This is one blog post that even I did not see coming. I am just from attending a presentation dubbed the Restore Tour, Child Solider No More at www.watotochurch.com
January 8:00 a.m.)
“There are two words that should never appear in the same breath, those words are ‘Child’, and ‘Soldier’. If they do, then they MUST be followed immediately by these two words ‘No More’”. That is the tour Leader speaking as he introduces this touching, inspiring and heart-searching presentation.
I had those deep body-shaking sobs at different times during the presentation. My mind was bombarded with this and that, and kept going back and forth…focusing on the victims, the vision bearers of the project, and my very own self.
That the atrocities depicted in the presentation happened in our day and age, under our watch is something unbelievable.
The Reasons I sobbed:
a) Inhumanity: “New born babies and toddlers were considered baggage, when the LRA soldiers raided the village, they smashed babies against trees until they died”…. “I was forced to kill a man, I could see him crying and pleading with me. I knew that if I did not kill him, I would be the very next victim….this happened over and over again until I had no remorse left in me”….. “I was raped…” “…they mutilated my grandmother and left her for dead…” “….I was only 12 when I was abducted…my brother was killed…my Father is missing…”… “we would be forced to push a family into their hut, burn it down and watch them die…then we would be made to sit on the dead bodies and eat food…at times we were told to taste their brains…”
These were systematic inhuman activities were carried on in Northern Uganda village after village, month after month, year after year…just to see the survivors narrating their story, I could not help but shed tears…tears of desperation, anger…I thought I had problems….
b) Vision: “Where there is darkness, light shines even brighter”. Vision attracts people to rally around a cause and make positive change. A visionary is a man filled with so much passion. He DOES something, he acts. He is filled with compassion. As the presentation went on, I could not help but shed tears. Smack in the middle of the heartache, turmoil, mutilations and untold human suffering, there is hope. His name is Gary Skinner. Together with Marylyn Skinner, they have helped rise up Watoto Church Gulu to bring hope where it was all but lost. The Restore tour is just but a glimpse of what this visionary couple has done. This journey has seen these once child soldiers tour the USA, Canada and the UK spreading the message of ‘triumph and not victimization’. My tears were tears of gratitude… “There was a man who answered the call”.
c) Forgiveness: Even the angriest of us in that auditorium today was reduced to sobs when we heard one child soldier after another declaring that they have forgiven those who killed their parents, abducted them, raped them, killed their friends, smashed their cousins against trees to death…. “I forgive Joseph Kony for what he did to my family”…. “I forgive Commander___ for killing…” “I forgive my community for rejecting me when I came back from war”…. “…and I know I need to be forgiven for the very inhuman acts I was forced to do”… “I forgive myself”….
This is a phenomenal act in restoration of lives. Forgiveness. It teaches you to take personal responsibility for your recovery. Forgiveness. It is setting someone free, but only to realize that the one being set free was you. When I saw young gals who were made child mothers, brutally separated from their homes, raped, beaten senseless, made to walk from Uganda to Sudan…pronouncing forgiveness to their captors and torturers…I was reduced to tears. These are kids innocent just like your own 6 year old sweet little daughter….your preteen niece…your funny and intelligent cousin…
Needless to say, I have never been so touched by a story in the recent past like the ‘Child Soldier No More’ presentation. I am more than challenged and know that this life of mine can also count for the better of humanity.
Right in the middle of this dark story, there are several life signatures that are in play. The Vision of Gary and Marylyn Skinner will always draw me to action…and will always lead me to sob with gratitude. Theirs is a Life Signature like no other.
Several other Life Signatures are being formed:
· Rostow Abitegeka, Age 15, an orphan from the war. Future: Musician
· FIder Akech, Age 17, Abducted at 9, future Teacher.
· Florence Akello, Age 9, Orphan, Father abducted and killed; stepfather also abducted and killed, future: Doctor
· Ketty Akumu, Age 12, orphan, Father was a soldier, future: Teacher
· Geoffrey Alango, Age 19, abducted at 12, brother killed, father missing. Future: Doctor/Businessman.
· Flavia Apio, Age 17, orphan, abducted at 7. Future: Doctor.
This week’s Image of the week is that of the vision bearer of www.watotochurch.com
, Pastor Gary Skinner.
For more information on how you can get involved in Impacting a Life, restoring a community, visit www.restoretour.com