We’re here! We’re healthy! We’re safe! We’re happy! The traveling days have merged together, and I won’t even attempt to put dates on when everything happened, I’ll just make sure the order of events is accurate. We flew from Chicago (thanks Doles and VanderWells for such a great time!). We flew to Detroit where we met our comrades in intern, Matt of Faribault, MN, Brad of Washington, IA, and Megan of Wheeling, WV. They are incredible (more on them to come). From Detroit we flew to the Boeyink-VanderWell Dutch Mecca aka Amsterdam. We had a bit of a scare there due to mechanical issues on the tires that caused a 3 hour delay that was mere minutes away from causing us to miss our flight from Amsterdam to Uganda. We arrived in Kampala at 10pm local time on whatever day, only to find out that Brad and Matt’s bags had not arrive and would not arrive for another 2 days.
We spent the night in Kampala and the next day set off for Gulu, the central city of Acholiland, the people of the North from which Kony and the LRA were spawned and have subsequently been terrorized from. The road to Gulu was absolutely beautiful; full of the flora and fauna that I have forever envisioned of this continent. It gave us pause, however, to think that it was this road that so many children were taken, and so many ambushes have occurred from the LRA upon innocent people. It was also on this road where were able to stand at the banks of the Nile River, something I have never imagined I would be able to encounter in my lifetime.
We stayed in a hotel for the first two nights in Gulu because the ChildVoice center in the village of Lukodi is still under construction, and the house that we will be living in for the summer has yet to be furnished with beds. We’re spoiled by the house we’re living in, especially with the notion that we had mentally prepared to stay in mud huts for the summer. We’re praying that we can complete the center so that we can spend some time living as the local people do. I know perfect solidarity with oppressed people living through poverty and unfathomable atrocities is not possible, we’d be delusional and naïve to think we could even remotely relate to the suffering the Acholi people have gone through. We still want to strive for equality in relationships, however, but it’s such a difficult thing to achieve while we are living in an 8-room gated compound with two maids that cook and clean for us. This is no fault of anyone’s, circumstances have created this dynamic. That being said, once we get settled in to our new home, we’ll be able to dive into our projects. Tay and Megan will team up in implementing group art therapy projects with children in primary school (Lord willing and school headmaster willing). Brad will be reviewing the existing microfinance infrastructure and look for ways to improve upon it. Matt and I will help with construction on the new center and will be looking for other opportunities to serve.
As I mentioned before, our team is amazing. The last night in the hotel we came together after a long day for fellowship and devotions. I suggested we share our testimonies with each other so we could get to know each others’ stories better. I throw this out there, thinking and expecting safe, surface level stories would be the result. Instead, we hadn’t spent more than a half a week together and every single one of us turned ourselves inside out. We shared how messed up, confused, and wayward our lives have been. No frills were spoken, people shared of mental disorders, incredible loss, addictions, past trauma, and huge struggles of faith. Even Conrad, the leader and founder of ChildVoice, candidly shared of a lifetime of pain and confusion in his faith journey. None of us are even close to having everything together, and yet we’re here in Uganda called to serve. It’s so typical of God, ya know? God delivers and renews us THROUGH our struggles and journeys, not just at the end of them. God’s also calling us—vagabonds at best—to play a role in renewing broken and traumatized people in Northern Uganda. It’s not us saving these people, they’re not helpless and they’re certainly not weak. God is instead using us Americans and these Ugandans to deliver each other. We’re all hurting. When we can invite Jesus in, we can all start healing. This is going to be a unforgettable summer. Stayed tuned!