Adiel’s story: God’s ornament
Adiel Uzabakiriho is a PhD student in social policy and social research at Loma Linda.
Kind, motivated, patient, and compassionate are just some of the characteristics used to describe Adiel Uzabakiriho.
However, there is one word that blends all of these characteristics together. It is his name, Adiel, which is Hebrew for “God’s ornament.”
Adiel Uzabakiriho is a third- year doctoral student at Loma Linda University’s School of Science and Technology. His journey to Loma Linda University exemplifies the ways God has worked through his life to help him become an ornament of God.
As a teenager, Mr. Uzabakiriho was inspired by American missionaries to participate at church in his home country, Rwanda. He started by helping the choir director and picking out hymns for the service. Soon, he was organizing and conducting several choirs himself. Music became his passion, and he enjoyed participating in church.
Mr. Uzabakiriho realized he was not only passionate about music, but he was also blessed with musical talent. Many of his teachers were amazed at the speed at which he was learning. However, Mr. Uzabakiriho recognized that “music is a gradual process, it’s a gradual improvement.” He knew if he wanted to continue his musical work, he would need to study music seriously.
This determination, combined with his passion, influenced Mr. Uzabakiriho to leave Rwanda. He made plans to study in America and to eventually return back to his home country to teach.
However, while Mr. Uzabakiriho was studying music at Southwestern Michigan College, civil war broke out in Rwanda. Mr. Uzabakiriho lost many relatives due to the genocide killing, in addition to losing his mother at the age of 11. He felt he could not return to the turmoil and violence in his home country.
Mr. Uzabakiriho’s own future in America also did not seem promising. He would not be able to support himself as a musician, especially since he recently arrived as an immigrant. Instead, Mr. Uzabakiriho decided to try nursing, thinking it might lead to medical school and a brighter future.
However, Mr. Uzabakiriho’s health was not cooperating with his ambition. When he looked through a microscope in one of his courses, he noticed that his eyesight was weakening because he could not differentiate between colors. This made it difficult to identify slides and would eventually place his future as a nurse in jeopardy.
Yet, even with health problems, Mr. Uzabakiriho would not give up on school and his education. From the news, he learned about the United Nations’ involvement in sending workers to refugee camps. This interested Mr. Uzabakiriho, and he wanted to learn more about international affairs and social policy. He decided to major in sociology at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB).
After he graduated from CSUSB, Mr. Uzabakiriho planned on attending graduate school at California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB) to pursue his master’s in social work. However, his eyesight was getting worse. Numerous eye surgeries did not help his vision and instead, he was gradually going blind.
Depressed and discouraged, Mr. Uzabakiriho wanted to just remain at home until a friend encouraged him to find universities with disability services and programs. As it turned out, CSUB did offer services for students with disabilities. Without anymore hesitation, Mr. Uzabakiriho attended CSUB the following fall.
Although Mr. Uzabakiriho was comforted by the fact that CSUB had a disabilities program, he found it challenging to study. He was accustomed to relying on his photographic memory in classes and now that he could not see, he had to learn by attentively listening to lectures and cassettes.
However, Mr. Uzabakiriho was determined not to let the loss of his eyesight prevent him from fulfilling his education. Even though he had to adapt to new learning techniques, Mr. Uzabakiriho remained diligent and studious. This determination enabled him to complete his master’s in social work within three years. After graduating from CSUB in 2004, he was accepted into the doctoral program at Loma Linda University.
Mr. Uzabakiriho is now in his third year at Loma Linda, working on his PhD in social policy and social research.
He enjoys the intimacy of Loma Linda University’s campus because there is more interaction between professors and students. The faculty and students are also very helpful and accommodating. Mr. Uzabakiriho said he feels “at home at Loma Linda University” and sees it as a place of “emotional support.”
After completing his PhD, Mr. Uzabakiriho hopes to one day become a teacher so he can share his life experiences with his students.
Mr. Uzabakiriho still enjoys music, and it remains a big part of his life. He especially enjoys listening to some of his favorite hymns such as “Blessed Assurance” and “Rescue the Perishing.” These hymns have a special place in Mr. Uzabakiriho’s heart because their lyricist, Fanny Crosby, has been an encouragement to Mr. Uzabakiriho. Although blinded weeks after birth, Ms. Crosby eventually became a prolific hymnist inspiring many people with her lyrics.
Mr. Uzabakiriho hopes to inspire others, like Ms. Crosby, with his own music. He is currently working on an album (set to be released in June), which will feature 10 of his compositions.
In addition to music, Mr. Uzabakiriho notes that his Christian community has also been a source of inspiration. He feels blessed to have met so many professors and friends from the different universities he has attended.
Mr. Uzabakiriho still corresponds with many of them and hopes to take their encouragement and pass it on to others.
By Kristine Gamboa