Robert lumbasi: Balancing life’s tricky act

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Apart from working as a police officer, constable Robert Lumbasi is a pastor at the Redeemed Gospel Church in Outer Ring, Nairobi; a missionary within the Christian Police Association Kenya; as well as an addiction, marriage and youth counselor. This father of three had a difficult childhood but this did not stop him from achieving his goals. He shares his experience with MWAURA MUIGANA.

As I conduct this interview, I can’t help but admire how Reverend Robert Lumbasi is juggling his duties at the police desk at Parliament Police Station where he works, and  still paying attention to me. His work involves regular police duties including patrols, receiving and acting on complaints at  the station. He appears like a man who can comfortably multitask.

Nothing has come on a silver platter in his life. He grappled with rejection from the tender age of nine months and because of his experience is convinced that one cannot fail in life unless they decide to. He says life is about setting one’s standards and living by them.

“I was rejected from infancy by my parents. My father was working for the then East African Community, in Kampala, Uganda, where he met my mum, a Nigerian, also working in Uganda at the time. They fell in love and got married in 1960. Due to huge cultural disparities, they couldn’t agree and when I was nine months old, they parted ways.

Cultural differences aside, mum wished I was born a girl since my four older siblings were boys. And to make matters worse, I resembled my dad – the womanizer she had come to despise. That I constantly reminded her of this man was enough for her to reject me. She abandoned me in our rented house in Kampala when I was nine months old and moved with the other children to Jinja where my dad had some property.

When my dad came home to find me crying on the bed, he also packed his bags and left to start life with another woman in another part of Kampala. My relentless cries attracted neighbours who came to my rescue. One of them, a close family friend, informed my Kenyan grandmother. She traveled from Busia to Kampala and

settled with me in one of dad’s homes in Mayuge, Uganda. She took care of me and when I was of school age, enrolled me in nursery school.

Dad remained indifferent to my circumstances, an attitude that irked my grandmother. After the break up of the EAC, my father returned to Nairobi to work with the civil service. My grandmother also moved back home to Busia and took me with her. After some time my grandmother took me to my dad’s house in Nairobi where he lived with one of his four wives. It was obvious my grandmother was fed up with her son’s don’t care attitude in regard to his responsibility over me.

She left me in Nairobi and returned to her home in Busia.

GROWING WITHOUT A ROLE MODEL

My dad had, in total, four wives including my mother in Jinja, another one in Kampala, another in Busia and the one he lived with in Nairobi. From a young age, I could tell that no one wanted me. Life with my stepmother in Nairobi was unbearable. She would beat me for no reason. To cushion me from the abuses, dad took me to Voi to live with one of his brothers.

This family was equally dysfunctional. My uncle was recently divorced and had remarried a childless woman who thoroughly mistreated his three young daughters from his

previous marriage. At least she didn’t beat me as my stepmother did but she wasn’t a role model for young children. But having three nieces of my age to share challenges with was some consolation.

My aunt’s way of punishing us was denying us food. We often rummaged in dustbins for food. After a year at my uncle’s home I could not stand the hardships anymore and decided to run away from home to go look for my grandmother. In my young mind, Mbololo Hills near Voi looked so much like my grandmother’s home in Busia and I was sure I could find her there.

I didn’t get far as the police rescued me when they found me wandering on the main road towards the hills. They traced my dad who was a senior government officer in Nairobi and handed me to him.

SCHOOL LIFE

My dad enrolled me at Muthurwa Primary School in Nairobi in standard one in 1976. I was a bright child and this did not augur well with my stepmother. She convinced dad to enroll me in a primary school in Busia claiming that city life had a negative influence on me. In 1977, my dad took me to Busia to live with my other stepmother and also enrolled me at Agolono primary school.

I continued performing well in school and this did not please my Busia stepmother who viewed me as a burden to her. Feeling frustrated and rejected I turned to God and His word in the bible, from where I drew consolation and strength. I became a born-again Christian while in class five.

