you know what Joseph did when he saw his brothers?

I would say they panicked. So what did he do? He said, for what you meant for evil, God used it for good to save lives. And that's how he would always help me.

And in some way I memorized those words he would ask me. And I realized that I needed to use my journey, my life, my past as a way, as a foundation to use it for good, not for bad. I would never wish any child to go through, but I don't think I would want to change my life if I could go back. I think I would let it be what it is because it really helped me understand grace, understand mercy, understand forgiveness, you know, in ways that I don't think I would have understood had I had just an easy life. And your life is remarkable with what you're doing now.

Tell what you're doing now. I mean, this foster dad thing, what is this? Oh, this foster thing. So when I came to United States, I, you know, I learned about foster care and I thought, man, those kids sound like they're me, unloved, unwanted, living from home to home. And I saw myself and I think Luke 12, 48, too much is given, much is required. Like I knew I had been given so much that I wanted to do the same for what someone had done for me. But I had traveled all over the world. I had never seen a black person adopting kids in Ethiopia or in Uganda. They were always, you know, married couple, Caucasian, you know, and I didn't look anything.

So I thought there's no way. So, but I really wanted to do what this man had done for me. And you were living now in the United States. What were you doing? So I was working for Compassion International, you know, so my job was advocating for kids all over the world, but I would go see them in a different country and then come back and sleep in my nice bed, you know, and that really didn't sit well because I felt like there's more I can do, you know, especially for what he'd done for me and knowing the kids in the foster care, knowing the numbers. I was like, I want to do something. So I walked in the foster care and I said, hey, anyway, I can mentor kids, you know, because I knew I'm single.

I didn't mention the other. I was like, I'm not sure you take single men. And the lady said, no, you can be. And I said, where's the paperwork?

Because I want to sign it now before I leave. She gave me the paperwork. Well, four months later, I got my first placement. And I think that really opened the whole dreams that I've always wanted, you know, to change a life for another one in my own family. But I think as a dad, I'd always longed to be a dad.

Like to show my dad maybe what a father ought to be because I didn't have one and I have always longed to be a dad. And I think that gave me an opportunity to be dads to kids who needed a dad, to be dads to kids who grew up like me, to be dads to kids who had the same trauma as a kid that I went through, that I knew I can see from a mile, but at the same time that I was loved unconditionally, that I can do the same for them and for their parents as well. So I voted 12 and number 12 is the one I adopted. And the way I adopted him, it wasn't like I wanted to. So I had two little siblings. They had left for reunification with their parents. And I was beat.

I was like, man, it's really hard to love these kids and let them go. So I needed a break. I said, I'm going to take three months off. So I told my social worker I need a month off, three months off. This is on Monday. On Friday, I get a phone call.

Hey, Peter, is that where you could take in a kid? I said, no, I told you I need three months, you know. But she said, please, this kid is at the hospital and he just needs just a weekend. Please, just a weekend. I said, OK, I don't want to know anything about him because I didn't want to get attached.

So I said, I don't want anything. You better pick him on Monday. So, well, he came at three in the morning. As soon as he walked in. How old was he?

Eleven. So he looks at me. I said, my name is Peter Mutabazi, but it's African.

It's long. Just call me Mr. Peter. And he looks at me with big eyes. But can I call you my dad? Come on.

Yes, Anna. But this is how I replied. Oh, no.

It's not going to happen. Exactly. He looked at me like, what? And then he said, but I was told I'm eleven. Now I can choose who my father should be. And I want you to be my dad. I still said, no, sir, no. And I said, you're leaving on Monday. So there's no need to call me dad.

So this is me. It's funny when when you ask God to give you something and he gives it to you and you say, not today. I mean, this kid is asking for a dad.

I'm just there saying, no. So on Monday they came to pick him up. Since I had signed the paperwork, I was like, now I can know what happened.

So I said, what happened? They said, well, he came to the foster care at one year and a half. He was placed with a family that adopted him at four and that family just dropped him at the hospital.

