Divine Collision

An African Boy, An American Lawyer, and Their Remarkable Battle for Freedom


By Jim Gash

Foreword by Bob Goff

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Discover the compelling true story of a former L. A. lawyer and a Ugandan boy falsely accused of murder — two courageous friends brought together by God on a mission to reform criminal justice.

Jim Gash, former Los Angeles lawyer and current president of Pepperdine University, tells the amazing story of how, after a series of God-orchestrated events, he finds himself in the heart of Africa defending a courageous Ugandan boy languishing in prison and wrongfully accused of two separate murders. Ultimately, their unlikely friendship and unrelenting persistence reforms Uganda’s criminal justice system, leaving a lasting impact on hundreds of thousands of lives and revealing a relationship that supersedes circumstance, culture, and the walls we often hide behind.


There is no greater love than laying down your life for a friend. This profound love seeps through every page of Jim and Henry’s story, like a healing balm. Over the last several years I have had the great privilege of witnessing Jim’s passion for Ugandan people and his willingness to lay down his own life for others. Divine Collision will remind you once again how one small gesture of love can make a monumental impact on a person for eternity.

—Katie Davis, Author of the New York Times Bestseller Kisses from Katie

A beautiful and riveting story, Divine Collision is an emotional roller-coaster ride illustrating how a life of service is not only personally satisfying but also an avenue for our own liberation. With tears in my eyes as I read along, this story powerfully reminded me that the most satisfying life is a life of service. Jim Gash humbly chronicles how he, through tireless and devoted work to free a wrongly accused teenager, gained his own freedom by discovering his true purpose in life.

—Monty Moran, Esq., Co-CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill

Divine Collision is an encouragement to those of us who walk daily in the corridors of law and order, believing that if you persist and follow the divine blueprint, it is possible to extract justice from the very jaws of injustice. The story of Jim and Henry illustrates further that justice knows no color, no jurisdiction, no age, and no boundaries. Justice is without borders.

—Justice Mike J. Chibita, Director of Public Prosecutions, Uganda

With great courage and conviction, Jim Gash provides an extraordinary glimpse into the power of obedience, prayer, and hope in transforming not only one life—or even one community—but an entire justice system. Divine Collision speaks to what is at the heart of our Christian calling: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).

—Gary A. Haugen, President & CEO of International Justice Mission and author of The Locust Effect

Divine Collision weaves together a compelling narrative of Jim Gash’s passion to protect children forgotten within the web of the Ugandan justice system and his desire to obey the biblical command to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. Jim’s story inspires all of us to “remember the poor” and to serve “the least of these.”

—Ken Starr, President of Baylor University

Jim Gash has brought forth a book that might just cause you to sing. Divine Collision reminds you of the great worth of a seemingly obscure life, and how a little decision can have ripple effects into eternity. It’s about saying YES to the God who sees the broken places—and doesn’t look away. This gripping true story of redemption and beauty deserves a wide audience of thrill-seekers and those who want to discover new ways to love God, even when He calls us to what seems impossible.

—Sara Hagerty, Author of Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet

What happens when God calls a Southern California law professor to serve “the least of these” in Uganda? Divine Collision is the riveting story of God at work in two families on two continents. It is a roller coaster of faith, perseverance, disappointments, and ultimately triumph—not only for a falsely convicted Ugandan youth, but the transformation of the justice system of an entire nation. You will be inspired by how God can use normal, everyday people to accomplish His purposes!

—Terry Fahy, Vice President of Salem Media Group, Los Angeles

Jim Gash is a quiet hero. He is a brilliant justice fighter, and his life is marked by humility. His story, told in Divine Collision, is courageous and inspiring. Read this book!

—John Sowers, Author of The Heroic Path

Divine Collision is a thrilling story of how an American law professor driven by faith, compassion, and love made sacrifices for himself and his family in order to secure justice and freedom through Uganda’s judicial system for many children, including Henry, who had been convicted of murder. The story is written against the background of the successful collaboration between the Pepperdine University School of Law and the Ugandan Judiciary, which has promoted exchange programs between the two institutions and made a significant contribution to the transformation of the justice system. Because of Jim Gash’s commitment and historical contribution to the Ugandan Judiciary, which is clearly evident in this book, he was named Specialist Advisor to the Ugandan High Court and became the first American ever to argue a case in the Ugandan Court of Appeals. Indeed, his frequent visits to Uganda have made Uganda his second home.

—Dr. Benjamin J. Odoki, Retired Chief Justice of Uganda (2001–13)

I first heard Jim Gash speak years ago when giving a sermon in place of our pastor who was on hiatus. It was something I will never forget and changed the way I look at chance meetings forever. He said there is no such thing as a coincidence, only “God-scheduled opportunities.” Thanks to that shared wisdom, my life has been greatly blessed. Jim is a man like no other, and I know this story will touch and inspire you. You picking up this book is more than chance curiosity—it’s an example of a “God-scheduled opportunity.” Enjoy!

—Scott Hamilton, Olympic Gold Medalist and Author

Divine Collision is about justice and the heart of a Christian lawyer. I encourage anyone who thinks God cannot use them to make a difference in the world: read this book! Jim Gash did a simple thing—he followed where God called him. And in the end, Jim was a part of God’s plan for justice in lives stretching from California to Uganda.

—David Nammo, Executive Director and CEO of the Christian Legal Society

Divine Collision is an incredible story of faith, determination, brotherhood and, finally, sweet victory for the good guys. Jim Gash, a professor at Pepperdine Law School, tells of his friendship with Henry, a Ugandan teenager falsely accused of a crime, and their battle with the Ugandan courts to introduce due process and basic fairness. While this book does tell how they changed the system, Jim and Henry’s story is more about how anyone can accomplish great things when they see a wrong and simply decide its time to correct it.

—Roger Cossack, ESPN Legal Analyst and Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University School of Law

There is a moment of sober acceptance when vocation and training intersect urgently with avocation and a deep and personal need to do what is right. Divine Collision is the true story of a man fit perfectly to a mountain. In an age when the practice of law feels sometimes as much like business as it is profession, this remarkable story cannot help but restore faith in the nobility of the law and its humble, respectful practitioners. This is a story about nothing less than a hero’s journey in service to justice.

—Andrew K. Benton, President of Pepperdine University

A remarkable story of what happens when you follow God’s commandments to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and then to love your neighbor as you love yourself—you get a divine collision, and your life and the lives of those around you are changed forever! Jim Gash, in his book Divine Collision, shows us what the true meaning of humanity is and how it leads to justice, peace, and fulfillment.

—Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Justice of the Court of Appeal for the Constitutional Court of Uganda

In challenging times, the world needs reminders of hope and justice. Divine Collision delivers that message clearly and with a clarion call to action: we can all do our part to heal a broken world.

—Jay Milbrandt, Professor at Bethel University (MN) and Author of The Daring Heart of David Livingstone and Go and Do

A compelling and joyous story of the transformation of a legal system—and of the individuals who brought it about. A must-read for anyone committed to the proposition that law is a calling to serve others.

—Jeffrey Brauch, Dean of Regent University School of Law

Divine Collision is the extraordinary story of the dedicated work done in Uganda by Professor Jim Gash of the Pepperdine University School of Law. Professor Gash responded to his own faith calling and to the desperate needs of hundreds of young people in remand homes in Uganda, imprisoned for long periods of time without any semblance of what we know as due process. Through this journey, Professor Gash not only forged a bond with Henry, the African hero of the story, but he helped change the practices of the entire Ugandan criminal justice system. His significant contributions stand as models for bringing fairness and the rule of law to people around the globe. It is a privilege to be a colleague of Professor Gash and to be part of the home of the Global Justice Program, which he directs.

—Deanell Reece Tacha, Duane & Kelly Roberts Dean of Pepperdine University School of Law

Find out what happens when a sharp, self-effacing California lawyer without any penchant for mission trips goes to Africa and befriends a sharp, self-effacing Ugandan teenager who has suffered a grave injustice. He gives the boy his cell phone number … and nothing will ever be the same for either of them. Part legal thriller, part spiritual memoir, this book will remind you what wonderful surprises are in store when a person says yes to God—even an initially hesitant yes.

—Rick Hamlin, Executive Editor of Guideposts magazine and Author of 10 Prayers You Can’t Live Without

Divine Collision tells the extraordinary and compelling story of the friendship between Jim and Henry, separated by thousands of miles and a cultural gap wider still. It is the story of deep and sacrificial friendship, of the relentless pursuit of justice, of a dramatic and unexpected divine collision. Gash lovingly and beautifully shares his story with Henry’s help, drawing us in and exposing us to the transforming power of living in response to God’s call on our lives. Inspiring and encouraging, you will not be the same after reading Divine Collision.

—L. Timothy Perrin, President of Lubbock Christian University

Despite all the bad news from Africa—and his book hides none of that—Jim Gash offers some good news about how individuals can make a transformational difference in others’ lives, regardless of where they are in this world. Divine Collision is a well-told and inspiring story of love, hope, and mercy one life at a time.

—Edward Larson, Pulitzer Prize–Winning Author of Summer for the Gods

We all desire to live lives of meaning. We all long to know we’ve helped make the world a better place. Divine Collision is an inspiring, heartwarming story that chronicles Jim Gash’s cross-continental journey to unlock a lifetime of meaning and possibility for a young African boy named Henry. It’s a powerful reminder of God’s desire for us to love one another and to boldly follow the passion he places in our hearts. Uplifting and inspiring!

—Phil Schubert, President of Abilene Christian University

Jim Gash’s account of Henry’s journey through the Ugandan judicial system is riveting, colorful, and emotional. Jesus said, “I am the door,” and Jim walked through the door to answer Henry’s prayer for help. In the process, he’s helped catalyze the juvenile judicial system in Uganda. Among its many inspirational lessons, Divine Collision shows how empathetic and sustained service bear fruit in foreign missionary efforts.

—Edith H. Jones, Judge for U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Divine Collision is a captivating book! Jesus calls us to visit the prisoner, proclaim justice for the oppressed, and set the captive free. Too often we’ve forgotten that He really meant it. Jim Gash didn’t forget, and his book reminds us this is Jesus’ call for us too.

—Richard Stearns, President of World Vision U.S. and Author of The Hole in Our Gospel and Unfinished


An African Boy, An American Lawyer, and Their Remarkable Battle for Freedom


Copyright © 2015 by Jim Gash

Published by Worthy Books, an imprint of Worthy Publishing Group, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., One Franklin Park, 6100 Tower Circle, Suite 210, Franklin, TN 37067.

WORTHY is a registered trademark of Worthy Media, Inc.


eBook available wherever digital books are sold.

Library of Congress Control Number: 2015952292

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

For foreign and subsidiary rights, contact rights@worthypublishing.com

Scripture quotations are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Published in association with Yates & Yates, www.Yates2.com

ISBN: 978-1-61795-671-3 (Hardcover w/ Jacket)

Cover Design: Matt Smart / Smartt Guys design

Cover Images: Craig Detweiler (top) and Jay Milbrandt (bottom)

Printed in the United States of America

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JIM GASH IS A GOOD FRIEND of mine. He’s many things. A father, a lawyer, an advocate, a professor at Pepperdine Law School. He’s too humble to let on, but those of us who have been around him for a while know he could be running a small country. Instead, he’s devoted his life to his family, his friends, his students, and Jesus. Doing this is more complicated than it sounds at first, because Jim assumes everyone is his friend. He also takes Jesus literally. Jesus told His friends when they did something for the lost and hurting, they were doing it for Him. This book is about what Jim did next, because he actually believes what Jesus said is true.

He also doesn’t think loving his neighbor means just loving the person across the street from him. He’s gone around the world loving people. You’ll meet a couple of them in this book. While I’ve learned a lot of things from Jim over the years, he’s never thought he was my teacher; he just thought he was my friend. There are a lot of people who feel this way about Jim. You’ll know why, before you turn the last page of this book.

Jim knew I didn’t have a place to stay one night, so he gave me a key to his house and said I could stay there every night. People who know how to love extravagantly do these things. I’ve spent more than a few nights at Jim’s house since then, and he’s a man of habits. He makes the same breakfast every morning. An egg. A piece of toast. A slice of meat. The same way. Every day. No exceptions. He loves the people he meets the same way. Everybody. Every day. No exceptions. He started loving people in Uganda this way, and you’ll read in this book how he helped to change a country.

Jim prepares for his day at Pepperdine Law School the way most people study for the bar exam. He memorizes the cases, the rules, and the outcomes. Even though he knows the cases better than any of the students, he makes them feel as though they’re teaching him. Humble people make a habit of loving people this way. Jim also memorizes the name of every student in his class. Perhaps this could work for some of us if we had a class of a dozen or less. Jim has hundreds of students in his classes. On the first day of class, he calls on them by name. He knows where each student went to school, what their ambitions are, and where they lived before they came to law school. He could probably tell them their favorite color. This isn’t a parlor room trick. You see, Jim cares for everyone he meets this way. Ferociously. Purposefully. Intensely. He’s memorized the way Jesus loved people, and Jim knows he can’t love people the way Jesus did if he doesn’t know them. So Jim set out many years ago to get to know as many people as he can. He treats the chief justice of Uganda’s Supreme Court and his many friends in the judiciary the same way he treats his students. With tremendous love and respect.

