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Grace and Josh

Idaho State Journal Article Published Sunday, December 7th

Waiting for Grace — Chubbuck pastor jumping hoops to bring adopted Ugandan girl home

By Michael H. O’Donnell Updated Yesterday

    CHUBBUCK — There’s a decorated Christmas tree in the living room of the Josh and Jennifer Robinson home that is missing a major gift — a 2-year-old Ugandan girl named Grace.

    Grace has been adopted by the Robinsons, but the little girl and Josh are still in Uganda going through all the steps and paperwork necessary to secure a passport and visa for the little girl so she can join her American siblings for the holidays. Waiting for Grace are 6-year-old Eliana and 4-year-old Maya.

    “It would be a good Christmas miracle,” Jennifer said about having both her husband and her newly adopted child come home this month.

    The difficult effort to bring Grace into the family all began in 2012, when Jennifer read the book, “Kisses from Katie,” by American Katie Davis.

    It told the story of her journey to Uganda and successful efforts to establish an orphanage for little girls on the shores of Lake Victoria. Davis was just 18 when she left Tennessee and went to Uganda to do mission work.

    It struck a chord inside Jennifer.

    Jennifer had met her husband, Josh, who is now senior pastor at Gate City Christian Church, at a church camp in Fairfield, Idaho, when she was just 18. Josh was 19. It was love at first sight for the pair Grace

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of Christians.

    The couple has always tried to live a life of sharing and the Gate City Christian Church started the  Back 2 School Giveaway that provides backpacks and school supplies to more than 1,000 children in Chubbuck and Pocatello each year.

    But the story of poverty and need in Uganda shared in Davis’ book made Jennifer want to do something for those African children. She became involved in Hands4Uganda, a non-government organization dedicated to providing food and clean water, medical care and educational opportunities to poor children in that African nation.

    Soon Hands4Uganda wanted more from Jennifer than financial support. It wanted her skills as a physician assistant.

    After marrying Josh, the couple had moved to Pocatello. Jennifer completed all her undergraduate work at Idaho State University before entering and completing the PA program. She had the skills and the desire to help children in Uganda.

    Soon Josh became involved and a trip to Jinja, Uganda, was set for 2013. Josh would help set up a primary school for children ages 4 to 12 and Jennifer would provide medical physicals for all the kids.

    “Education is not free in Uganda,” Jennifer said. “It truly is a third world country.”

    During their first visit to Jinja, Josh befriended a cab driver named Kalema. Kalema was about the same age and had a wife Falidah and a newborn girl named Grace.

    Kalema and Falidah had been raised practicing the African voodoo religion, but Kalema had converted to Christianity.

    After that initial visit to Uganda, Josh went back during spring break in 2013 to lead a group of youth and adult volunteers. He reconnected with Kalema. During a visit to Kalema’s family home, Josh noticed that the 6-month-old girl had a cough and a fever.

    Josh ended up taking the little girl to a hospital where she was diagnosed with severe pneumonia.

    “We were able to essentially pay for her treatment,” Jennifer said.

    Josh left Uganda not knowing if the little girl would survive, but she did.

    They kept in touch with other American missionaries by email and kept tabs on the progress of the little girl. This past March, the couple decided to return to Uganda. Days before they left Chubbuck, they received an email telling them that the little girl’s mother had died of pneumonia.

    Once they arrived in Jinja, one of their first visits was to the home of Kalema and Grace.

    “The living conditions were very poor,” Jennifer said.

    Kalema and his wife both worked to generate enough money to survive and now it was a single income household.

    Worse yet, Kalema worried that voodoo followers with close connections to his deceased wife might kidnap Grace.

    During the next visit with Kalema, he spelled out his fears and offered a solution.

    “He told Josh, ‘You should be Grace’s dad because you saved her life in 2013,’” Jennifer said.

    The Chubbuck couple explained to their African friend all the downsides of giving up his little girl, but the man remained steadfast.

    “He never asked for monetary support or promises,” Jennifer said. “He just wanted her (Grace) to be safe with a future.”

    When the Robinsons returned home to Chubbuck, they knew a family decision would have to be made. It would include the input of their two young daughters and prayer.

    “We talked to the girls about helping a little girl who needed a safe place to live,” Jennifer recalled. “My oldest said, ‘Why don’t we have Grace come live with us.’”

    The wheels of international adoption were set in motion.

    The Robinsons first had to contact an Idaho adoption agency in Boise. There were background checks and interviews. Then they had to hire an international adoption agency in Washington, D.C., to process the next step. Finally, they had to secure the services of a lawyer in Uganda to work through the system in that country — a system marred by kickbacks and corruption. The entire adoption process has cost the Robinsons thousands.

    Josh and Jennifer made another trip to Uganda on Oct. 30 to be on hand for all the Ugandan court proceedings. Jennifer came home two weeks ago after the adoption was approved, but Josh remains in the African country as he works with the U.S. Embassy to secure a passport and visa for his newly adopted daughter.

    “We’re hoping that happens next week,” Jennifer said, crossing her fingers.

    Jennifer and her own two daughters were looking through photos of Grace on an easy chair just a few feet from that decorated Christmas tree Saturday afternoon — and hoping for their Christmas miracle.