Uganda. War torn. Victim of the Lord’s Resistance Army, rebels who used to wander around Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan, replenishing their ranks by brutally tearing children from their villages and forcing them to fight.
Dr. Ian Clarke, an Irish doctor who pitched himself and his family into Uganda more than twenty years ago, has found purpose in responding to the needs he found all around him there. In his book, “How Deep is This Pothole?”, he describes the LRA’s atrocities:
A group would target a school or village and abduct more children. They were taken from their classrooms, roped together and marched into the bush. Within hours many of them had swollen or blistered feet and cried out that they could go no further. A group of friends would be made to beat the child. Of course they did not want to hit their friend or sibling, but they themselves were beaten to force them, so they would tentatively beat the child around the legs.
“No, not like that”, the commander would instruct. “Like this.” And he would beat the child on the head. Then, crying and sobbing, the other children would beat their victim until his blood and brains leaked out over the ground.
Clarke explains that by forcing children to kill in this manner within hours of their capture, they were made to share in the collective guilt. Having murdered their own friends and family members, they were now killers and could not go back to a normal life.
Please forgive the gore. But these are the kind of stories we heard sitting under the mango trees with our new friends.
Although thankfully, this ended in 2008, everyone in Uganda lost a friend or mother or father or brother or sister or child to this atrocity.
You would think they’d be angry, sarcastic, jaded, cynical.
Yet they are gentle, happy, grateful people. Maybe happier than you and me?
“How can that be?”, I pondered each night under my mosquito net as I trailed off to sleep. No electricity, no toilets, no clean water. Yet happy, genuinely joyful people.
I only know that when they sing,“Lord I lift Your name on high” and “I’m so glad You’re in my life”, they mean it. They really mean it.
When they sing “You are my All in all”, there is a look on their faces that tells me that He truly is.
When they speak of having been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, there is a conviction in their voices, a sparkle in their eyes.
When I asked one of them about their feelings concerning all that had happened, he pointed me to Job. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” “By His grace, our joy is unshakeable because it comes, not from our temporal circumstances, but from Jesus Christ.”
Humbled. Convicted. Seeking God with all my heart to give me a heart like this.
Click on the video below to see my happy friends singing: