Above: Children from Fathers Divine Love Ministries. Photo: Facebook / FDLM
As a 17-year-old watching his brother die from AIDS, David Livingstone made a promise most Western adults will never have to make: to adopt his three nieces and nephews.
The Ugandan teen was only in his second year of high school, and suddenly he had lost his brother, and become a father.
While it sounds like a heavy responsibility for a young man, it was a common occurrence in Sub Saharan Africa—where HIV and AIDS has orphaned millions of children. David was one of many kids and teens who suddenly became parents.
“When HIV was ravaging Sub-Saharan Africa there were a lot of child-headed families,” he told Hope 103.2’s Duncan Robinson in an interview. “So I wasn’t even a unique case.”
Trusting God to Provide
As a young teen father, David relied on God to help him through each day.
“It really hit me hard,” he said. “I had to drop out of school to fend for my nephews and niece. It was like being thrown into the deep end. I didn’t know how the next meal would even come but I had the confidence and faith that I was to be there for them.
The experience changed the direction of his life.
“My brother’s plea, ‘David please take care of the children’, stuck with me,” he said. “For me, it was representative of the voices of those who die without leaving a young brother to take care of their kids.”
“When we started taking care of tens of children and it grew to hundreds, we never lacked.”
David’s heart went out to the thousands of other orphans in his community. He started visiting many child-headed homes and encouraging them. He adopted a fourth child of his own, and began dating a girl who was also caring for seven nieces and nephews. Later they married, forming a family with 11 children. Eventually the couple began supporting hundreds of children through orphanages, believing God for what they needed along the way.
“When we started taking care of tens of children and it grew to hundreds, we never lacked,” he says. “We did not go hungry a single day. God always provided abundantly.”
‘This Will Not Kill Us, It Will Make Us Stronger’
“One of the blessings we have in Sub Saharan Africa in spite of the challenges we face, is resilience,” he said. “People will just trust God to survive hard situations. So that is what we did. We had a choice. We either had to sink into apathy, and self pity, and think ‘We are victims and won’t be able to get out of it’, or to say ‘This will not kill us, it will make us stronger’.”
From those beginnings, grew a ministry that now sees David planting churches all over Africa.
“I was raised without a father myself,” he recalls. “I didn’t meet my dad until I was 17 and when I met him, it turned out I couldn’t qualify. I did not have his looks. So I was disqualified on those grounds and asked to leave.
“It wasn’t until I read Floyd McClung’s book The Father Heart of God and went through YWAM, that I got healing and acceptance in myself. That transformed my life.”
From Orphan Care to Church Planting
When Africans find a formula that helps them out of their tough situation, their natural response is to help others too, says David.
“I wanted to look for [other] children who had not experienced function or fatherhood, to also realise that, look, in spite of not having biological parents, there is a father called God, who is able to provide inwardly, beyond what an earthly father can provide,” he said. “So that’s how we started Fathers Divine Love Ministries.”
David’s orphan care ministry became a community church, and now, with the support of the Australian organisation Live Connection, he trains other African rural pastors in how to lead their churches well.
Find out more about the work of Live Connection at liveconnection.org.