How does one shift their mindset from victim to victor? How does one endure a life of pain, persecution, and poverty and yet still seek to find hope for their future?
There is a human tenacity that we see time and again. A person endures great hardship and survives what most of us find unthinkable conditions. We are inspired.
There is another level that surpasses tenacity. It is where a human not only survives…but their lives are filled with inexplicable joy and peace. These people actually find forgiveness for their brutal attackers, they find comfort where there once was fear, they find hope for their future. These people are my heroes.
In northern Uganda a major civil war took place and ended just 6 short years ago. The war left the country with thousands of children who had once been abducted from their homes as child soldiers to return “home” and find a new life. Unfortunately, many of those children were not accepted in their villages as they had committed murder. Most of the girls had been brutally raped and had birthed children to their military “husbands” that had abused them. These girls came home from the war with multiple children…children that they did not want or have the means to support. Others came home with HIV and no skills as they had not been in school for many years, if ever. Where does one go?
Thankfully, God planted a vision in the hearts of Gary and Marilyn Skinner years and years ago to “care for the widows and orphans” of Uganda. They began Watoto church in the 1970s and in the 90’s started children’s villages. This vision has grown to multiple church campuses, 3 baby homes and 3 villages for orphans and displaced women who become mothers to these children. They also have started an awesome ministry called Living Hope for women who have been estranged…their husband may have died of AIDS or they themselves were child soldiers. Living Hope teaches women life skills, provides crisis counseling, and also teaches them certain trades like how to sew, make jewelry, and peanut butter. Having read the stories of the Living Hope women in the book Return to Dignity I was anxiously awaiting our visit to this particular program. I was blown away by what I experienced. The first thing that happened when we got there was this:
The joyful “noise” that the woman at the end was making was one of greeting, welcome.
Immediately I remembered this passage:
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!
Our next stop was the Gulu village. This is the home of hundreds of orphans who have now found homes and wonderful mothers, thanks to the heart and leadership of Watoto church. The Watoto baby homes are filled with babies abandoned in trash heaps, latrines, or even hospitals. Still others have lost their parents to war, AIDS, and poverty. Watoto villages have given these children a new home and a new life. When we arrived in Uganda a native asked us where we would be visiting. When we told her Gulu she asked why we would want to go there?! She said there were still land minds and other dangers left from the ravage of war. We were so blessed to meet wonderful mothers and children from this area…and many more babies…they simply don’t have enough homes to place them in the villages yet. In Watoto’s Laminadera village–located in Gulu, we walked up to these precious children singing. They were not doing this for our benefit, they were just hanging out when we “happened” upon them:
Please listen and re-listen to the words they are singing. My kids have asked me over and over to watch this video. They said, “Mom this is the best video ever!” They are inspired by children who are survivors in every sense of the word. They are children who the world has forgotten or ignored…but God has great plans for their lives. The best part is: they believe it’s true. Their joy, contentment, and hope makes them my new heroes.
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed!