Sunday morning we were at the Lukodi Church. The church used to meet at the Child Voice center and welcomed four or five hundred members each Sunday. Since the center was handed back to the government and the new one hasn’t been built yet, the Lukodi Church meets in a small shaded area in a building made of branches and some thatched roofing. There were a handful of attendees who welcomed us graciously and insisted we sit on the chairs instead of the benches. It felt silly to be treated like such celebrities but I had to remind myself I would extend the same hospitality to visitors at home. As I watched these people worship God with their singing and dancing I kept pinching myself to make sure I was actually there. That Sunday marked the 8th anniversary of the Lukodi Massacre and here were these villagers bringing their coins, or produce if they had no money, to the offering table and praising Him despite the darkness that is their past. I’ve heard horrific story after horrific story and literally can’t comprehend how these people remain strong in their faith. Conrad (the founder of Child Voice) told me a story of a woman who witnessed her husband being murdered by the LRA and then the LRA forced her four sons to rape her before abducting them. She lost everything. And even years later her response is, “I stay close to Jesus because he’s all I have left.”
This week I’m going to be trying to capture some interviews with Child Voice students and graduates so that supporters back home can hear their stories and how Child Voice has impacted their lives. It’s not easy to ask these girls to reopen old wounds in front of this little flip cam. They don’t have to, but they also understand it helps raise awareness and financial aid for the organization that supports them.
I just don’t want any of these beautiful, precious ladies to think we’re plucking their stories to wear around our necks like some trophy. And this isn’t about my research project or my degree. It’s not ME. MINE. I. I never want their pain to be a picture for my slideshow or have their home feel like a tourist attraction. Its possible I am way overanalyzing this, but that’s how I feel. It’s one thing to read the stories out of a book and another to look into the eyes of the story teller. Like walking on glass.
It is easy to see how Aid and ignorance has brought ruin to this place. We, as Westerners, might come to give, but we can also come to stake out our destiny. Ours is a history of dominance. Always the explorer, the colonizer in our blood, and it is hard to run away from when we’ve been so “blessed”. We come with our visions and strategies, our opinions and ideals, and without meaning to, we impose them. We think we know the way and we think we know how to do it better and more efficiently then the next person. And it comforts me to know that Child Voice recognizes this and does everything in its power to NOT follow those footsteps. All the staff here is local and they give local people jobs and truly take into consideration what is best for the girls at their center. Also, I’m not saying Westerners aren’t capable of shedding new light onto something or having good ideas. The depleted and dependent often need a helping hand, but we also need to empower and not overpower. But I’ve seen what a huge transition some of these girls have made and they are really healing and pressing forward. It’s remarkable and makes me so proud to be a part of the work that is being done here.
I will post some of the stories as I have the privilege of hearing them and please pray for these girls who have been so gracious and vulnerable to share the pain of their pasts and the hopes of their futures with us.