It won’t take you long to figure out Jim doesn’t walk; he leaps. People light up when he springs into a room. He does life with a boyish charm, which is irresistible even to his most imposing adversary. He doesn’t just put his toe in the water, he grabs his knees and does a cannonball. And without knowing what just happened, most of us have felt Jim grab us by the wrist a time or two and take us along with him.

When Jim let his love off the chain in Uganda many years ago, he visited many times and did tremendous things, but he knew he could accomplish more if he moved there with his family—so he did. Who loves people that way? I have a school in Northern Uganda and have been at the receiving end of Jim’s audacious brand of love. I’ve watched him hope for other people what they’ve been hoping for themselves. He must have done a Jedi move on me once, as I found myself enrolling students into my school he’d freed from a prison in Uganda. I didn’t even know what Jim had done until much later. Typical Jim! Love isn’t a spell that is cast; it’s a habit that is practiced. Jim has practiced love a lot, and it’s cost him more than a little.

As a young man, Jim landed a job with a huge law firm—which is the envy of most lawyers—but Jim didn’t want to just do things he was able to do; he wanted to do things he was created to do. He knows there’s no justice without love and no love without justice, so Jim started doing a lot of both. To be sure, he’s one of the world’s best cheerleaders, but Jim loves people like a linebacker. The last place I’d want to be in the world is standing in between him and injustice. This is because Jim doesn’t see people as issues; he sees them as people.

If what I believe is true, one day each of us is going to wrap up our time here on earth and we’ll sit with God. Jesus said on that day He’ll want to talk to us about how we treated hungry people, thirsty people, strange people, sick people, naked people, and imprisoned people. Some of those conversations will be brief, and some of those conversations will be long. I’m betting Jesus will have a long conversation with Jim about the people who were hurting and somehow got inside the blast radius of his love.

Jim is a lot like Jesus—they both went after the ones who were on society’s fringe. Jim doesn’t let many people know what he does for others. He’s old fashioned that way and thinks love doesn’t need to be televised for it to matter. Or even put in a book for the masses to read. But he wanted to tell his story to draw more attention to others, including an African boy named Henry. In these pages, you’re going to get a peek through a knothole and learn more than a little from a guy who’s been doing a lot more than just talking about love and justice.

It’s a delight to introduce you to my friend Jim Gash.




“IS THAT REALLY AFRICA, DAD?” Jessica asked.

My thoughts floated across the water stretching out before us as my family and I stood at the cliff’s edge in the early summer of 2008.

“Dad? DAD? Are you even listening to me?” my inquisitive thirteen-year-old daughter, Jessica, persisted.

“What, sweetie?” I said, snapping back into the moment.

“Is … that … Africa?” She was pointing at a smudge of brown on the horizon separating the water from the sky.

“Yes, that’s Morocco, and that’s the Strait of Gibraltar in front of it. We’re standing on the southernmost tip of Europe.”

“Are we going there?”

“No, sweetie. We’re going to drive around Spain for a while before we go to London.” We were en route to the UK, where we would live for six months while I worked at Pepperdine’s London Program during the summer and fall terms.

My eight-year-old, Jennifer, took off her rainbow-rimmed sunglasses and sighed. “When can we get some ice cream?”

“I want some too,” my burr-headed middle child, Joshua, added.

“No, Dad.” Jessica stood on her tiptoes until she and her furrowed brow were centered in my field of view. “I mean, are we ever going to Africa?”

“Nope. I have no plans to go to Africa. Ever.”

“Why not?”

All she got in reply was a shrug. I turned her shoulders around to face the horizon and placed her head under my chin. What would we ever do in Africa?

“Hey, Jim, let me get a photo,” my wife, Joline, said as she lined us up against the rail and we squeezed together to fit in the frame of the picture.

This was the only memory of Africa I expected our family ever to share.

Had Joline’s camera lens been able to focus over my shoulder on a small village 3,358 miles south of Gibraltar, it would have captured a deceptively innocuous scene—a dusty peasant farmer hiring an itinerant herdsman to tend his nine cows.

