Monday, March 24, 2014

Justice to a Child is Justice to a Nation

Saturday, March 15
Day 5

The day was finally here when we would visit Restore Leadership Academy. Yet, once again, Deborah had something else in store for the morning and we would have to wait a few more hours. Little did we know that the next few hours would hold some of the most sobering and heart-changing moments of our whole trip. From what we were told, we were about to go zip-lining and rock climbing. Well...we're from Colorado and so we were feeling like, "Been there, done that." (And how can you beat zip-lining over the canopy of Costa Rica?) But we knew that Deborah knows best, so we dressed in the appropriate attire for the events.

Deborah took us to a little patch of forest with a sign over the entrance gate that said "The Recreation Project". We saw as we entered that we were in the middle of a ropes course. If you have never done a ropes course before imagine an obstacle course of sorts. Ropes courses are designed to be used with a group of people, all working together as a team to accomplish both a physical and mental challenge presented by the course. For example, you have to get everyone over a small ravine using only 2 wooden platforms and 2 planks of wood. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong!...Or, getting each of your team members through a giant spider web without using any of the web openings for more than two people and without any part of your body or clothing touching the rope.  It takes a lot of teamwork, clear communication, and a huge amount of trust in your teammates to navigate through these challenges.

Interesting tidbit: The Recreation Project was started by a Denver man and his wife. They believed that it would "inspire the resilience of young people in post-conflict communities by providing active healing experiences through outdoor adventure and sport" -- another young couple who've left the life of ease behind to go love on the people of Uganda with the love of Christ.

Already engaged in a team event was a circle of women dressed in bright blue t-shirts and red athletic shorts. When our group arrived they immediately stopped what they were doing and started and singing and dancing their way up to greet us. Some had whistles they were blowing non-stop but most were singing. Pretty quickly behind us another bus of ladies pulled in and out jumped another group of women dressed in the same blue t-shirts and red shorts. The two groups merged and while we made a human tunnel with our hands, these women danced through the tunnel singing "I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning turning back!"

My new friends: Florence with the red necklace and Annette in the blue pants.
After the chaos and excitement of everyone's grand entrances settled down we learned that we were spending the morning working through the ropes course with these women. Who happened to be witch doctors.  Um, yes. You heard me correctly.  Witch Doctors. (The prefer to call themselves "traditional healers".)

Okay, wait....what? 

After playing a large group game of  passing two hula hoops around the circle without breaking hands, we split into three teams, dividing our group up amongst the witchdoctors. The rest of the morning was spent working our way through the course. Mike and Michael ended up on the same team together. You should've seen those ladies trying to coach these two giant men through the spider web! It was hilarious!

Over lunch, Mike and I sat with a woman and her son that I had held hands with during the first group game. Her name was Florence. (Pictured in the photo above.) She didn't speak any English but her 11 year old son did and so he quietly translated for us. We talked all kinds of small talk: how old he was, if he had any siblings, does he like school, what does he want to be when he grows know the drill. He was sweet and friendly, but very timid.

Florence and her son.
After lunch Bob asked Mike to video an interview he needed to do. He was preparing to try a witch doctor in the area and needed to get a testimony on tape. Mike didn't think anything of it as he grabbed the camera and began filming. His stomach started turning when Florence and her son sat down and began describing their story. Her teenage daughter had been kidnapped and murdered some time before and her genitals had been cut off and returned to the village. (In Uganda, the genitals of a child are believed by many witch doctors to hold special powers, so children are frequently kidnapped and murdered for their genitalia. They also believe that if a child is buried in the foundation of a new building, that building will be blessed and all inside will prosper.) As Mike's heart is being broken by Florence's pain, she continues. Her son, the one we had lunch with, had been abducted along with his best friend. He was made to watch as the witch doctors beheaded his best friend and his blood was collected in a cup...which he was then made to drink. At some point he managed to get away and run back to safety, taking days to make his way back to his mother and home village. We can only imagine the horrific trauma he has experienced and how those memories will haunt his life forever. On top of that, now he has HIV due to drinking the blood of his friend.

As soon as he could, Mike came over to share his heartache with me. Only I had just learned that Josiah's little buddy had also been recently abducted and yet, somehow he too had been rescued before he was hurt. This little boy woke up in captivity surrounded by heads and body parts. He too ran away from his captors and Bob was in the process of trying his case. Witch doctors haven't been tried in court because people are afraid of them. If Bob is successful in getting the death penalty against this witch doctor, it will set precedent and likely change Ugandan history. Please pray fervently regarding this!

Neither of us could comprehend the fears that these people have to live with. We can't imagine the horror of knowing that your children are always at risk. Many parents will mar their kids in some way at birth, scarring them in some way because they believe that makes them less desirable as a child sacrifice. As we stood there trying to process the things we had just learned, our hearts were heavy beyond bearing. We looked around at our 5 children playing carefree and innocent, knowing that their little Ugandan friends would never have the luxury of enjoying such a naive and protected childhood. We felt blessed and deeply, profoundly sad all at the same time. We've returned home with a desire to help, to love these beautiful children of Uganda who know so much pain.

Because of this morning, a morning we initially thought we'd rather have spent hanging out at the Academy with the Restore students, we were changed by being confronted with the darkness and horror of sin. As we tried to wrap our brains around the tremendous wickedness of this particular community, we couldn't help but be reminded that these women, these witch doctor women, were turning to Christ and changing their ways. They wanted child sacrifice to stop, too. These were their babies that were being abducted and mutilated. They have now united to form a group with the motto they wore proudly on their blue t-shirts: "Justice to a child is justice to a nation." Amen and amen. Our own nation needs to decide to follow Jesus. Our own nation needs to realize her desperate need for justice for her children. Abortion, sexual abuse, physical abuse, etc. -- all are prevalent in our home culture. It may look and feel different - maybe not sound as horrific? - than decapitation or dismemberment, but is it?  May God bring justice to the children of the world. And may God bring about justice in both Uganda and the United States of America.

Please pray that the male witch doctors will be reached soon through the power of Jesus Christ. This transformation amongst the female witch doctors began when Bob invited himself to dinner at one of their homes. He just started loving them, which led to relationship, which opened the door for the love of Christ. And now there is a community of believers who are changing their ways, changing their communities, changing the culture. But the men need reached and so far, they want nothing to with this man Bob Goff, or those who've been influenced by his teachings. Please pray.

Bragging rights of the day: Bob Goff, for doing love like Jesus did with Zacchaeus. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Miracles are happening, and prayers are continuing. - Fawn