I was a lonely child and did not share my problems with anyone, not even my Sunday school teachers or my pastor. My dad noticed how unhappy I was living with this stepmother and he brought me back to Nairobi in the middle of class five. Because of these disruptions my performance in school dropped to the extent that I held the last position in class for two consecutive years. However, I remained steadfast in my faith and resolved not to allow rejection destroy my life. I constantly prayed to God asking him to help me live by my resolve.

Owing to my new sense of worth, my school performance improved drastically and my teachers expected me to perform well in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE).

To sabotage my newfound confidence, my Nairobi stepmother once again convinced dad to send me back to Busia. This severely traumatised me as it was just before I sat for KCPE. I lost hope in life and even attempted suicide, but I was caught before I could accomplish my mission.

To my surprise I did well in KCPE and joined St. Mary’s Mulika High, a boarding school in Busia. Overwhelmed by his many responsibilities because of his large and still growing family, my father refused to pay my school fees. I joined 4K Club, a young farmers organisation that encouraged students to plant crops and sell the harvest. I

used the little proceeds I got to pay school fees. The headmaster was very understanding and lenient towards me and allowed me to attend school uninterrupted, even when there were outstanding school fees balances.

I sat the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (KCSE) in 1986. Before I could figure out my next step, I left home after a bitter family misunderstanding and took up a shamba boy’s job in Busia.

My employer, a primary school teacher, and his family were very kind to me. When I shared the problems I was experiencing at home they helped me to join the National Youth Service (NYS) for a diploma course in plant mechanic in 1988. I was initially posted to Lomut in Northern Kenya and later to Yatta NYS for further training. After this training I applied to join the police force and was lucky to pass the interview. I joined Kiganjo Police Training College in Nyeri in May 1992 and on graduation was attached to the anti-stock theft unit in Gilgil. I was later posted to Kakamega and then to Busia Police station in 1996.

RELY ONLY ON GOD

While working in Busia, I got into trouble when a rifle got lost from a house we were sharing with colleagues and I was held as a suspect. I was locked up at Busia Police Station and later interdicted from duty while investigations were being carried out.

This was a trying time for me and I sought God to be my defender. This incidence strengthened my faith in God and reawakened my talent as a musician. I composed my first gospel song – Ni Wewe Bwana – the story of my life, while in police custody from 1996 to 1998. I have composed seven gospel CDs since.

My father passed on in 1994 and the other family members did not want to get involved in my case. My friends and fellow worshippers also deserted me, some claiming I was guilty of the theft. I was humiliated and felt rejected.

When my mother heard that I had been arrested, she traveled from Jinja to see me. This was my first time to see her since she abandoned me. I declined

to talk to her, feeling that I did not need her at that time in my life. Where was she when I was a helpless child and needed her most? I asked.

My case came up for hearing in 1998 but none of the witnesses turned up to give evidence. I was acquitted for lack of evidence and reinstated to my job. I thanked God that I was free at last and forgave my false accusers. I immersed myself in evangelism work alongside my job. I also decided to shed the baggage of anger from my life and took it upon myself to seek reconciliation with my family. I traced my mother in Uganda where she lives with some of my siblings and we reconciled. We are slowly rebuilding our relationship. God is faithful for bringing me this far.

DETERMINATION OVERCOMES ALL OBSTACLES

To better equip myself for God’s  work, I enrolled at African Theological Seminary in Kitale in 2001 as a part time student. I graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology.

The fruits of my six-year labour were so sweet that I was inspired to enroll for a Masters degree in Psychology at Daystar University in 2010. I graduated in June 2012.

My degree in psychology has been very helpful in my work, especially with the Kenya Police Christian Association. Policemen and women go through a lot of psychological trauma in the course of duty. They often deal with traumatic issues such as robbery, murder, violence and rape. I provide free counseling services to my colleagues in

the police force through the Christian Association. I also offer counseling services to schools, churches and colleges. In addition, I do marriage and addiction counseling.

ON FAMILY LIFE

I am married to Leticia Lunami, a lecturer at Sigalagala Technical Institute. We have three children, two girls and one boy. The eldest is my 20-year-old son in Kenyatta University, followed by my 13-year-old daughter in high school and the last-born son is in class five. My family is my pillar of strength. They are God’s gift to me.”

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