There is a story of a little girl in Congo. Her name is Yvette. When she was two years old she was found in the bush bleeding. Her mother picked her up and placed her in the arms of a man who was visiting the country. She had been raped by rebel soldiers. I saw her and her mother about a month ago. She is well and strong and loves God. She will be a great leader and woman of God. Why?
Because someone believed in her. Because someone believed she was bigger than her past and stronger than her greatest pain.
Because of that moment, there is a center eXile partner's with called the Dina Center specifically for girls who have been sexually violated because of the wars in Congo.
There is a story of a boy in Uganda. His name is Norbert. When he was around 10 years old he was abducted from his village and forced to killed his parents. With a machete. I saw him last year and he put a tiny chain on my wrist to remember him by as we walked back to our huts hand and hand. It was after he had so bravely and tearfully told his story of heartache in front of many other children who had experienced similar pain.
I washed his feet as he cried. And I cried too.
He is now a teenager at Village of Hope Orphanage in Gulu, Uganda. He is there. Because someone believed in him. Because someone believed he was bigger than his past and stronger than his greatest pain.
There is a little girl in America. She lives inside of the body of a 38 year old women. A women who, because of her past and her pain, had given up on herself and on life. But she found purpose in the story of a girl in The Congo named Yvette and a boy in Uganda named Norbert. Because of those children and many more, her greatest heartache became her greatest ministry. And Grace came full circle.
Because God never stopped believing in her. Because there is always purpose in our pain.
I am that little girl. I am that woman.
When I went to Congo almost three years ago now, I returned broken. I hardly left my room for three days. I had never seen hopelessness like that before. Child soldiers asked me to be their mothers. Mothers wanted to give me their daughters. In some areas of Congo, over half of the women have been raped. There are more child soldiers in Congo than anywhere else in the world. It has been deemed one of the worse places to be a child. There are over 6 rebel groups there and each month in the area of Goma alone, 150 are rescued from rebel forces. I had never seen children so traumatized.
A few months later exile international was founded with a dream of creating an art therapy program for war-affected children and former child soldiers. It has since blossomed into a wonderful mission of providing trauma care to hundreds of children on the ground through trips and supporting the work of local leaders, providing trauma care workshops, and being honored to be deeply involved in advocacy work in DC.
Within a few weeks of returning from Congo, I wrote a blog called “Looking Darkness in the Eye” In that blog I wrote about my wrestling with God. Where was He in all of this pain? I couldn’t find Him. I finally came to understand where He was. And it was beautiful.
He was beside of them when they were abducted. He was beside of them when they were being raped at the age of 8 by rebel forces. He was beside of them when they were forced to carry a pistol because there were too small to carry an AK47 at the age of 7. He was beside of them.
The question is not where is God, but where are we?
There is a monthly giving program that we have called SING that starts at $7 a month. It started with a question: How Does Your Life Sing? On our website you will hear Benjamin’s voice when you play the video. His father was killed in the wars of Congo. He says:
“When you begin living for something bigger than yourself you find your self. Your purpose. Your song.” And this he asks “Will you sing with us?”
And I want to ask you – will you Sing with us? With them?
We just returned from Congo a few months ago training around 100 local leaders and working with around 200 children. 24 of those were once child soldiers. Many of those have killed. Most of those do not want to return home for fear of being re-abducted again. All of them love God. Their dream is to return to their villages they fought in to begin peace clubs to teach others about forgiveness. When I asked them to draw their heart wounds – they drew pictures of guns, soldiers, dead bodies, and blood. They performed a 30 minute drama re-enacting their abduction from school, being shown how to use a gun, being forced to kill, slowly assimilating into rebel-hood, being hidden from the UN when attempted to be rescued. And finally? Being rescued and returned to society.
While praying to God about what to share with you, I started asking myself. What would they tell you? What would those 24 boys tell you ? What would Yvette tell you if she were here? What would Norbert say?
They would first tell you not to pity them. And I would double that. The children we work with have more strength and resilience than all of us combined. Please don’t pity them.
I often wonder what would happen if we began learning from those whom we feel we need to save. Outside of Jesus, they have become my greatest teachers.
Secondly, they would probably ask you to listen to them. To help them. To believe in them. I would encourage you to do the same.
Our dreams for these children are not just that they survive war, but that they become leaders of peace and forgiveness in their communities because of what they have survived.
Frank Warren has a saying “It is the children that the world almost breaks who grow up to save it.” Our hope is that the children we work with change the course of war in their countries.
Because someone believed that they were bigger than their past and stronger than their greatest pain.