It is hard to know where to begin in describing my experiences here in Uganda. We began the trip with some casual sight-seeing, and while I enjoyed that, the real reason I am here is to experience the work of World Vision in this country devastated by 20 years of war with The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)–that on top of a country struggling with poverty and disease… it is hard to fathom from my recliner at home… Seeing it first hand is mind boggling.
We visited the Children of War Rehabilitation Center (a project of World Vision). Over the years over 14,000 abducted children have come through the gates of this facility to receive health treatment for physical wounds and emotional and spiritual treatment for the psychological damage inflicted upon them. Imagine being attacked in the night your adult family members beaten and murdered. The children abducted and along with other children tied together in a human chain. As the rebels take off with the children the army attempts to rescue but the children become a human shield and many are killed or wounded in a failed attempt. These children are then forced to become soldiers themselves and even attack their own people to survive. Unthinkable. Yet it was the reality in Northern Uganda. While the LRA has moved on the after effects are long lasting.
We walked into one room where the events I described above are told in paintings on the wall. We view the dorms which at times have housed hundreds of rescued children at a time. In World Visions work to rehabilitate this children they have them draw pictures to describe the things they remember. On a table we view hundreds of these pictures. It is heart breaking to say the least. (On my Facebook Photo album I have shared a few of these pictures).
Samuel and Grace are two formerly abducted children we are privileged to meet. Samuel was one of those who was shot in the stomach in the crossfire. He is doing quite well today. Grace was abducted when she was 13, managed to escape when she was 18. Last year Grace was named Woman Achiever of the Year in Uganda.
Currently there are only about 20-30 formerly abducted children in the Center. LRA is still active but they have taken their terror to other countries–at least for now. We asked one of the directors of the center if this work was being phased out. Her answer: “Not until the last child is returned home.”
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep”
Luke 15: 4-6