Monday, September 14, 2009
So, today I'm letting Ben take over my blog and share his thoughts from church yesterday. I have so much to blog about but have had little time and in a way I feel like I still need to process it all. Anyway, here are Ben's thoughts:
Today we visited the village of Kapelabyong and participated in their worship service. This village was started as an Internally Displaced Persons camp (IDP camp) as the people fled from the brutal attacks from Joseph Koney and his “Lord’s Resistance Army”. The tactics of the LRA include capturing children age 12-16 and forcing them to commit acts of brutality while plying them the narcotics. Though Koney has been forced out of the region, the community continues to suffer from drought, poverty and attacks from the Karamojong. The Karamojong are a nomadic tribe that has frequent raids into the surrounding communities to steal cattle. These physical attacks by both the Karamojong and the LRA usually involve rape and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Despite hunger and violence, the people of this village worshiped and praised God with a fervor and passion unlike any I had ever seen. As we pulled into the village the children surrounded the bus. Quickly we were escorted into a large hut. Crouching to enter the hut, I peered into the dark hot room at a myriad of faces. As my eyes adjusted to the room we were seated on a dirt stage in front of 125 people who had come to worship. The children’s choir sang with a purity of voice that I have not heard before and after a amazing message by Vince Giordano the members of the church came forward for prayer.
I have prayed for people many times and this was in no way a new thing for me, or at least I thought. I began to touch the shoulders and heads of children and widows and my tears began to flow. As they came forward I used the only Ateso word I knew, “yoga” which means “greetings”. I have never before prayed for so many people, or people in such dire circumstances. But it was the language barrier that most profoundly impacted me. As they pressed forward many times there were visible illnesses and injuries that needed prayer but most often it was just a person with their own private burdens and fears that they could not communicate to me. As I prayed, the impressions that God would put in my mind were completely foreign to me. I interceded on their behalf and after 45 minutes of constant prayers for over 35 different people, I was spent. My legs felt like jell-o and my heart was broken. I stepped back from the front of the stage.
It was then that Pastor Sam, the pastor of this congregation of hurting people pulled me aside. He directed me to a woman who appeared to be in her 60’s. I now know that is unlikely that she is that old; it is the wear of a very difficult life that prematurely aged her. As Pastor Sam translated for us, she began to tell the story of her two sons that cannot attend school because of lack of funds and her third son who has died. Her sons have gone four days without food and due to the drought it is unlikely that there will be much of a harvest. Without access to education her fear is that the boys will have no future to speak of. Her son that had died had been captured by the LRA and forced to be a boy solider. In the LRA, the children that cannot keep up as they trek through the bush are killed. The leaders don’t kill them, they have the stronger boy soldiers do it. This causes fear in the remaining boys and continues the dehumanization of the new murderers. I wish that it was a single bullet to the head, but sadly the leaders do not want to “waste” a bullet on them so they are latterly hacked apart by the other children. This is the type of inhumanity that has so often left me looking for God, lost and confused.
After years of forced soldiering on behalf of the LRA, her son received the same brutal death that he had likely inflicted on others. As her story ends, she looks at me with expectant eyes and says “will you pray for me?” I think they call this an “OH GOD moment”. How can I bring anything to this woman that can be of any help? I do not have the $1800 it will take to give her sons the future her other son was deprived of, and what possibly can I say to her that can be of any meaningful comfort. In that moment, God must show up because only He can intervene into her pain. We prayed. Pastor Sam translated. Our shared tears needed no translation though. I do not know if she experienced the presence of God in the same rich and satisfying way that I did, but I will have to trust him.
I am glad to tell you that the day also had a few stunning moments of hope. After we left Kapelabyong we visited the home of Joseph Eloto. Joseph works for Chidren’s HopeChest and is the on-the-ground contact to the communities that we have been visiting. Joseph has a large family and many extended family members who live with him. After a wonderful meal cooked by Anne, Joseph’s wife, we met John. John is Ann’s nephew. 4 years ago he had been captured by the LRA. He spent just under 2 years with the LRA before he escaped. Eventually he ended up living with Joseph in an amazing family and is currently getting an education in mechanical engineering.
One of the people on our team asked John “Do you know Jesus?” His initial reply was short, “yes indeed”. He later said that it is only the power of Jesus that can help people who have suffered and caused suffering like he has. As I sat in the room with this boy of 19 who is likely a mass murder, I was acutely aware of God’s redeeming power. With that hope in my heart, I think again of the woman who desperately wanted prayer. The power of a God who created the sky and took time to know my name is not to be doubted or trifled with.
Posted by Amy at 2:00 AM