A red sun peeked expectantly over the rolling hills as the herdsman shuffled onto the bustling road. His dew-drenched shirt clung to his stiff back, and his alcohol-soaked head hammered from his three-day binge. He was no stranger to sleeping on the ground, but his aching joints reminded him he wasn’t getting any younger.

He pulled a hat over his weathered face and blinked at the red dirt swimming beneath his bare feet. The sputtering cough of a boda boda drew his glance to the driver and then to the middle-aged man seated behind him on the motorcycle. The passenger wore a faded Manchester United T-shirt and a scowl. That isn’t him, the herdsman thought. But better to be safe.

He quickened his pace and ambled unsteadily into Hoima’s outdoor market, seeking anonymity among the merchants propping up crude wooden stalls and setting out their merchandise—tomatoes, pineapples, secondhand clothing, and other necessities for life in rural East Africa.

Are they still hunting me? the herdsman wondered, carefully avoiding any eye contact. Why didn’t I take a bus south to Kampala? They wouldn’t have looked for me two hundred kilometers away. Why did I steal from them in the first place? They gave me a job and treated me well.

He cursed himself for squandering the money on alcohol. Now it was too late. I can’t even afford a matatu to Masindi!

As he ducked under a yellow Uganda Cranes soccer jersey dangling over the narrow path leading into the market, his stomach growled. He could afford little more than some bread and something to drink while he hid yet another day. More than hunger, though, he felt fear. It wasn’t fear of the police; they only cared about more serious crimes. It was the boda drivers.

He shuddered as he remembered the beatings he’d witnessed, and sometimes participated in during his younger days, when thieves were caught red-handed.

“Two chapattis,” he said to the woman laboring over an iron skillet.

“One thousand shillings,” came the reply in broken English as she slipped the circular pieces of flat bread into a plastic bag.

As he pocketed his change, an unfamiliar voice startled him from behind. “Imanriho?”

The herdsman turned slowly and found himself staring into the eyes of a boda driver twice his size and half his age—the one who had zoomed past minutes earlier.

“My passenger told me you are the thief called Imanriho,” the hulking man growled.

He weighed his options. He could run, but with his shaky legs, his odds of escaping were razor thin. He could offer his remaining money as a bribe, but the boda driver would earn that amount on a few fares over the next hour. Or he could play dumb.

“Eh? Who are you looking for?”

“Imanriho—the herdsman who stole money from his employer three days ago.”

“That is not me.” He shook his head vigorously.

“Then you should not be worried!” The boda driver seized his arm and forcefully escorted him back through the market.

“I am not a thief, I am not a thief!”

His trembling protests drew a crowd, their experience telling them a boda driver dragging a suspected thief meant violence was imminent. By the time captive and captor reached the road, about twenty onlookers had convened, many of whom were also boda drivers. His captor yanked off his hat and turned his chin toward the man in the Manchester United shirt. The man spat. “He is the one. Make him pay.”


  • "Divine Collision will remind you once again how one small gesture of love can make a monumental impact on a person for eternity."—Katie Davis, New York Times bestselling author of Kisses from Katie
  • "A beautiful and riveting story, Divine Collision is an emotional roller-coaster ride."—Monty Moran, Esq., Co-CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill
  • "Gash provides an extraordinary glimpse into the power of obedience, prayer, and hope in transforming not only one life--or even one community--but an entire justice system."—Gary A. Haugen, President & CEO of International Justice Mission
  • "The story is as emotional as it is thrilling, and it reads like a major film."—Publishers Weekly

On Sale
Jun 16, 2020
Page Count
320 pages
Worthy Books

Jim Gash

About the Author

After majoring in finance at Abilene Christian University, Jim Gash continued his education at Pepperdine University School of Law. During his first year of law school, Gash decided that his career goal would be to return to teach at Pepperdine where his passion for the law was ignited and his spiritual life was enriched by the faculty, administration, and community. As a professor, he has taught Torts, Evidence, and International Human Rights.

While at Pepperdine, he has devoted himself to advancing the rule of law in developing countries, including traveling to Uganda more than twenty times with Pepperdine students and alumni to assist that country in its justice reform efforts. Most recently, after being associate dean for strategic planning and external relations and professor of law, he has been named the eighth president and CEO of Pepperdine University, effective August 2019. Jim is married with three children and lives in Malibu, California.

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