Who was the Ugandan witch doctor, Kabi? How did the sentencing of Kabi spark change in Uganda? How did this event change Bob Goff’s life forever?
In Uganda, witch doctors are known for abducting and mutilating children for their practices. The locals were too scared to take them to court, so Bob Goff stepped in to help. At the time, Goff didn’t know the extent to which this would change his life.
Keep reading to learn about how Bob Goff stood up against the Ugandan witch doctor Kabi.
The Ugandan Witch Doctor
Author and lawyer Bob Goff does charitable work in Uganda, part of which is providing legal services for people in need. On one trip, he met a chief justice and learned about a frightening aspect of Ugandan life. For more than a century, the Ugandan people have lived in fear of witch doctors. The witch doctors believe that the flesh of children has magical properties, and they perform ceremonies using this flesh. To get the flesh, they abduct children.
A witch doctor has never stood trial in Uganda for their crimes. The people who’ve lost children are too afraid of the witch doctors’ powers to press charges, and the lawyers and judges are too afraid to prosecute. When Bob met with the chief justice, he asked if he could be part of a witch doctor trial if one ever happens, and the justice agreed.
The next time Bob visited Uganda, he learned about a 13-year-old girl who’d been in prison for two years awaiting trial. She was accused of kidnapping after a witch doctor tricked the girl into bringing her a baby. The girl saved the baby when she discovered the witch doctor was not the baby’s mother, but she was arrested. Nothing had happened to the doctor.
Bob took the case and was able to get the girl released from prison. He saw it as a warning to the witch doctors that he was not afraid of them. He felt in his heart that, one day, they would try and convict one of these witch doctors. And when that time came, he would not be afraid. He was following God’s plan, so there was nothing to fear.
What if you weren’t ever afraid again? You will experience moments when you’re lost, confused, and anxious. But if you’re honest with God and have faith in His love, you’ll understand that something good waits on the other side of your courage. When you become love with God, you no longer have anything to fear.
Courage in the Face of the Enemy
Bob finally got his day in court with a Ugandan witch doctor. A man named Kabi, the head of the witch doctors in that particular region, kidnapped an 8-year-old boy and mutilated him. He left the boy for dead, but the boy survived.
Bob thought he’d have to look for a long time for a judge willing to preside over a trial against a witch doctor, but he found one within a week. This judge knew the risks and had a certain amount of fear, but he wanted to see justice against a witch doctor for the first time. He knew being brave for the greater good was more important than being safe. He chose love over fear.
During the first-ever witch doctor trial, the young boy stood in the courtroom and pointed to Kabi as the man who tried to kill him. This may seem like a small thing, but Kabi was a walking ghost, and his eyes showed pure evil. He was scary to the adults in the room, but the boy, who had the most right to be afraid, acted courageously. The verdict of guilty came in, and news of the first imprisonment of a witch doctor spread through the nation.
There would be ripple effects. Others might see that it was possible to get justice for their children. More judges might be willing to preside over these types of cases. The wheels of justice were turning, and it was all due to an 8-year-old’s bravery.
Bob struggled with loving Kabi. Kabi was definitely his enemy and a terrible person, but simply writing him off in that way felt wrong. He knew Jesus wanted him to love Kabi, but that also felt wrong. Still, he saw that in trying to love Kabi, he would be getting closer to living like Jesus. He was afraid of those feelings, but he knew there was nothing to fear if he became love. And he decided if a small boy can be courageous enough to change his country, he could be brave enough to love his enemy.
If You Let Him, God Will Blow Your Mind
You may not always understand the things that happen to you or that happen in the world, but understanding is not your purpose. You don’t have to have all the answers to see the power of God’s love. If you stop seeking explanations and certainties and allow God’s love to work in your life, you will witness amazing miracles. God uses the unthinkable to show you just how powerful His love is. And when you see this power at work, you will know that unthinkable things are possible for you when you become love.
Bob felt his faith and love grow bigger because of two ensuing unthinkable things that happened regarding the little boy in Uganda. One day, he received a phone call from a surgeon in Los Angeles named Randy. This man was one of a few specialized surgeons capable of performing miracles. He’d recently reattached a man’s severed hand and given the man full functioning again. Randy had heard about the Ugandan boy and wanted to help. Not only was he offering to help fix the boy’s mutilated body parts, he would do it for free.
Bob flew to Uganda and became the boy’s legal guardian. He took the boy from the Ugandan bush to the airport and watched the wonder in the boy’s eyes seeing his first airplane. During their layover in London, Bob received an email. Somehow, word of the boy’s situation had reached the White House, and President Obama wanted to meet him. Two days earlier, the boy had been in the bush. Now, he was the invited guest of the president of the United States.
When Bob and the boy arrived at the hospital in Los Angeles, Bob leaned down and whispered something in his ear before he was wheeled into surgery. He told the boy to be not afraid. Eight hours later, the boy was in the recovery room. The surgery had been a success.
Bob could never have expected this turn of events, but he understood that God doesn’t just work in mysterious ways. He works in ways that blow our minds. Bob took this demonstration of the extent of God’s power and decided that if he wanted to experience more of this greatness, he had to risk more of his faith.
An Unlikely Duo
A little while later, Bob was back in Uganda. He went to the prison where Kabi was living on death row and asked to visit him. This was the last place Bob ever expected to be, but he knew it was the only place he was supposed to be if he wanted to become love. When Kabi entered the room, he immediately said how sorry he was for what he’d done to the boy. He explained how he’d been raised by a witch doctor and had become consumed by his teachings. He knew he would never be free again, but he wanted forgiveness before he died.
Bob didn’t know if forgiveness was possible for this monster. But he felt an energy move through him that reminded him that Jesus accepted everyone, even those who’d done wrong. That day, Bob opened himself up and talked with Kabi about Jesus. He told Kabi what he was learning about becoming love and the role of forgiveness in that process. Kabi was interested in finding his own path under Jesus. He was having his “come to Jesus” moment, and in witnessing this transformation, Bob was too.
Bob continued to meet with Kabi. As they continued to talk, he saw that they were not so different after all. Yes, they were not the same type of person, but they struggled in similar ways trying to become the men they were meant to be. They decided to hold a sermon for the 3,000 prisoners on death row, and Kabi delivered it, albeit a rough version of Jesus’s teachings.
After the sermon, men came forward to be washed of their sins. Kabi took a water bottle and baptized all of them while Bob watched. Bob understood that the men saw a miracle in front of them. They knew who Kabi was, and they knew that Bob had been the one to put Kabi away. To see the two men standing side by side was proof of God’s love, and they were moved to believe.
Bob was also affected by the scenario. If Kabi could make this massive change in his life, then anyone could, even him. He realized the way we understand our faith and God’s teachings is not what’s important. Our understanding doesn’t have to be perfect for us to become perfect like God. At the end of the afternoon at the prison, Kabi told Bob he forgave him. Bob was stunned both by the action and implication, but he was also in awe. Kabi realized that to be with God, he had to love like God, which meant loving his enemies. Bob looked at him and no longer saw that monster. He saw someone becoming God by becoming love.
The Face of Justice in Uganda
The situation with the young boy and Kabi changed Bob’s world dramatically. He was now guardian of the boy and had taken him to hike Mount Kilimanjaro for his 10th birthday. It was a difficult trip, and the climb to the top was harsh and taxing. But Bob just kept following the path the guide led them up, and they eventually made it to the summit. The young boy didn’t quite make it to the top, but Bob pinned medals on him and told him how brave he was and how far he’d come.
In the bush, Bob also started meeting with the local witch doctors. Over time, he’s met with hundreds of them. He tells them what the consequences of their actions are now. If they continue to hurt children, they will go away for the rest of their lives. Then, when the scare tactic is over, he washes their feet. Bob hates feet, but he washes them for two reasons. First, you must commit to helping your enemies, not just tolerating them, if you want to truly love them. Second, becoming love means making big changes in your own life.
After performing the foot-washing ritual with these witch doctors, Bob asked them what they needed. They said they wanted to learn how to read and write. Shortly after, Bob started a school for the witch doctors. People who once hurt and killed children were now learning like children. Some people think he’s crazy for doing this, but he knows that you will often be thought crazy when you’re becoming love. The difference is that when you live with God, you no longer care about anything but finding those who need your help and love.
The progress the witch doctors have made in the school is nothing short of remarkable. They graduate with their certificates and see the world in a different way because of the love and education they’ve received. One night, Bob received a call in San Diego from two of his witch doctor-alumni about a new witch doctor in town who’d kidnapped a child. They knew where he was and wondered if they should do something. Four hours later, they called back to say they’d rescued the child and taken him back home. Before, they were the ones kidnapping children. Now, they saw the world through the lens of love because they’d seen God’s love with their own eyes. You never know how love is going to change people or yourself. You only find out after you commit to loving everybody always.
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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Bob Goff's "Everybody Always" at Shortform.
Here's what you'll find in our full Everybody Always summary:
- How to live your life like Jesus lived his
- Why you need to open yourself up to God's love and give love to others
- How to deepen your faith by focusing on love rather than showing that you "agree" with God