Called From the Grave
February 1, 2003 - Soaked in blood and dumped into a mass grave full of bullet-riddled bodies, pastor Isaac Wagaba was left for dead—one more victim among the hundreds of thousands of Ugandans slaughtered in the 1970s during the infamous dictatorship of Idi Amin.
by Tom Layton
While the executioners may have been finished with Wagaba, God was not. "Late that evening," Wagaba said, "I heard a voice calling, 'Isaac, I have saved your life so that you may save the lives of my fatherless children.'"
Barely alive, Wagaba crawled out of the grave. Found by a Good Samaritan who nursed his wounds, he eventually escaped to Kenya. He returned to Uganda after Amin was overthrown in 1979, and today Wagaba runs the Canaan Children's Home, which cares for about 120 orphaned and abandoned children.
Most Ugandans are too young to remember Amin, who lives in exile in Saudi Arabia, but their nation continues to be shaped by a national sense of repentance and a commitment to reform.
It has been estimated that about 300,000 Ugandans were killed in Amin's campaigns to purge or silence his foes. Christians were increasingly targeted in 1976, when pastors became the principal voice of the opposition.
Soldiers repeatedly raided Wagaba's home, and a newspaper published his name on a "death list." Early in 1977, he was among dozens of pastors from several denominations who were arrested.
After three days of torture and hunger, soldiers offered to free any pastors who would renounce Christianity. Four submitted to circumcision as Muslims. About 25 others who stood by their faith were blindfolded, bound and marched outside to face a firing squad.
Wagaba, shot near his left shoulder, remembers falling on the dead body of a fellow pastor. Appearing dead, Wagaba was tossed onto a truck and later dumped into a pit. Evidently, he was the only survivor of the group.
More than 25 years later, Wagaba's injuries are still painful and debilitating. Yet the scars remind him—and his orphans—that the Lord is a Deliverer.