It's becoming old hat. I wonder where that phrase came from. I don't know, but I hope it never applies to me. Driving down this Ugandan road to Gulu from Lira coming from Kampala after Entebee... and Amsterdam....and Detroit.... from Nashville. In three days. I have started coming up by myself a few days before or staying a few days after the team to meet with potential partners, finding needs and understanding culture (team gets in today!). I love it so much. I find the time richer and deeper. But I am tried. But not really. What I actually am is Full. Filled to overflowing with stories. Of numbers. Of sights and sounds and smells and lives lost that are floating around me in this green and beautiful bush I am riding through. Bosco drives. He loves listening to the Grease Lightening sound track and laughs at me so much when I belt out every word. "I love this so much!" He says "Have you seen the movie?" I ask "The movie? No? There is a movie?!" I smile and look out the window again.
I often ask my nieces what they are thinking about when I catch them drifting off (I miss them so much more when I'm away). I love hearing their response. For me? Now?
I'm thinking of John who told me about his wonderful program in Lira that teaches those who are not able to feed their families how to farm. He is driven and articulate and intelligent. I watch him tell me of his dreams for his people. He is missing his right ear. I know how he lost it. I don't have to ask - nor would I. The LRA is known for chopping off the ears and lips of its victims. But he lives on. He lives in color. He lives in hope.
I am thinking of Justin. The driver of our car who took us to Kampala. The minute we were alone in the car he started sharing. "I am from Gulu, you know?" I only have to ask a few questions and he begins, "Even I am war-affected. You know, they would come into the schools and they would take you. They would chop the children and force the others to kill their teachers. Even they would make you eat her flesh"
"I am so sorry. So sorry, Justin."
He points to his hand. He is missing the top of a finger. "Even I was abducted for 2 days" Showing me his finger. "It was a bomb. It took my finger"
"How old were you"
"I was 13"
Riding along. Bosco asks me if I am hungry. No. No - I am not hungry. I am sad. I am hopeful. I am full. I look out the window again imaging when the LRA was raiding this land and the 60,000 children in Uganda alone that I heard yesterday were either killed or abducted. I think of Congo were Kony is now. I think of Kinshasha, DRC where I was told yesterday that there were 10,000 street children abandoned by their parents who wrongly have accused them of being witches and sorcerers. They blame them for their poverty and they have abandoned them to the streets. I think of the 5000 child soldiers who are apparently going to be released to their villages in the next year in Sudan. What is there for these children to begin their healing? They will be rejected by their villagers and will be forced to be street children. But there is an answer.
I remember the three year old boy yesterday I saw on Jane's computer. He was born in the bush by a young girl forced to be a sex slave to Joseph Kony himself. There are thousands of them - these children born in the bush after abduction of the girls. They only know life in the bush. They are called "the choppers" because they are the offspring of a rebel commander. They range in age of around 3 - 10 years old. This little boy in particular?
This boy resembles his father - Joseph Kony - in an obvious way.
"They say that all of Kony's children resemble him. They say none of them that resemble the mother"
"How many are there?" How many children does Kony have?"
"He has had around 70 girls as wives. Many of them have had 2 - 3 children. They say he has 150 children. You know, if we do not teach the children differently. If we do not help their hearts heal. What will happen? We will have thousands more Konys"
I have fallen asleep. Deep needed sleep. Dreaming of many things. I open my eyes and the sunset is amazing. It captures my heart and I smile. I think.....
"Your love is as faithful as the sunrise and as soothing as the sunset. I will not fear. I will hope. I will believe."
Father, if I love these children as deeply as I do, I can only imagine how much you love them. Use these next few weeks not only to change me, but to use me. To use our team. Use our words. Use our hands. I don't want this to be old hat. I never want my heart to stop breaking. I never want to be hardened. I was at one point. Hardened. Thinking I would never thaw out. I praise you for breaking me. I praise you for unthawing me. I praise you for never giving up on me.
I will, my God and my Father, never ever give up on you. I am