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by Dan Holcomb

Building a connection over the years made for a meaningful reunion between our Lahash Executive Director and a young man named Nizigama in Tanzania, and set the stage for Nizigama to share more of his story with all of us.

In a small building down a dusty and bumpy road on the outskirts of Dodoma, Tanzania, the music was pumping. Brightly colored outfits adorned an energetic and sweating group of worshippers, echoing a Swahili refrain over and over again. 

You are able! You are able! Receive our praise forever more!

Grateful for this long-awaited chance to worship God with our Tanzanian brothers and sisters, my family joyfully joined in the dancing and singing as the walls and roof shook with the praises. 

You are able! You are able! Receive our praise forever more!

Leading worship at the front of the church was a kind yet serious young man named Nizigama. Our family had traveled many miles to come hear his story.

Enduring Hardship & Finding Hope

I knew that Nizigama’s life was one marked by tragedy and suffering, as are the lives of nearly all the kids in our Lahash programs. But I didn’t know his history very well, so I was eager to hear more about the specific events that shaped this amazing young man I have come to regard as a dear friend.  

“To lose both parents in this life is difficult,” Nizigama told me as he struggled to contain his emotions. “It is very difficult and painful.”

Shortly after Nizigama was born, his father died from high blood pressure complications. When he was four, his mother was killed in an automobile accident. He and his three siblings were orphaned. Life became very hard. There was no money for school, food, or clothes. Parental support vanished in a moment. He went to live with his widowed grandmother—a poor woman who sold charcoal to earn a living.

Nizigama’s grandmother was an incredible woman of faith who diligently taught the kids about God and his Word. She valiantly struggled for their basic needs, using some of her earnings to help the kids attend school. Their simple home was fashioned from mud bricks. “Our home was very bad,” Nizigama recalled with downcast eyes. 

Then a few years ago a flood destroyed their mud-brick dwelling. Shortly after the floods, his grandmother died. “It was a very difficult time,” Nizigama sighed, “For me and my siblings.”

I paused as the weight of his story sank in. It was a lot to absorb. Now in his early twenties, Nizigama carries the wisdom of one who has faced great adversity, so I asked him where he found the courage and hope to face these immense tragedies and suffering when he was still so young. He told me that in the midst of his trials he often looked to the stories in the Bible about David and Job. 

“David faced many challenges as a young boy while he was watching his father’s sheep. And Job had a lot of prosperity, but then lost it all. He was really suffering. Even Job’s wife was trying to convince him to leave God. When I read of their examples, I know I can come through my challenges. I always look to these men of God.” Nizigama brightened as he recalled the lives of these two men of faith.

“Several years ago, I had become depressed and overwhelmed,” Nizigama continued. “The life I was passing through was so difficult. I wanted to rescue my family. I did not even have a coin in my pocket. My feelings during those days were very bad. I even swore to God that if I can’t succeed in life, that I would not serve him. But then I came to regret those words and saw that those thoughts were foolish. I thank God for the light he gave to me. I now know that in the midst of my challenges, God will make a way.”

I thought back to the church service we had attended and the message of the song’s confident refrain.

You are able! You are able! Receive our praise forever more!

Strong Support From Near & Far

Along with the losses and hardships, Nizigama’s journey is marked by the loving influence of people who did their best to help him along. Nizigama’s grandmother was a living example of God’s grace after his parents died. Her sacrifices allowed the kids to survive. She also taught them from God’s Word and brought the children to worship at church. When he was nine years old, Nizigama decided to give his life to Jesus. 

At age 14, Nizigama was introduced to the team at Grace & Healing Ministry in Dodoma and these “Mothers of Love” took an active role in providing the type of holistic care he desperately needed. Grace & Healing Ministry began as a dynamic outreach created by a visionary woman named Esther Muhagachi and many prayer partners from her church to reach out to the most needy and vulnerable of Dodoma, Tanzania. They went house to house meeting neighbors, ministering to those who were HIV positive, counseling those who were in trouble, praying over the sick, sharing the Good News of Jesus, and bringing food and necessities to the poor. This local initiative began to expand rapidly and soon hundreds were being ministered to across the city. Lives were being transformed, many were trusting in Christ, and hundreds of vulnerable kids were able to stay in school and receive mentorship and love as they grew up.

Lahash International has partnered with this visionary team since 2005. Together, Lahash and Grace & Healing Ministry created the Child Sponsorship Program that is still running today. It provides a model for holistic care along with the opportunity for international friends to become child sponsors and support East African kids as they grow up. 

Nizigama was matched with a kind couple named Bob and Paula Cooper from Oregon. The Coopers sponsored Nizigama through his high school education and on into university. Nizigama and the Coopers have formed a surprisingly deep bond and connection considering that they live 9,000 miles apart! When my family visited the Coopers at their Christmas tree farm, we heard more about what this relationship means to them.

Bob and Paula showed us their collection of photos and letters from Nizigama, and even a large fabric wall hanging he made for them several years ago. After the Coopers lovingly told us of the impact that Nizigama had on their lives, I shared a few photos, videos, and stories of Nizigama. The Coopers were overwhelmed with emotion. Words failed. Being able to connect with Nizigama through the Lahash Sponsorship Program and become part of his support system meant so much to them.

A Big Heart & A Clear Purpose 

The Tanzanian church our family visited this summer is the church Nizigama grew up attending. The pastor there became his mentor and a close friend. Now Nizigama has a significant leadership role in this church, and he and his pastor often go out into the city telling others about Christ. 

All these significant relationships helped Nizigama discover more about himself and who God created him to be. As he reflected on his gifts and calling, he confidently asserted his convictions.

“I am humbled to attest that I am an evangelist. I always have this feeling that compels me to share the Word and draw as many people as possible to Jesus. I have always witnessed the hand of God and the transforming power of the Spirit in the lives of people I talk to. I often find it interesting to have discussions with my friends, relatives, and my neighbors about God. My key interest is that everyone around me should know God. To some extent, I feel it’s my personal responsibility to share with people the Word of God, point them to Jesus, and lead them on the path of salvation.”

Over the past couple of years many people have come to know Christ, many were baptized, and Nizigama was instrumental in helping to plant a new church just north of the city of Dodoma.

“God has been so faithful!” Nizigama remarked. “The membership of this new church is growing and has reached a total of 64 people. It is amazing!”

Higher Education & Higher Hopes

After our visit to Nizigama’s church in July, our family drove eight hours to attend a conference with all our Lahash ministry partners from across East Africa. Nizigama and another member of our Lahash Stand With Students program attended the conference as well, to share their stories and their faith with our ministry partners and to highlight the accomplishments of all the SWS scholars pursuing higher education.

During their conference session, Nizigama expressed the impact of the many kind Christians who have played a role in his life. He has been able to attend school, receive emotional and spiritual support, benefit greatly from mentorship, have physical essentials provided, and learn to walk in the ways of Christ. He is now just one year away from completing a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology, and he is ranked number one in his class. His dream is to continue to tell others about Jesus and to open a software and hardware repair shop. He expressed his immense gratitude to God for his grandmother, his Lahash sponsors in Oregon, the Grace & Healing Ministry team, his pastor, and the whole Lahash community. 

“I am so thankful to all of you!” Nizigama told me. “We students would not be here without you guys. We are here because you love us and you care for us. We are so thankful, and we want to also do what you are doing. Actually, we want to do more than you have done! You have shown us how to love others. What you’ve done is a sign of love. It will never be deleted from our hearts.” 

We came away from our time with Nizigama with full hearts. God is at work transforming lives, weaving together a diverse global family of believers who are boldly proclaiming the Good News in word and action. God is loving and powerful enough to bring beauty and healing from tragedy and suffering, and each one of us is invited to participate in that hope-filled process. As we play our small role in demonstrating the love of God to these special kids in East Africa God is accomplishing “infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Nizigama’s passion for this truth was clear when he shared these final thoughts as we wrapped up the conference in Tanzania. 

“The love of God to me is huge – it is big. I’ve seen God in many ways. God has done so many things for me. Too often we can think God is not able – but God is able!”


You are able! You are able! Receive our praise forever more!

From nursery school to graduation day, Lahash is helping educate kids to their highest ability. Join us in surrounding them every step of the way through our Stand With Students program. Learn more or donate at