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Hello from Uganda

Hello from Uganda! For the past few weeks in Lira, we have had the privilege of working with beautiful women and children (including former child soldiers, child-mothers (abducted as children and returning home with child), and many others orphaned by war). Below, you will find a few key highlights followed by glimpses of story.

In the past several weeks: Exile sent 2 teams to come alongside and support the work of Children of Peace Uganda (our partner in Lira). 11 new child sponsorships through Exile in DR Congo and N. Uganda (plus 12 more child sponsorships via our partners at CPU and an outside benefactor). How awesome!  And get this… A donor from Dallas responded immediately to a tweet asking for help to cover a young girls surgery to repair facial scarring caused by the LRA during her captivity. I pray she will no longer feels the need to hide her beautiful face and that this helps her journey toward hope and internal peace.

There are several other needs in Lira I want to invite you into: donors needed to help us hire two counselors who will lead the Peace Clubs (Trauma care and Rehabilitation groups for youths in Lira). Our amazing Kari H. will continue running them until Sept 30 when she returns to the US. The counselors have been identified (and are currently volunteering). The need is $300/month by Oct 1. Additional child-sponsorships are needed ($35/month) – dozens of the kids CPU serves are capable and ready. Since many are in child-headed households (both parents lost during the war), the cost of school is out of reach for many.

Now to tell you about my last two weeks in Lira, Uganda. How sweet it was to be joined by my Dallas church family and a best-friend/gifted therapist.  How rich and how deep this time has been… We dove into their stories. Stories of far greater hurt than I can imagine – even when hearing from their own lips. Stories dripping of far greater hope than I could have imagined – were it not for seeing their very faces.

Mark – a man of joy who just happens to be blind. He leapt and he danced upon hearing Kari’s familiar voice approaching his home… upon hearing the voices of strangers who had come to visit and who left changed by him.  I would guess to be Mark near fifty. Now married to his second wife after losing his first wife and 6 of their 7 children to the fighting between the LRA and UPDF. But this was only part of Mark’s story. After hearing his story from Kari, then meeting him… I was struck by how he seemed to glow… He is a man defined by hope and bubbling over with joy.

Victor Frankl, psychotherapist and Auschwitz survivor, wrote of meaning and hope that transcends circumstance – even the worst of circumstance. I believe Mark and Victor would have great conversations.

We met children who knew loss – far greater loss and far greater forced participation in violence than I can fathom. We talked and we cried.  We played and we laughed.  Art and expressive therapy (and caring individuals) created a safe atmosphere to share hurts and take a few steps along a long road of healing. Then, we’d play some more (because laughter and play are really good medicine).

Some ask how I (and we) bear these stories or carry them without being crushed. Honestly, I really do not know except that God has just given me a way to mentally put them away some of the time and His offering to help carry the load. When you see and remember their hope and resilience –  that they have not been completely crushed – that helps immensely.  Those two words have stuck with me since my first trip in 2007 – hope and resilience.  To know they believe in a better tomorrow and are working towards it… who am I to disbelieve.

Ripple Effect – a note from Kari to the teams:

“Just a word of encouragement… the home visits that we have been doing the past two weeks with CO team and Dallas team have had a ripple effect.

– These families are starting to be visited by their neighbors and they are beginning to bring food to each other.

– Apparently, [D]’s distant uncle heard about us visiting [D] and his siblings (the child-headed household) and went to see them. He took some to visit his home and told them that they are loved and that he would help them as much as possible.

– The family of 19 that both teams visited is now being visited by their neighbors and receiving food from those who formerly wanted nothing to do with them.

We were able to model love and community and it is beginning to spread! Know that this is just a fraction of how you have made an impact here. Love you all and missing you much!” – Kari H.

Thank You…

I cannot thank these teams/my friends enough for investing much and caring much. Thank you for jumping in wholeheartedly and giving more than I could have ever asked of you. You were asked to be flexible… love well… serve selflessly… and encourage/reinvigorate the local staff serving this population tirelessly.  You succeeded and blew us away.

Thank you to each (many of you on this email list) who have played a roll in this mission. Without YOU we could not do this. For each one of you who gets involved – through prayer, encouragement, financial support, child-sponsorships, etc – Exile gets the privilege of serving more children and making deeper impacts in their lives and communities.

Now… off to DRC!

Much love,
Matthew Williams
Director of Operations

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