And they never told him why they didn't want him anymore and why they were giving him back to the state. So this is eleven year old and I'm hearing this story and I'm going back to my own life at ten. And I'm thinking, how?

Who could do that? You adopt a kid for nine years and you wake up one day and drop him at the hospital? I mean, I saw my own life in the flash right there. And I told the social worker, like, look, I think he knew I'll be his dad and he's already called me dad. So just give me the sticky paperwork.

Really? So he gave me papers. I mean, 18 months later, I adopted him as my son.

You know, weird how I didn't know one too. And I was mad and God had prepared a way for me to be his dad. And so since then I've had 24 kids. Well, today or tomorrow I might have 26. But it's truly been a joy.

Right now I have four and we're going through the process of adopting the three. So it's a joy. But I found my calling, like of all things, you know, I found my calling to truly be a dad to the fatherless. Is that your calling?

You're a father to the fatherless? Yes, that's my calling. So it's never going to end. You're going to keep going.

Absolutely. And that's why I wrote that book, you know, to make others known, he made me know. I did not have a name. He made my name known.

I did not have a place to belong. He made me belong. I did not have faith. He helped me know Christ my Lord and Savior.

I never thought of dreaming in any shape or form. But he's helped me dream places I never thought I could be. I was hopeless. He gave me hope. And that's why this book is all about, to truly give hope to others, to make others known. That if I can be the odds of what I went through, anyone can.

You know, anyone can through the kindness of those who love us. But it's on the other side that most people who see me as a dad, they're like, man, you're a good dad. Well, I'm not sure I'm a good dad, but I had someone who showed me what our father ought to be. You know, at a time when I didn't have one, he showed me what our father ought to be. But also we can't just, our past, yes, is ugly to some of us, but we can use it for good.

You know, to not, I could have let my dad ruin my future for the rest of my life. But choosing to say, how do I use my past as a foundation to do better and save others has been the best tool I would say. You know, and I wanted to encourage anyone to say, see your own life and say, how do I use it for good? How do I use it to better myself, but to better others as well? And that's my calling to make others known. 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 pick up a copy at Earlier this week, Dave and Anne talked with Tim Muehlhoff, who wrote a book called Eyes to See about recognizing God's common grace in the world around us. We'd love to send you a copy of it. It's our thanks to you when you partner financially with us. You can give online at or by calling 800-358-6329.

That's 800 F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. You know, and as a listener, we are incredibly thankful for you. We want to make you aware of this upcoming opportunity to walk alongside our mission and participate in the Christmas gift guide. Yes, Christmas.

It's happening. The sale is happening from November 18th today up through the 28th, where you can get up to 60% off on 12 different resources that we've picked out. Things like a Weekend to Remember gift card, the new No Perfect Parents small group course, and actually a book I wrote called Pressure Points, a guide to navigating student stress.

This is a resource that I wrote specifically for college students to help them walk through the unique pressures of living as a student for four years in college. To find out more about the Family Life Christmas gift guide, head over to OK, here's Dave and Anne with a few takeaways from today's conversation. Your story is inspiring, crying through the whole thing practically, and I think that's a great reminder that the Our Father, the God in heaven, calls each of us. I love that you're adopting, you're fostering, and I feel like especially now, maybe it's a time for us to say, God, how do you want to use me and my story and my past pain for your glory? I mean, in some ways, there's going to be hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of babies born in this country that wouldn't have been born, and many of them are going to need homes, and they're going to need people with hearts like yours to say, here I am, Lord, send me. I'll be his dad, I'll be his mom, I'll be fostering or adopting.

Thank you. Next week on Family Life Today, Dave and Anne Wilson talk with Josh and Christy Straub to walk us through how to stay present at home and with your family. No one wakes up and decides, I'm planning to ruin my marriage, neglect my kids, and cause mistrust in my family.

No. Yet our personal pursuits and busyness can lead us there sometimes. The Straubs are going to show how seven core decisions can help us put what's most important center stage in our lives. That's next week. 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 / 2022-11-18 12:01:59 / 2022-11-18 12:16:22 / 14

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