“There is not enough room here…”
I look into his eyes. What have they seen?
I look down at his hands. What was he made to do?
I look at the scars, and I wonder what stories they could tell.
The things he was forced to do and experience at the hands of the LRA are unspeakable to anyone other than a chosen few. To repeat it to any average person would almost be traumatizing – but these children experienced it. They have lived through it. And so many have already forgiven the very ones who forced them to kill their own families.
“Here are two handkerchiefs. Both representing tear catchers. Both reminding us that our tears are collected in the bottle of our Creator. Our happy tears of hopes and dreams as well as our sad tears of pain. They are both equally important to Him.”
I was inviting him to draw memories of his pain on one handkerchief and to draw his dreams on the other. He stared at them blankly, then looked up at me as his words came slowly, “There is not enough room here for me to draw all of my pain.”
This young man… this wise teacher is now mentoring, loving, and teaching the very children he once abducted. Love pours out of him and his very life sings like a poem – speaking with the wisdom of Solomon and the rhyme of David. I watch as he sits in extended moments of silence thanking his Savior for small morsels of food. I watch as he outwardly praises his Redeemer for the tiny gifts he is given to feed the many orphaned children in his home. The children he, by himself, has taken in to care for.
Once a commander in Joseph Kony’s LRA army – now a tender giver of the Grace that has been gifted to him. He was saved for a reason. Perhaps, and in part, as a testimony to power of Redemption. He is a Peacemaker.
“I will sacrifice myself. I will sacrifice myself to take care of her…” he says. I look in near disbelief of the extent to which he believes in and lives out sacrificial love. I watch as he lightly beats his chest over his heart, and he says it again with diligence, “I will sacrifice myself.”
These words are spoken for a woman who was tortured by the LRA so severely that she travels in and out of mental instability. This day we had found her lying in the dirt outside of her home. She was catatonic.
“What kind of brutality did she live through to put her in this state?” I wonder. But I don’t want to know. Not today. So many stories of torture this week… I’m not sure I can hear any more details and still be able sleep. I do know this: The LRA attempted to gorge out her left eye. It is now shaded over with grey and blue and blindness. Her children have raised themselves and are ostracized by the community because their mother is known as “the crazy women” in the village. Thankfully, four of her children are now sponsored – they have food, good schooling, and a safe place to live. The youngest girl was born a few days after her mother, hemorrhaging, returned from the bush. She is a miracle child… and her smile is breathtaking! The mother’s name is Grace, and I believe with all of my heart that she will be healed of her pain. She will walk and be freed from this residue of brutality. I believe that.
There are some things in life that you are not supposed to survive,
but you do.
There are some stories that could not be real,
but they are.
Like stories of Forgiveness that are not human. Stories of Redemption that are not often seen on this side of heaven.
But they are seen. They are not only seen, but they are lived. Out loud.
These are real lives and stories. Stories that belong to children. Lived by children. Told by children. And they will not stop with children – that is, they will not fail to be heard. I will not let them.
“Yes. I sat with Kony. He has a witchdoctor who tells him what to do. Then he will go and tell the commanders the number of people who need to be killed. ‘We need 42 ears,’ or we need this many parts of the body. Then we were forced to go and collect them. It didn’t matter if the people were dead or alive. If we did not bring back the right number, we were punished severely and others were killed. But we were just children.”
Sitting with these children. Crying with them. Praying with them.
I feel like I am in the presence of giants. Royalty.
To hear what they have experienced…. to listen to their hearts for peace and forgiveness… to hold their hands and know what those hands were forced to do. It is beyond words.
But there are words. Their stories must be told. Not just their stories of survival. But their stories of life. There must be a platform for those voices to be heard… an avenue for their stories to be told.
I believe these children can and will change the world with their stories of forgiveness and dreams for peace. To not only survive the torture of rebels, but to be a testimony of peace from their stories of war. I believe that the forgiveness, love for peace and redemption they breathe out by their lives is the testimony that outweighs any evil they have experienced.
I believe Kony will be stopped and that his victims – these survivors – will sing of being saved.
I believe that the children the world almost breaks will grow up to save it.
And I will not stop believing.
Thank you for your support in helping us help these children.
Grace was taken to a hospital last week because she was, again, in a catatonic state and was not eating. Her care will be approximately $700. You can donate directly for her care here.