Today Megan and I sat in Simprosa’s tiny sewing workshop and started an art therapy session with her and three women she employs. I played some music off my iPhone and they went to town creating their “life lines”. This is a great first day exercise because it allows Megan and I to see what seasons or events each girl considers important in her own life, where her life has been, and where she sees it going.
I like going out to the schools and working with kids, but there’s something really nice about sitting face to face, undistracted, with a few women. I found myself savoring it. Soaking in every word off their lips and emotion to come across their faces. Observing the scars on their bodies. A bullet wound on Christine’s leg, the knife cut across Judith’s eyebrow, the burns on Jackie’s arms. There was something really special about this day for me. It was the first day I felt like I was doing what my heart really longed to do.
We each took a turn sharing, which if you grow up a middle-class American, is like preparing yourself for a big slap across the face. When you ramble off a few white girl issues and then hear four stories of incomprehensible pain and suffering (although there was one short, isolated line in Christine’s drawing that represented a brief period of happiness in her life) you wish that you had just bit your tongue.
Christine was abducted by the LRA when she was 8 years old. She lived in the bush most of her life and gave birth to two children there. She was shot in the leg during her first pregnancy. She has no parents. She has no husband. She and her children live in town with some friends but she said she feels stranded in Gulu. She works at Simprosa’s trying to make enough money to pay for her children’s school fees and she feels strange and insecure sending her children to school when she has never been educated herself.
Jackie and her father (who died) were abducted when she was 12 years old. She was given to a soldier to be his wife. She gave birth to a child in the bush. She drew a picture of herself climbing up mountains with a baby on her back. She and her husband escaped and lived together for a while but he left her and the baby, so now she lives with her mother. She leaves her mother’s house at 6 in the morning and bikes to work, which is a 3-4 hour commute each way!
Judith was abducted when she was 14 years old. She was in the bush for 5 years before she and three other girls escaped. Her commanding officer would pray with them and told them that if they ever wanted to escape they would have to surrender everything to God. When she decided to escape she was in Sudan and walked for two weeks to reach Uganda. Life was extremely difficult when she returned for she was now 19 with little education and no family to return to. She was feeling suicidal and received counseling from an NGO in Gulu, which helped her find hope and a purpose. She wants to help counsel other people. For a season life got better, she married and had babies. She found herself being taken care of, but then her husband was arrested and now life is a struggle again. But Judith said she continues to surrender everything to God and seeks His provision each day.
I brought into discussion how God never promises to save us from suffering, but He does save us through suffering. He refines us, making us new, if we let Him. They aren’t alone in the things they’ve experienced and God will use them to help other people who are enduring the same thing. It’s not easy to reflect on lives that have been full of pain. God never intended or wanted them to face abduction, rape, death, or poverty but there is a lot of evil in the world and horrible things happen to good people. I encouraged them to continue surrendering their daily struggles to God because He says that his plans for us are good ones: plans of prosperity, hope, and restoration. But yeah..so, these are the ladies I’ll be hanging with every Monday morning. If you pray, you can pray that Megan and I lead them well and that God speaks through us. You can pray that the activities we do will be beneficial in their healing processes and that they just feel free to let go and have fun (which is extremely important and is best for the soul, in my opinion).
I have a million thoughts and feelings. My head and heart are so full they might explode. Life is so hot and cold here. I’m either running around like crazy or embracing silence and solitude. I’m either on top of the world from an awesome day of work or I’m having a mental breakdown. I’m either I’m stuffing my face with fried French toast or eating one scoop of rice and making friends with the growly creature in my stomach. I’m either feeling in love with this place (particularly during boda rides out to the village) or counting down the days until I’m home.
BUT I wouldn’t change it for the world! I’m learning and growing more than I thought possible. I can’t wait to see how life continues to change and be effected by the things I’ve seen and people I’ve met here in Uganda when I’m back in Des Moines, Iowa, USA. God is so good. All the glory and power to Him forever and ever.