Stepping back on Thursdays to remember and learn from old memories. Here’s a blog from our founder – originally posted on June 12, 2011 – http://theheartofexile.blogspot.com/2011/06/i-am-not-dirty-anymore.html
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I am not dirty anymore. Not like I have been. Especially the last few weeks. There is no longer dirt under my nails that I can’t keep out and my feet aren’t covered with red dust from dancing in the dirt beside children orphaned by the LRA. I am not using a bucket of water and a cup to bathe anymore and children or drums didn’t wake me up this morning. I am not in the middle of the bush in the middle of a village. Not in body… but I am there. I am there in spirit. Looking at Gloria and telling her how beautiful she is. How God is her forever father so she can never be orphaned again. I am hugging Joyce and laughing with her as she tells me that last night was the first night she has not had a nightmare of the LRA killing her family in “many many months”. She is beaming. I am standing before a group of 65 children as they draw their heartaches (guns, rebels, blood, burning huts) and at the feet of a 9 year old girl as she tells the group how she watched Kony’s soldiers slit her mother’s throat from one side to the other. She was the age of my youngest niece when that happened, and I have to look away to keep from crying.
I am watching our team work tirelessly and seamlessly to fit a 5 day program into 2.5 days after adding a sports therapy component and EMDR/self soothing techniques to help them process their emotions in the middle of a flashback or nightmare.
And I am sitting in the dark. Sitting beside a tall strong boy who says he is eleven when really he is thirteen (long story behind that one). I am siting beside him on a bench under the stars holding his hand and telling him how strong he is. Telling him how much he is loved and asking him how he is.
“How is your heart?”
He has a harder time speaking English than he does reading or understanding it. But the concept of that question is just as hard for him to grasp.
He looks down and up and around. “I am good.”
Thinking of a different way to word it… “Are you happy? Are you sad?”
“I am happy. I am happy, but I have a cough and my head is hurting sometimes. And I sometimes have the bad dreams”
This boy. This young man. This amazing spirit who has survived more than you and I and a thousand lives could imagine. When children were abducted in Northern Uganda, the first thing they were forced to do was to walk barefoot to Sudan – from Congo. Until their feet would bleed and often become infected (one of the many reasons we wash their feet). If they complained of something they were carrying being too heavy or if they fell beneath the weight, they were made to carry something even heavier or they were beaten. Then they were trained to kill. They were all trained to kill. On top of being trained, the girls were forced to be the wives of rebel leaders sometimes at the age of 11 or 12. Meaning they were sex slaves and raped. The only difference now is that it’s happening in three other countries rather than just in Northern Uganda. And it has been happening for 25 years.
Their stories are not so different than his story. Forced to become the killer of the ones who gave him life. Forced to do horrible things to their bodies. Tortured in ways that are too evil to truly wrap my mind around. And now he suffers physically. Wanting to make sure he is taken care of… I look at his shoes that are coming apart. I want to make sure he is well – so I ask as simply as I can so he can understand me,
“Do you need anything? Are you in need of anything?”
He paused. Looks up and looks away. He has a hard time looking anyone in the eye.
And he quietly asks: “You mean… You mean from God?”
I stop. No. That isn’t want I meant. But that’s what I should have meant. Isn’t that what I should have asked him? I asked what he needs physically and this boy-child assumes I asked how I can pray for him. Because that’s what I should have asked him.
I continue to be humbled with how I am taught much more than I teach when I am around them.
“From God. Yes.” Still holding his hand. “How can I pray for you? What can I pray for?”
He only slightly hesitates: “Knowledge.”
I ask him what he needs physically and he answers that he wishes for Knowledge. Wow. Reminds me of a great wise King who lived long ago.
“What else? How else can I pray?”
He thinks… “For the sickness”
Yes, for the sickness. I wonder if he knows. Does he know how sick he is? Do any of us really know? Tests in Uganda are not like tests in the states. He won’t get the same care here, but thank God for Village of Hope. I thank God for unbelievable dreams coming to life through strong women like Cindy who push through the unbelief.
I look around. I look up. The stars are so brilliant. The team is cleaning up from washing 154 sets of beautiful feet… as best they can clean up in the dark with no electricity. They must be so tired. We have all poured ourselves out the past few days doing trauma care. So gladly. So willingly. I look down and I hold his hand tighter. I hate this language barrier. I hate it so much. It’s deep and wide at times like these.
“Let me wash your feet. Can I wash your feet?” I ask. He smirks. We did this once before a little over a year ago. We both cried then. Some things don’t change so much.
Almost totally in the dark now. Practically everything from the foot washing has been cleaned up. I pour some fresh water in a bucket and grab the soap. I kneel down and begin. His feet have grown so much, but his scars are the same. I wash his feet in the quiet. Under the moon. And I pray out loud for him. And I pray. And I pray. And then. I dry. Not just his feet. My face feels just as wet from the silent tears, but I don’t let him see, and I wipe them away quickly.
Sitting beside of him now, he says, “I will write to you. I will write to you next week and give to Momma Cindy. I love you.”
“And I will write to you. I love you very much and am so proud of you.”
So much more I want to say. Speaking in tongues (specifically Acholi : ) would come in really handy right now. But sometimes the ministry of presence speaks louder than any words of wisdom. We stand up and I give him a big hug. Time to gather the Believe t shirts to give to the children! They are already singing and dancing around the fire : ) Never done this under the stars before. I like firsts…
Lord, if my tears could wash away their memories and feelings of guilt – I would cry rivers. But they can’t. And somehow, it’s in their suffering that they have tapped into a strength and a level of thirst for you that I cannot even fathom. Seeing them worship as if you are their breath. Hearing them pray as if they are desperate for you… makes me realize that they are. And we should be. And, oh my God, how they could teach us. If we would only learn.
I am yours,
Written by Bethany Haley on June 12, 2011